January 23, 2014

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Impossible Knife of Memory

by Laurie Halse Anderson
published on January 7th, 2014 by Viking Juvenile
Young Adult/Realistic Fiction/Mental Illness/Romance
a standalone
372 pages
other books from the author Speak, Wintergirls, Fever 1973, Seeds


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.

“Leaning against my father, the sadness finally broke open inside me, hollowing out my heart and leaving me bleeding. My feet felt rooted in the dirt. There were more than two bodies buried here. Pieces of me that I didn’t even know were under the ground. Pieces of dad, too.” 

The Impossible Knife of Memory is my first Laurie Halse Anderson's book. Though I've known about her works since Speak (My queen Kristen Stewart is the Melinda Sordino on the movie version!), and I know this author has SO MANY fans, I always thought that Laurie's books are kinda 'heavy', difficult and ones that need mental preparation first because of the emotions (Nyaaa). Lots of reviews have said that The Impossible Knife of Memory contains more romance than usual, though, so I braced myself to jump on the bandwagon. Please note that I read the book while still struggling with the strange fog on my mind, but hey, I know a good book when I read one, I'll try to explain it as much as I can.

Our main character, Hayley Rose Kincaid
The story starts up with Hayley getting detention for correcting her teacher's mistake. My first impression of this girl is strong: She's different. Quirky. A tough cookie in the surface, but soft in the inside just like any teenagers her age. Through most of her middle grade and early teenager age, she's been on the road with her father, being homeschooled. But now for her senior year, Hayley's father wants her to be in high school. Hayley has been long being forced to be mature beyond her age because she has a father with PTSD that she has to take care of, but she's an amateur in socializing and dealing with people. She doesn't understand the rules of it! These two sides of her often collides, and I love this girl because she's real, she keeps holding on to her trueself instead of letting her personalities getting dragged in by 'the zombies'.

Hayley's father, Andy Kincaid
Is a war veteran dealing with PTSD. Though I have read some books that tackle the same issue before, I never experience firsthand what is it like to live with someone who's suffering from PTSD, but The Impossible Knife of Memory gives me some insights about the struggle and the rough situation. It's not easy, because you don't know when 'the memories' will attack and 'destroy' the one you love. You need to be aware at all times, in case something bad happens. The thing is, sometimes it feels like you can't do anything about it other than to be ready when the attack 'strikes'. Hayley has been dealing with this heavy burden since her early age, and she has no one beside herself to count on. Reading about Hayley and her father's relationship is both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time,  because I can feel how much Andy loves her daughter and vice versa. Every few chapters, Laurie also gives us a glimpse to Andy's mind, what's going on inside his head, which is both GOOD and BAD for the emotions, because ughhhh the feels.

The love interest, Finnegan Ramos
Finn, the school newspaper editor. He is the light of The Impossible Knife of Memory! He's the one who makes reading the book easier because ALL THE FLUFFY MOMENTS BETWEEN HIM AND HAYLEY, zomg, sometimes I.CAN'T.HANDLE.IT. Especially the first 'anti-date'. The first 'anti-date'! SOO ADORABLE. More guys need to learn from Finn if they want to handle a 'tough, hard to get' girl and ask her out on a date. It's funny reading about Hayley who doesn't understand how to deal with all these romance thing-y, since she has no experience at all, remember? Her way to responds to flirty Finn is by being mean, snarky and sharp-mouthed, but that doesn't falter Finn at all. I adore their relationship! Giggles and swoons and blushes ALL THE WAAAY. Judging from the way he handles Hayley, his ideas about their dates/non-dates, how he reacts to Hayley's father, that guy is a keeper. Listed as one of my (BEST) book boyfriend of 2014: Done!

I shoved my books into the locker. “‘Math joke’ is an oxymoron, Fishhead, like ‘cafeteria food’ or ‘required volunteer community service’.”
“I think we should take each other to the limit to see if we converge,” Finn said. 
“Shut up,” I said.
“I’m flirting with you, Miss Blue, flirting in the perfect language of calculus. It’s a sine I think you’re sweet as pi. Get it?”

(Finn flirts using math puns, gasps!)

