Review: The Impossible Knife of Memory

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Impossible Knife of MemoryThe Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
Published by Viking Juvenile on January 7, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 372
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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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.

Can I just say that Laurie Halse Anderson is the best? Actually, don’t answer that, because I don’t care what you think, because she just is the best and I refuse to argue that point. The Impossible Knife of Memory is my third Laurie Halse Anderson read and also my favorite. For those who are curious, the other two were Speak and Catalyst. The Impossible Knife of Memory is dark, hilarious, oh so quotable, and has a truly amazing ship.

The book opens with Hayley, our perfect heroine, in detention. See, Hayley’s got quite the attitude on her and she’s not the sort of person to keep her opinions inside, though she is the kind of person to keep feelings bottled up there. Probably there wasn’t any room for her opinions to stay inside because her many feelings took up all the space. Anyway, Hayley got detention for correcting her history teacher, something he did not appreciate in the slightest. And, instead of writing “I will not be disrespectful to Mr. Diaz” like she was told to, Hayley writes “Correcting a teacher is not a sign of disrespect.” I LOVE THIS GIRL SO MUCH.

Here’s some background on Hayley. Her mom died when she was little. Her dad served two tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, and came home chest deep in PTSD. For a couple of years, her dad has been driving a big rig and she’s been riding along, homeschooled (truckschooled?) in a very non-traditional manner. As her dad’s PTSD gets worse, though, they settle down for her senior year of high school, so she can go to a real school and they can leave in her grandmother’s house which was left to them.

You might expect Hayley to be completely behind because of her lack of traditional education. Instead, she’s ahead of everyone else in everything but math, in which she’s woefully lost, a fact for which I do not blame her. Of course, education via reading and discussion in a truck with her dad wouldn’t have worked for everyone, but it really fit Hayley’s learning style. Enrolled in high school, she’s chafing against the pointless assignments and the boring lectures. The only times she truly gets engaged are when true, contentious discussions arise in her classes.

One of the many reasons I adore Laurie Halse Anderson’s books is the realism; she depicts teens, zits and all. So few YA books ever make any mention of zits, which are present on almost every teen’s face at least once in a while. At one point, Hayley’s frustrated to be dealing with stress pimples. In addition to that, there’s the lack of self-confidence, even in a girl as otherwise snarky and self-possessed as Hayley. There are awkward silences, even in my perfect ship, which only makes me love it more.

So my ship. Hayley meets this guy Finn, because he’s friends with Gracie, who adopted Hayley since they were friends as children. At first, Hayley basically ignores Finn, but he will not be ignored. I mean, he’s so not going to pass up on a girl as smart and sassy as Hayley. They both have absurd levels of knowledge about vocabulary and history. He plans the most adorable and awkward first date in the history of YA and he wears her down with his adorableness and their many things in common. They alternately banter and are rather awkward. Sometimes they fight, because they have a real relationship with its own problems. Oh, and, best of all, their personalities don’t change when they become a couple. They’re still them. Also, Finn is like the anti-stereotypical YA love interest. Though he’s attractive, it’s in a skinny with glasses way. He also refuses to drive over the speed limit, is petrified of heights, is adorably afraid that Hayley will hate him, and is inclined to make math puns. How can you not love this boy?

Though The Impossible Knife of Memory is a five star book from an emotional standpoint, I do have a few quibbles that made me go for the 4.5. First, the secondary characters could have been better developed. I really only care about Hayley and Finn, not even Hayley’s dad or Trish getting enough development to be thoroughly interesting to me. Gracie basically drops off the map entirely partway through the book. Second, though I like the PTSD elements a lot on the whole, I don’t feel completely sold. Partly, this relates to quibble one, but I also didn’t feel like the short chapters of her dad’s point of view, differentiated by italics, really helped me understand or sympathize with him. I wasn’t wholly satisfied with the closing of the ARC with Hayley’s father and Trish.

To sum up, you should all be reading this book. Okay, maybe not all, but if you’re the sort of reader who, like me, enjoys dark contemporaries that can make you laugh while they break your heart a bit, then GO PREORDER THIS NOW. I mean, you should have seen me DMing Gillian (Writer of Wrongs) about my myriad feels. It is not every book that brings this out in me.

Favorite Quote:

What did The Rules say about this? If everyone was really having sex, then why was it paradoxically a hush-hush-whisper thing and a scream-it-online-and-in-the-cafeteria thing? If everybody was really having sex, why weren’t more girls sporting baby bumps? I knew the statistics. I also knew the closest abortion clinic was more than a hundred miles away. Most of my classmates couldn’t remember to tie their shoes in the morning. I had no faith in their ability to use birth control. Either nobody was getting laid and everybody was lying about it or the school was putting contraceptives in the oatmeal raisin cookies.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

Sloan fits Hayley's personality a bit. And also YOU WILL SEE MY EMOTIONS.

