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The Impossible Knife of Memory Kindle Edition

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Length: 402 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled Age Level: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up—Hayley is the daughter of a veteran, and his PTSD colors every aspect of their lives. After serving his country, Andy is trying to rebuild some stability for himself and his daughter, but each day is a challenge for them both. Hayley lives with the constant threat of her father harming himself or others while also dealing with feelings of abandonment after essentially losing her parental figures. She copes through snark and skepticism but begins to let her guard down when her charming, easygoing classmate, Finn, gives her a much-needed taste of normal teenage life. A relationship with Finn opens the door to the possibility of trusting again, but it's not easy. Through Hayley's tenuous search for balance, Anderson explores the complicated nature of perception and memory, and how individuals manage to carry on after experiencing the worst. Readers will be thoroughly invested in this book's nuanced cast of characters and their struggles. Hayley's relatable first-person narration is interspersed with flashbacks of Andy's brutal war experiences, providing a visceral look at his inner demons. The endearing Finn and Hayley's bubbly best friend, Gracie, add levity to the narrative, even as they, too, grapple with their own problems. With powerful themes of loyalty and forgiveness, this tightly woven story is a forthright examination of the realities of war and its aftermath on soldiers and their families. One of Anderson's strongest and most relevant works to date.—Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA

From Booklist

*Starred Review* There’s a compelling theme running through Anderson’s powerful, timely novel, and it’s this: The difference between forgetting something and not remembering is big enough to drive an eighteen-wheeler through. Hayley Kincaid won’t allow herself to remember the happy times in her life, and why should she? After five years on the road with her trucker father, Andy, the two are finally staying put in her grandmother’s old house in upstate New York. But military tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan have left Andy racked by nightmares of gunfire and roadside bombs, and alcohol and drugs are his means of coping. Short, gripping chapters presented in italics appear on occasion and are told from Andy’s point-of-view as the war rages around him. As her father’s PTSD grows worse, and the past is ever present, 17-year-old Hayley assumes the role of parent. But there’s a good part of her life, too: Finn. He’s got dreams for his future, and, as Hayley lets him in to her own scary reality, she tentatively begins to imagine a future of her own. Unfortunately—or fortunately—memories have a way of catching up, and as each hits, it cuts away at Hayley’s protective bubble like a knife. This is challenging material, but in Anderson’s skilled hands, readers will find a light shining on the shadowy reality of living with someone who has lived through war—and who is still at war with himself. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A major marketing campaign, including a national author tour, backs up this latest from multiple-award-winning Anderson. Grades 9-12. --Ann Kelley

Product Details

  • File Size: 1418 KB
  • Print Length: 402 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (January 7, 2014)
  • Publication Date: January 7, 2014
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,117 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Laurie Halse Anderson is the New York Times-bestselling author who writes for kids of all ages. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous American Library Association and state awards. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists. Chains also made the Carnegie Medal Shortlist in the United Kingdom.

Laurie was the proud recipient of the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award given by YALSA division of the American Library Association for her "significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature...". She was also honored with the ALAN Award from the National Council of Teachers of English and the St. Katharine Drexel Award from the Catholic Librarian Association.

Mother of four and wife of one, Laurie lives in Northern New York, where she likes to watch the snow fall as she writes. She and her husband, Scot, plus dogs Kezzie and Thor, and assorted chickens and other critters enjoy country living and time in the woods. When not writing or hanging out with her family, you can find Laurie training for marathons or trying to coax tomatoes out of the rocky soil in her backyard. You can follow her adventures on Twitter,, and on her blog,

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#81 in Books > Teens
#81 in Books > Teens

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Tamela Mccann TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Laurie Halse Anderson's The Impossible Knife of Memory has all the hallmarks of a young adult novel: boy/girl relationship, troubled parent, good friend with her own issues. If you left it at that, it would be the same old story that fills so many YA novels. Thankfully, Anderson's writing and her sense of character make this book a cut above the rest.

Hayley's job is to make sure her father stays sane and doesn't hurt himself. Or at least, that's the job she's been saddled with and she doesn't know any other way of life. Her father is a veteran suffering from PTSD; as a result, when he isn't drinking or doing drugs, he's running away to try to dull the pain. This year, her eighteenth, he's taken her home to her grandmother's house and enrolled her in school (something she hasn't been attending since riding shotgun with him while he was a truck driver). Suddenly Hayley has the school officials looking at her, expecting her to do and be things she's not used to, and her father's condition is a minefield of issues. At least Hayley has a friend in Gracie and a boyfriend named Finn; there are people out there who care what happens to her. But holding it all together may end up being too much for all of them.

