Painful Memories Destroying Lives

knifeedgeAuthor Laurie Halse Anderson took on a tough issue in her new YA novel The Impossible Knife of Memory. The story opens with the main character, Hayley Kincain, attending high school in her dad’s home town and feeling alienated from the other kids, who she terms “zombies.”  This is the first time Hayley has settled down in one spot since her dad returned from the war in Iraq with severe PTSD.  Her life up to this point has been on the road in his rig, lurching from job to job, town to town.  He has resolved that his daughter needs to be in one place for a while, but he has not resolved to seek help for himself–which is the real problem.  Hayley has been forced into the role of parent to her dad, who is sometimes violent, moody, often drunk or drugged, and is becoming increasingly unstable.  She hides the severity of his disfunction from friends, school officials, and her ex-step mother–the one person who understood and was willing to step up and help.  Laurie Halse Anderson, author of such prize-winning works as Speak, does a masterful job illustrating the tension in Hayley’s life as she tries to keep her dad safe from others as well as himself.  What the author fails to do is write a believable love story between Hayley and an oddball student, Finn.  The dialog between these two characters is awkward, out of character, and often breaks the mood of the rest of the novel.  I liked Finn and wanted to believe in their romance, but for me it didn’t work.  Hayley in the beginning of the novel is such an unlikeable, bitter, and arrogant character that I was bored with her and tempted to put the novel down, but pressing on and with the revelation of more of her background, she became more sympathetic and softer.  A good story, but overly long.

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