Title: The Impossible Knife of Memory
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Recommended for: High School
Call Number/Link: TEEN FICTION ANDERSON
Hayley and her dad move back to his home town ostensibly because he wants her to have a normal senior year of high school after years of traveling with him as a trucker–but really because the demons of his past in the military have started to take over and he is unable to hold down a job. They muddle along together as his PTSD worsens and she covers for him more and more. In the process, she has to stop living day to day and start remembering things from her past and planning for the future.
I picked up this book because of the army angle–after all, military service is a part of life for many families. I was filled with sympathy for her father, even when he was a horrible dad. But the book covers more life tragedies beyond PTSD and neglect without feeling like it is too crammed with issues. Hayley slowly makes friends, and their seemingly perfect lives are also being torn apart by trauma–pill addictions, divorce, alcoholism, poverty, and probably more that I can’t remember. But what unfolds is ultimately the message that everyone is messed up, but you can rise above. Despite the subject matter, this book is actually really funny. Hayley has a lot of sass and attitude and her friend Finn is a wise-cracking nerdy love interest that injects a great note of levity to the book. I would recommend this book to people who like realistic fiction that are a cut above the “teen issues” books, but still want a book with emotional resonance. I recommend this for high school, not because of bad content, but because the issues are a little more mature. If I were booktalking the book, I would say, “This is about a girl who not only has to deal with all the junk that comes with high school (teachers on power trips, pressure to join clubs, trying to read into possible relationships), she also has to figure out how to deal with her dad who is slowly losing it from PTSD. She finds the funny in the hard stuff.”