Publisher's Note:  

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.

The Impossible Knife of Memory

by Laurie Halse Anderson

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Overall Review:  

The voice of protagonist Hayley Kincain is what hooks the reader in The Impossible Knife of Memory, and author Laurie Halse Anderson's talent and gift for engaging and snappy young adult dialogue is what delights the reader.  Ultimately though, this is a ponderous and heavy book with a cast of characters in dysfunctional family situations.  The first half of the book is difficult to put down because of the characters and dialogue, but the latter half becomes weighted down with the themes and incurable problems.  A heart-wrenching look at the lasting effects of war on soldiers who come home damaged on the inside and the upside-down relationship of a daughter caring for a father--the daughter who is so scared of the memories that haunt her father that she squelches all of her memories.  Interspersed with the current action are flashbacks for both father and daughter.  In the end, all the holes in the memories are never completely filled in for the reader.  Good writing, but the tough subjects almost overwhelm the story, despite the skill of the author.

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  15 religious exclamations; 23 mild obscenities; 3 religious profanities; 18 derogatory names; 39 scatological words; 14 anatomical terms; 1 offensive hand gesture; 1 f-word derivative.


Violence/Gore:  Picture of scenes of genocide with mention of blood; passing reference to kids dying; class on forensics mentions blood splatter at murder scenes; mother slaps daughter; character remembers a battle with some detail of blood and severed limbs; character has jumbled, unclear memories of domestic violence; report of death in car accident by drunk driver; character recounts/lists things that happened to friends in Iraq and Afghanistan during war, with some details of their death; character imagines acts of violence they want to commit; character shoots gun, throws objeccts, destroys property and cuts self, blood mentioned; injuries sustained in a fall; a teenage boy physically fights (hitting implied) with a teenage girl; violent video games are played, some details; two separate reports of fights in bar; report of a platoon being killed in war.


Sex/Nudity:  Sexual references including but not limited to "boobs", "nuts", a guy's great body, periods, tampons, "man-whore", breasts, "don't breed", crude references to male body parts, pictures on the internet of "man-parts", texts exchanged joking about being gay, "keeping pants zipped", Romeo and Juliet being "slutty"; a parent is unfaithful and repeatedly cheats on spouse; character wonders if HS students are really having as much sex as they profess to be; thoughts about kissing; characters kiss; characters make-out, no description; teenagers start to move towards sex act (no details), but stop and talk about condoms and pregnancy; teenagers sleep next to each other in sleeping bags; character has a non-detailed memory of another character passed out on a couch with a stranger and neither have clothes on.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Suicide, Alcoholism and drug abuse, Illegal Drugs, War, Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome, Divorce, Marital Infidelity, Unemployment/Economic Distress.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Passing references to high schoolers doing weed, pills, vodka; parent smokes weed/bong; adults smoke cigarettes; adults drink; adult is often drunk; teenager takes her mother's prescription drugs; report of a person being a drug addict and in rehab; teenagers come back from a party drunk (and possibly stoned) and have hangover.

Reviewed By Cindy
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