Sloan fits Hayley’s personality a bit. And also YOU WILL SEE MY EMOTIONS.

21 responses to “Review: The Impossible Knife of Memory”


    I mean, I can’t read the rest of this review because I want to read this now because of your reaction and flaily tweets.


    Can I haz this yet? No? Okay….
    Debby (Snuggly Oranges) recently posted…Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2013My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Yes yes yes. I am totally okay with you skipping the main review part if you are going to read the book. So.

      Also, SLOAN. Yeah. Hayley and me are both kinda like Sloan with keeping most things under the surface but also being really awkward and unexpected. Or so I like to think. Whatever.

  2. alice-jane says:

    I’ve never read anything by Laurie Halse Anderson but now I really want to! The realism, the anti-YA love interest and pretty much the whole book speaks to me. Definitely adding this to my TBR list ASAP.
    alice-jane recently posted…Holiday DIYMy Profile

  3. I shall join you in your love of Laurie Halse Anderson (READ WINTERGIRLS, GODDAMMIT, YOU’LL LOVE IT), but we must have ship-to-ship combat because I ship Hayley/happiness-sans-Finn. Hayley/Finn = no to me because that first date was so John Green creepy and tainted the rest of their interactions/relationship for me. GTFO, FINN. GIMME MOAR ROUGH-AROUND-THE-EDGES HAYLEY TO LOVE AND MORE OF HER HOME LIFE TO WANT TO GIVE HER HUGS FOR.

    Even though I put it at 3.5 stars, this book was awesome. It’s just Finn that ruins it. BAD FISH-NAMED BOY. BAD. BACK IN THE OCEAN WITH YOU AND NO COMING OUT UNTIL WE REACH OUR NEXT SIGNIFICANT EVOLUTIONARY STAGE.

    (Christina, why am I Caps Lock this morning?)
    Ashleigh Paige recently posted…My Problem with YA Fantasy NovelsMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I knew you would hate Finn, because his name is Finn. Poor Finn. THERE FIRST DATE WAS THE CUTEST. I DO NOT EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. HOW CAN YOU THINK THAT WAS CREEPY BUT LIKE RIVER AS A LOVE INTEREST? <.< But yay! I'm glad you loved it otherwise. I do ship Hayley with happiness (with Finn), but honestly if there were a sequel I'm pretty sure the distance would kill them because it's college and most relationships die immediately. I give them 1/2 of freshman year before it crumbles. *sobs*

      • BECAUSE JOHN GREEN DID SOMETHING SIMILARLY SKEEVY AND TRICKY. Seeee? Finn just lacked other friends to invite and then uninvite. Besides, Finn IS a stupid name. I still remember when I expressed my dislike of the name and the author of the book involved came to explain her naming choices to me. That was intensely awkward. (Also, THEIR, NOT THERE. You know I love you, but someone had to correct you!)

        Also, I like River because to me, Violet is an unreliable narrator once he walks in. He broke Violet’s brain early on with all his mind-control stuff (which explained all her stupid moves to me) and she loses more bits and pieces as it goes on and he doesn’t know how to stop messing with her. Unreliable narrators twist my perceptions of things I usually dislike in often hilarious ways, case in point being Devil itself. Had it not convinced me of the trust problem and what River’s power did to Violet’shead, I would have hated it and River and burned it all to the ground. BURNED IT ALL. But it did, so I loved that terrible little book. <3
        Ashleigh Paige recently posted…My Problem with YA Fantasy NovelsMy Profile

        • Christina Franke says:

          I’ve never read his first date story. *shrugs* But I also don’t have lots of hate for John Green. I thought it was cute! And it’s not like he kidnapped her. She could have left easily at some point. Which author did that thing? I do not remember this. (I actually think Finn is a cute name tbh, but it is overly common in fiction considering I’ve never met a real Finn.) ALSO CURSES. I LOVE MULTITASKING BUT SOMETIMES MY FINGERS TYPE THINGS I DIDN’T WANT THEM TO. BAD FINGERS.

          All of that is why River would be a WONDERFUL villain, but I will burn that world to the ground with him as a love interest. NO NO NO.

