Dec 26, 2018

The Impossible Knife of Memory

by Laurie Halse Anderson

It's been a while since I read a book by this author, so I had forgotten how much I liked her writing. It's vivid. And funny in parts. And oh, so difficult- what the characters go through. Anderson doesn't shy away from tough subjects. I guess I'm getting old, I blinked at some of the stuff that seemed the norm for highschoolers in this story. Little things, like big screens installed in the cafeteria showing the news, announcements and lists of names: kids who have to report to the office for counseling or discipline. Or the gym class being staffed by volunteers who don't care because funding got pulled (where I live, pretty sure art and music would be cut before physical education!) Larger things, such as teens posting internet photos of their naked body parts to get back at each other- but in the story they shrug it off as something totally normal. More ominous, the main character's best friend starts popping pills- first stolen from her mother's cupboard, later bought outright. And Haley herself has the tension of a growing attraction to a boy, which - eventually- she would really like to consummate, but pregnancy is a big NO. The author is frank and straightforward about what teens go through.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The protagonist, Hayley, is something of a newcomer to the highschool scene. She'd been travelling the country in her dad's big rig until he decided to settle down and quit trucking for a while- in her grandmother's now-empty house. Hayley soon finds friendship with a girl down the street she knew as a kid but barely remembers. She is kind of a typical teen- standoffish and sullen, acerbic in wit, smart but not wanting to fit into the system. Her conversations with peers in and out of the school setting are just brilliant (writing, that is). Hayley lives with a huge burden that she is very slow to reveal to her new friends: her father, a war veteran, suffers from PTSD and it is all Hayley can do to keep him going and avoid the blows.

It took me a while to realize that Hayley herself was struggling with many of the same things her father did- flashbacks to terrifying moments from her childhood, large gaps in her memory. Reluctance to accept help from authorities. Pushing away her friends when they got too close. But the boy in the story- he's so good for her- and not without his own flaws or it would have been too perfect- and in the end helps Hayley face some of her fears and patch things together. He's got his own difficulties as well- an older sibling with addiction that ruins his family- and her other friend has battling parents on the verge of divorce- they all have it so hard. I guess that's what makes this book feel so real. I couldn't put it down.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5              391 pages, 2014

more opinions:
Reading Rants
Waking Brain Cells
Beth Fish Reads
Good Books and Good Wine
Annette's Book Spot

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