Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson: Review


The Impossible Knife of Memory


Title: The Impossible Knife of Memory
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Buy This Book: Book Depository

For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.
Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.(Goodreads summary.)

I have loved Laurie Halse Anderson's books from the moment I read Speak for the first time. When I saw her latest book up on Edelweiss, I just had to put in a request and I squealed with delight when it was accepted. So you can imagine how upset I am that I didn't end up liking this book all that much. It had it's moments, but overall I thought it was really disappointing. It has brilliant ratings on Goodreads, so I kind of feel like the odd one out here.

The book started off a bit shaky for me because the main character, Hayley, felt a little too forced. She's supposed to be a teenager but instead of being relatable, she seems like a teenager written by someone who has never met a teenager before. This was a huge shock to me because I have never felt this with any of the authors other books. Hayley refers to people as zombies or freaks constantly and it just seemed like something my eleven year old cousin would do, not someone of Hayley's age. Then there was the text speak, which was hideous and made my head hurt. I'm twenty-two now but back when I was a teenager I did shorten my texts, a little but they were decipherable, and all the teenagers I know now are the same. When you're reading a young adult book about young adults, you want them to seem like, act like or resemble an actual young adult.

This book focuses on Hayley, who has returned to her grandmother's house with her father after years on the road together. Her father has served in Iraq and Afghanistan and has suffered with PTSD for so long now it's hard for Haley to remember a time when things were different. Her reality is that her father drinks to drown out the memories, that he lashes out and then forgets it ever happened. This is supposed to be a fresh start but it's anything but. Hayley meets Finn at school, and here comes our love interest who just seems to fall a bit short for me.

The romance in this, for me, just didn't work at all. Finn and Hayley never really communicate, barely having one real and honest conversation. Most of the time they spend together is spent in a weird, uncomfortable silence. Finn gets a job and doesn't even bother to inform her. The whole relationship dynamic was so off and so dysfunctional. I wasn't rooting for them, they clearly aren't meant to be in a relationship with one another. I just couldn't root for them or feel like they were a good match, they didn't seem to help each other at all.

I was really interested in reading a YA book that focused on PTSD, it's not something you see a lot in YA fiction. I really did sympathise with Hayley at times, because of the things she had to deal with. But, most of the time, I really wanted to slap her because she was absolutely infuriating. She knows her father has issues, he's constantly drinking and getting worse as time goes on. But instead of realising that this is an issue that needs to be addressed, she spends most of the book being angry at a completely different person who acted like a sane, rational human being.

The ending was what really ruined the whole book for me. It was a little too far fetched and added in a lot of unnecessary drama and made it all seem very melodramatic. For me, that whole ending took the focus away from the real issue, which was PTSD. And then after that it ends in such a ridiculous and sickly sweet way that I kind of wanted to vomit.

2/5 Stars

Hayley's character felt very forced, like the author wasn't really aware how teenagers act. Finn and Hayley were too dysfunctional as a couple and I couldn't root for them or understand the pairing. The over the top, melodramatic ending took the focus away from the real issue of PTSD. 

*I received a copy of this novel from the author/publisher/publicist via Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review and received no monetary compensation for this review.

16 comments:

  1. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy this one more! I've read quite a few books in which the ending totally ruined the book. I haven't read anything by this author before but I had thought about this one. I guess I better get it at the library instead of buying it, haha. Great review!

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    1. It does have a lot of glowing reviews, so I may just be the odd one out here. I hope you love it when you read it :)

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  2. I am sorry to hear that you didn't enjoy the book. It happens to all of us! I hope that your next book is better. :)

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  3. Oh wow. I thought that this was going to be another gushing review and I'm kind of glad that it isn't. I don't know. I know Laurie Halse Anderson is critically acclaimed but I'm not really in love with her work. I liked Speak, but only after it was dissected in school. I get why all the issues made you not like this particular story. I hate it when older authors try to recreate teenage years and get it wrong. This definitely moved way down on my tbr. I'll probably eventually borrow it from the library when I have nothing better to do.