  4. Kayla Beck says:

    I think I may read this book because of nothing but your favorite quote.
    Kayla Beck recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday (33): Murder of Crows by Anne BishopMy Profile

  5. Kim W. says:

    I don’t know how I’ve never read a Laurie Halse Anderson before. Her books have gotten so much praise! I love Hayley already due to what you said she wrote in detention. You go, girl! LOL.
    Anyway, I think if I ever want to try a Laurie Halse Anderson, it’s going to be this one!
    Kim W. recently posted…Books On My Winter TBRMy Profile

  6. Rachel says:

    Ugh. I was super excited for Anderson to have another contemporary YA book coming out because I adore her writing, but honestly, I’m not so sure about this one. I’m really happy you enjoyed it of course, but it doesn’t totally grab me. And my guess is that since you love her and Finn so much, I probably won’t like him/them lol. I don’t know. Do you think I’d enjoy this one or should I stay away?
    Rachel recently posted…On Your Radar: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott (+ Giveaway!)My Profile

  7. Haha, I love Hayley already. I don’t think I would ever be brave enough to write something like that if I would have been send to detention. I get why she is lost in math, I was well educated in it and I still felt lost :p I love realism in these type of books and I don’t think I’ve read many books that talk about zits. I used to say that I’m not much of a contemporary reader, but I’ve found out that I do enjoy the darker/heavy books πŸ™‚
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Review 222. Richelle Mead – Vampire Academy.My Profile

  8. I still have to read a Laurie Halse Anderson book but I definitely should start with this book. I love the sound of Hayley and her character. Especially with her background from a broken family and an untraditional educational upbringing. I’ve also heard many positive things about Laurie’s realism that she incorporates into her books, so I’m glad that this one is no exception. That quote is actually so great at the same time kind of thoughtful in a way. I’m definitely going to be trying to read this soon, fantastic review, Christina! <33
    Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain recently posted…The Promise of Amazing by Robin ConstantineMy Profile

  9. GOOD LORD I NEED THIS BOOK IN MY LIFE, like right now. Maybe on my Kindle. I have no room for real books. I know, fail.

    ALSO, LHA, best ever.

    And I am curious about the PTSD depiction.

    Also, I think I would have died of happiness if a student corrected me while student teaching because HELLO BRAINS ARE GOOD, teachers should encourage that.

    The end.
    April Books & Wine recently posted…Sleigh Bells In The Snow | Sarah Morgan | Book ReviewMy Profile

  10. I’ve read Anderson’s Speak and Wintergirls so far. I loved Speak when I read it years ago (seriously, how can you not?), but I wasn’t as impressed with Wintergirls, which I only read about a year ago. Hopefully I’ll have more positive feelings for Anderson’s newest book. From how you’ve described Hayley, I think that I’ll end up enjoying her characterization. And Finn sounds pretty great too. I’m glad this one worked out so well for you, Christina! Fingers crossed it does for me as well.
    Amanda @ Late Nights with Good Books recently posted…Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2013My Profile

  11. WUT. Doth mine eyes deceive me? A depiction of a (former) homeschooler that might – GASP! – actually be realistic?!?!!??!

    This fact plus that quote just bumped this book to the top of my list of gimme-gimme-gimme.
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  12. You make me want to read this book right now. Thanks for that.
    Gaby @ Queen Ella Bee Reads recently posted…World of Books: Christina + Atlanta, GeorgiaMy Profile

  13. I’m actually really stoked about this one. I want it & you saying that it’s pretty awesome is all the excuse that I need to bump it way up on my tbr πŸ™‚
    Aly @ My Heart Hearts Books recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday (29): Dreams of Gods & MonstersMy Profile

  14. Juhina says:

    I personally haven’t read an Alderson book but my sister read Speak and Wintergirls and LOVES them both. This sounds like a great novel.. Finn sounds awesome and so does Hayley. I actually have an ARC and now i’m more excited to read it!

    – Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf
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  15. WE AGREE ON A THING! I reaaaaally loved the romance in this one, until Ashleigh pointed out the creepiness of Finn’s first date. That soured my opinion but only the teensiest bit. I still love him and them and the ship and yes, this is bringing back all the warm, fuzzy feels. I think you know it’s good when the ship brings me feels – my heart is made of ice.

    The only thing I disagree with here is with the development of Andy. I thought his PTSD was so, so real – after living with someone who suffered the same problems it was actually kind of hard to read about.

    So funny how everyone likes this book but for totally different reasons.
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  16. Lyn Kaye says:

    I loved Speak, but I disliked Wintergirls. I might pick this one up, and it does sound beautiful. I want to get another book by this author that I love.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #69My Profile

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