Hayley's situation had me so angry I couldn't see straight; sadly enough, there are plenty of kids out there who must be the parent to their own parent, and her problems just keep multiplying. I watched as events spiraled out of control and became completely absorbed in Hayley's desperation as she tried to make everything work out while keeping her walls up. Anderson makes the story work without becoming too overwhelming or too neat; it would be interesting to see what happens as Hayley's life progresses. This glimpse into what a child of a PTSD vet may endure is illuminating and riveting, and Anderson remains one of the best young adult writers around.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Ashleigh VINE VOICE on January 8, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
See more of my reviews on The YA Kitten! My copy was an ARC I received from the publisher via NetGalley.

If there's anything Laurie Halse Anderson can do, it's write a story where she shakes up our perception of a topic so common we just about glance over it. With date rape in Speak and eating disorders in Wintergirls, she really nailed the all-too-common topics in a way few authors can even begin to approach. With The Impossible Knife of Memory, she works to pull it off again with PTSD as the topic this time. Does it work? Well...

When it comes to Hayley and the really sad life she lives with her Iraq/Afghanistan war vet father Andy, Anderson nails it and nails it HARD. Wow. The dynamic between them is very screwed up because of his PTSD and the effect it has had on Hayley's life, but they love each other dearly and you can feel it. Their ups and downs --especially his--are vivid and it makes you want to sweep them both up in your arms in hopes of making things better for them.

Hayley has a well-developed character/personality, but she has a tendency to be a repugnant person. Calling everyone zombies, calling girls "baby-zombie-bitches," heckling them in her head because they dared enjoy heels,... She doesn't seem to like other girls much. Only the zombie habit sees change and while calling other girls such things, she's making feminist points about how stupid it is to blame a woman's menstrual cycle whenever she dares show emotion. It's a little jarring.

What really tries to kill this novel is the unnecessary romance with a creep. Speak and Wintergirls both worked better without romances because it put the spotlight on their main characters and their issues. Here, the romance takes up a lot of the book.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By The Compulsive Reader VINE VOICE on January 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Hayley and her father have lived on the run for the past six years to avoid dealing with her father’s PTSD. After an extremely bad incident, they return to their hometown so that Hayley can attend her senior year. Hayley is doing her best to keep her father’s unstable condition a secret, but as she gets closer to new guy Finn and her father sinks deeper into depression, memories of her childhood resurface and she starts to lose control of her life.

Hayley’s voice is strong, sarcastic, and leaves an impression on the reader on the first page. Her anger and fear are apparent through her disdain of her fellow classmates and her reluctance to be courted by new guy Finn, but as the story moves along, Anderson builds her character and reveals glimpses of a childhood full of disappointment and few happy moments with her father. Hayley remains closed off and distant to human connection throughout most of the novel, struggling to hold her life together and protect her father. It isn’t until she has the courage and the need to open up to those she loves—and resents—that she is able save her father, and create a future for herself. Anderson’s writing, as always, is precise and eloquent, unforgettable in its honesty and intense in its exploration of emotion and memory.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Janeite VINE VOICE on January 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As one other reviewer has already written, I, too, may have had my expectations set way too high before I read this book. I know that Anderson is a highly decorated YA novelist, and I also saw that almost all the customer reviews on Amazon raved about this book. The back of the book has quotes from professional reviewers calling her books "screamingly funny" and "riveting." So when I sat down to read this book, I was surprised at how unimpressive I found it. Don't get me wrong; it's not a bad book. I just don't really see anything great about it. The plot is a first person narrative of a high school misfit struggling with the usual high school angst as well as just about every other difficulty the author could think of. I was reminded of those ABC After School Specials they used to show on t.v. when I was a kid where every episode dealt with a teen dealing with some sort of life crisis (suicide, bulimia, bullying, etc.) Only this novel threw in so many "issues" that I started to lose count. The plot at least touches on a host of issues including but not limited to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, marital infidelity, divorce. and teen sex. As a whole, I found myself starting to dread turning the page for fear yet another problem would rear its ugly head. The voice of the narrator was (at least in my opinion) a stereotypical high school misfit. Her attitude was to basically hate everyone and everything about her high school and seem way too cool and intelligent to be interested in anyone or anything. While I understood that, since the character has many struggles in her young life, her attitude wouldn't tend to being the most rosy, I found myself not really liking her that much.Read more ›
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