Side characters
There are Trish (Hayley's ex-stepmother whom she hates so much), Grace (Hayley's girl friend) and Topher (Grace's boy). I like how Laurie doesn't merely make them as sidekick characters who doesn't add anything to the story, but sometimes I feel like there are so many things goin on in The Impossible Knife of Memory. Aside from Topher, all the characters I've mentioned in this review have their own serious problems. Hayley is struggling to remember some lost memories from her childhood (it's painful for her to do, and she doesn't really understand why she can't remember it), Finn with her addict sister and Trish with her alcoholic self, also Grace with her cheating father. Too much problems toppled into one line of story its kinda tiring to read. And not all of them got much depth or attention like Hayley and her father's problem, so that one was a minor downer.

The story
Is pretty much about Hayley, who has never experience real life with all the socializing and blending with other people, now has to do those things because her father forces her to get in public high school for her senior year, after all this time homeschooling her while on the road. Hayley is reluctant, because what she wants is to be home and take care of her sick father who's dealing with PTSD. At the same time, Hayley is learning to deal with having actual friends and boyfriend, with all their own problems.

Really, this is my first time reading LHA's books and I had a great time reading The Impossible Knife of Memory! Well, if I have to be honest, I kinda had a hard time to mentally connect myself with the situation (so even in heartwrenching moments there was no tears at all... If you've seen the RDJ gif on my fog post then you get what my face looked like most of the time when I read this book) but I think Laurie's style of writing, her prose, is 'different' and she creates her main character really well. Hayley's personality feels real (yes, the snarky attitude was getting annoying at some point, but well, you don't think teenagers feel like they're better than everyone else and they don't be mean most of the time? They do!), the whole story feels real (and it was kinda intense), like it could actually be someone's real life. The dialogs, the way her characters talk and respond, are how real people in non-literary world talk and act. I don't know, I think you have to read the book for yourself to experience her writing and feel what's special about it.

On another side note, I love the cover! It's not the kind of cover that would make me interested in reading the book but somehow the colors drawn me in. Then I found out that the cover hints at a major event in the book, and I smiled when I get the correlation. Read the book!

They say 'YES' to the book: Jen from Pop! Goes the Reader | Jamie from Perpetual Page Turner | Gillian from Writers of Wrongs (all my favorite bloggers!)
They say 'NO' to the book: Kat from Le Pauvre Coeurs | Khahn (On Goodreads) 

Now let's talk! Have you read this book or any books from Laurie Halse Anderson, guys? (What do you think of it?) Have you ever read any other books that tackle similar mental illness issues (PTSD, for example) that becomes your favorite?  

Also, what are you currently reading? Right now I'm juggling between Amy McNamara's Lovely, Deep and Dark and Haruki Murakami's 1Q84. Have fun and read some more! :D


  1. Wekekekeke My queen Kristen Stewart :)))

  2. I've never read anything by Lauren Halse, but I did watch Speak a few years back. Seems like she tackles some tough issues, but tempers it with a lovely romance. Great review, Tirta! :)

    1. Thank you, Rachel! It's my first book from the author :)

  3. I loved this book! And when Finn flirted with the math puns, I laughed out loud. I really enjoyed Finn's character, and his addition to this book. I was nervous about the romance aspect because the book was supposed to be heavier, since her dad is a war veteran suffering with PTSD, but I felt that the book would have been TOO heavy without the light-hearted and tender moments between Hayley and Finn. Also, the ending. So many feeeeeeels I couldn't handle them all. I just really enjoyed this book as a whole, and am glad I bought and read it. :P Great review!

    Sydney @ Utterly Bookish

  4. So I just wrote a comment out but I'm not sure if it submitted because it had me login to my Gmail... So, anyway. I'll retype it.

    I loved this book! Seriously. At first I was nervous because of the romance aspect, and how the book is supposed to be dealing with a heavy issue, but I felt that the romance provided a buffer so it wasn't all of this super heavy, depressing, heart-wrenching stuff. We had these feels-y moments with Hayley and her dad, and then we got to have some light-hearted bantering between Hayley and Finn (the math puns actually made me laugh out loud; they were perfect). I really appreciate Laurie Halse Anderson's stories, because they make me more emotional than most books can.

    I'm really glad you loved this book! It's one of my 2014 favorites. :P

    1. LOL, your comment went in, don't worry! :)
      Yeah the romance part (love love looooove Finnegan) is really necessary and important, I think, to the book, it helped balancing with the heavy side of the book.
      It's my first time reading Laurie's books and I'm glad as well!

  5. Math puns! Gah, I need this book! I haven't read any LHA either but I can't wait to dig into this. Sounds so special and heart achey. Great review!

    1. That part was sooo adorable! Finn was such a sweetheart. I really enjoyed this one, hope you will find it to your liking, too, Trinity :) Thanks! xx


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