I often requests books from the library. It's great b/c they pull it aside and have it all ready for me. Convenient. However, I do think it is fun to walk the shelves, browse, and select books that way.
I came across The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson from a recent library shelf browse.
I have read several of Anderson's books, Speak review can be found here, and I truly think she is a great author with a distinct voice and style. Anderson is always able to keep the reader unsure exactly of what is going on and confused a bit, but not frustrated. It seems to keep the reader invested and involved in the story.
Lately, I've been reading books about kids, of all ages, with some hard lives. It makes me sad when these kids have to deal with adult things. Dealing with hard things like divorce, PTSD from Vets, family member addictions, etc. really wears you down and makes it difficult to focus on high school/kid stuff like college, school, etc. I've seen this in real life while teaching. How can a kid focus and worry about homework or a test when they have to figure out what they are going to eat for dinner or how to avoid upset parents? It's tough.
I've seen kids dealing with hard things and read about hard things in books. I do think kids going through hard things and reading a book like this one, or the one I posted last week, Lock and Key, can really help them. A little bibliotherapy if you may. Books like these books can show a reader that eventually there are positive outcomes even though it is not always pretty and definitely not easy.
I gave The Impossible Knife of Memory 4.5 out of 5 stars. It wasn't a perfect book, but it was a very good book. I took off 1/2 a star b/c I do think the PTSD of Hayley's father, Andy, and his PTSD is not portrayed nearly as harsh as it should've been, and that his growth seemed a bit abrupt. However, I do like the deeper thought of the "knife of memory" found throughout, and I thought the character development which drives the story is great.
Hayley and her father, Andy, are tough. Tough to crack, but tough to get inside their hearts as well. Both of them have memories that cut through them like a knife, and at unexpected moments prick or stun them. They both eventually learn that if you don't deal with the sharp and difficult memories it will just get worse. They learn that we can't forget our past; it's who we are. We have to learn to deal with our past and move forward Both Hayley and Andy slowly do that throughout the story.
All in all, this story is great with a touch of romance, but it also has a lot of depth making it a great book for high school kids as well as adults. For example, at one point in the story (pg 357-358) Trish, who Hayley hated at first but that changes slowly and she becomes a great friend/guidance. Hayley is found telling Trish, "I'm never getting in a pool again." as a result of traumatic experience as a child. However, Trish wisely says, "I think you will as long as you have the right lifegaurd." I think that principle can be applied at a deeper level. We can't avoid the hard, but others can definitely help us overcome it.
There is some language, drug use, and underage drinking but it is all in context.
Amazon had the following book review:
"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."
The Impossible Knife of Memory is a great read. You'll enjoy the depth in this story and the quirky and relatable characters. I'm pretty sure high school (9th and up) girls especially, but boys as well, will enjoy this read and could really learn and grow from reading it.
As always, any thoughts on the book?