In 2014, Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory was nominated for a lot of awards. After finishing it this morning, I can totally see why.
Hayley Rose Kincain is a teenager in upstate New York. She and her father have lived a nomadic existence for several years, until he insists they settle down so she can finish school. They move into his mother’s old home, and she enrolls in a local high school. There, she meets self-described Casanova Finnegan Ramos, and there, her father’s nightmares and bad dreams from his several tours of duty follow them. The story splits into Hayley’s narrative voice explaining the present, her memories of the past, and fragments of her father’s nightmares in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly when friends are killed in front of him. Complicating the story is the return of Haley’s stepmother, a woman who raised and then abandoned her after her father’s return from war.
This is a powerful, poignant novel about PTSD and the effects of war upon the individual. Haley’s is a voice wrought by honesty and pain, especially as she tries to maintain normalcy and a nurturing environment for her father and herself. I found myself reading more and more quickly, because it was engaging and highly engrossing.
I also have to say: as a male lead, Finn was delicious. He is both humorous and sarcastic, with witty asides and quirky romance. He reminded me a lot of a John Green male character, and that’s not a bad thing at all. If you like YA, you should definitely check this book out. I enjoyed it immensely, and I can’t wait to see what Ms. Anderson will come up with next.