    Aly @ My Heart Hearts Books

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    1. I did really enjoy Speak, so I was really disappointed that this was such a let down for me. It can be really bad when they get teenagers so wrong in books, makes me cringe just a little. I have seen so many 5* reviews though that I feel like odd one out when it comes to this book.

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  4. Awh, I've been eyeing this book for a while and wondering if I should order it or not online. I was going to at first. But after this review...I'm not so sure anymore o.o I can see where all your three points would be irritating, and I have to admit that if I read it, they'd probably irritate me as well. I think I'm just going to see if my library has it (:

    Nonetheless, the cover is stunning.

    T from YA Book Queens (:

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    1. It took me so long to realise the cover is someones feet & a crack in ice. I'd only seen it as a small thumbnail before and thought it was a pen and a line drawn on something; no clue why or how I saw that but I did.

      I just didn't enjoy this anywhere near as much as I thought I would. But, I have seen so many 5* reviews that it makes me feel like the only one who didn't love it. Hopefully you have a better time with it.

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  5. Eep. Now I'm worried! This just arrived in the mail for me today!! I'm still excited about it ;) But keen to see what I think after reading your review. I haven't read a lot of books that deal with PTSD. But I can't stand forced characters. Text language drives me bonkers. I barely ever shorten my texts. And I always use big words. (Not intentionally, though! Lucky for me, I only usually text my sister, so she doesn't flinch when I use "discombobulate" or something in a text. XD)

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    1. The text language in this made me want to cry! I never shorten text anymore, and as a teen it was probably from you to u, if only to make a 2 page text message fit to 1 page when I used to not have a contract phone.

      I just didn't enjoy this anywhere near as much as I thought I would. But, I have seen so many 5* reviews that it makes me feel like the only one who didn't love it. Hopefully you have a better time with it.

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  6. Interesting review. I didn't love it either but I had different feelings about it. I actually liked Hayley in the very beginning but thought that she lost her voice when she and Finn got together. The relationship was a bit cutesy for my taste and there were plot contrivances that were just that. I would've enjoyed more development of her grandmother, mother and the dad's ex-girlfriend as characters. Once I disconnected from the story, the ending felt quite melodramatic to me but I don't think it would've if the momentum I felt in the beginning kept up.

    That said, I think Ms. Anderson made some striking commentary on how our nation treats our troops.

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    1. I'm not from the US, so I didn't really know how much of the way he is treated was accurate or not - glad to hear it is. I definitely thought the ending was melodramatic and thought the romance wasn't necessarily needed in this story; it definitely could have just concentrated on Hayley and her family.

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  7. Oh, well now I'm anxious about this one (I haven't read all of the review, since I'm planning on reading it soon), she's one of my favourite authors, too, and I was looking forward to seeing how the PTSD was handled. I'll guess I'll make my own mind up once I do read it, but sorry you're disappointed with it :(

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    1. I just didn't enjoy this anywhere near as much as I thought I would. But, I have seen so many 5* reviews that it makes me feel like the only one who didn't love it. Hopefully you have a better time with it! :)

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  8. Aww, no! I've been dying to get my hands on a copy of this book, but it's totally okay that you're the odd one out, it shows that you're honest with your opinions! I think it's odd that you say Hayley doesn't seem like a real teenager, because Laurie H.A. did such an amazing job portraying teens in her other books.. I'm curious to see for myself what went wrong. And I'm sad to hear about the romance that isn't root-able! I don't even think the romance may be necessary in a PTSD situation.. hmmm. Thanks for the honest review though, I'll keep my eyes peeled when I pick this one up!

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    1. I definitely felt that the romance wasn't needed in this book, it could have concentrated fully on Hayley and her father and I probably would have enjoyed it more. I'd love to see what you thought of it after you read it. I've seen so many 5* reviews, so there's a good chance you'll love it. Hayley just seemed a little off to me, I didn't find her believable as a teenager.

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