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The Impossible Knife of Memory
Cover of The Impossible Knife of Memory
The Impossible Knife of Memory
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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.

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.

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    1
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  • ATOS:
  • Lexile:
    720
  • Interest Level:
  • Text Difficulty:
    3

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Excerpts-
  • From the book ***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***

    Copyright © 2014 by Laurie Halse Anderson


    -28-

    The crowd in the stadium roared so loudly I couldn't hear what the mom manning the ticket booth said.

    "Why?" I asked again.

    She glared and waited a beat for the noise to die down. "Everybody pays to get into the game. No exceptions."

    "But I'm the press," I whined. "On assignment."

    "Students get a dollar discount." She put her hand out. "Four dollars or don't go in."

    I paid her. Finn now owed me nineteen bucks.

    The bleachers were a wall of people dressed in Belmont yellow. For one second, it felt like they were all staring at me, that they all knew I came to the football game alone and didn't know where to sit, but then a whistle blew and the football teams on the field behind me crashed into each other and the crowd cheered and jumped up and down. I was invisible to them.

    I turned my back to the stands. On the other side of the field sat the enemy, the Richardson Ravens, dressed in black and silver. Beyond the goalposts at the far end of the field rose a gentle hill that was dotted with people sitting on blankets, little kids zooming around them, cheerfully ignoring the sad excuse for a football game.

    The referee blew his whistle and the two lines of players crashed into each other again, grunting and shouting. I couldn't see what happened to the ball, but the Richardson side of the field erupted in cheers.

    I texted Gracie:

    hey

    After a long pause, she wrote back:

    at movie ttyl?

    I sent a simple smiley face, because my phone did not have a smiley face that was wrapping her hands around her own throat and beating her head against a wall.

    The two teams ran to their huddles to plot out their next bit of brilliant strategy. They ended the huddle and ran back to line up, each face inches away from the scowling face of the enemy, feet pawing at the ground like impatient horses. The quarterback grunted, the lines crashed together, and they all fell down again. Everyone in Belmont yellow screamed and whistled.

    Should I be writing this down? I looked up at the stands. Wouldn't anyone who cared about this game be here? Why would they want to read about it? Answer: they wouldn't. My earlier plan to get the stats and eavesdrop for quotes first period Monday was still viable and even more attractive than it had been on the bus. I just needed someplace to go that was not my house. It was only a quarter to eight. I could probably make it to the mall before nine.

    what movie

    I texted Gracie.

    She didn't answer, which meant she was with Topher, which meant any hope I had of crashing her Friday night plans had just evaporated. How lame would it be for me to go to Gracie's house and ask her mom if she wanted to hang out? Mrs. Rappaport was a big fan of home makeover shows. Last time I was at her house, she'd been talking about redesigning her kitchen. Maybe we could watch a few episodes about countertops.

    I shuddered. I'd be better off spending the evening chasing rats out of Dumpsters.

    The clock clicked down the last few seconds to halftime, the refs blew their whistles, and people raced for the bathrooms and the food stand.

    "This is ridiculous," I muttered as I pressed against the fence that separated the spectators from the field. As soon as the herd moved past, I followed, intending to head for the parking lot, unchain my bike, and ride. Not home, not for a few hours. Just ride in the dark and hope that Topher and Gracie would have a huge fight and she'd call in tears and ask me to spend the night and mention that they...

Reviews-
  • DOGO Books kai_4202 - It totally relates to teens and is fun for all ages. I enjoyed learning about the past, but still having fun while doing it. The book is funny, sentimental, and overall, simply a truly enjoyable book that I highly recommend.
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from October 21, 2013
    As in Speak, Anderson provides a riveting study of a psychologically scarred teenager, peeling back layers of internal defenses to reveal a girl’s deepest wounds. Her heroine, 17-year-old Hayley, is no stranger to loss. Her mother died when she was small, and she was later abandoned by her father’s alcoholic girlfriend. Now the only family Hayley has left is her father, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, whose horrific flashbacks have brought chaos into their lives. After traveling the country in a “dented eighteen-wheeler,” the two of them have settled down in her father’s hometown. Hayley feels like an outsider at a high school populated by “zombies,” and, at home, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to pretend that her father is getting better. Then Hayley is drawn to Finn, a boy who seemingly likes her for who she is. Hayley’s anxiety about her father’s unpredictable behavior reverberates throughout the novel, overshadowing and distorting her memories of better times. It’s a tough, absorbing story of the effects of combat on soldiers and the people who love them. Ages 12–up. Agent: Amy Berkower, Writers House.

  • Kirkus

    November 1, 2013
    A family struggles to hold itself together in the wake of war. Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, a decorated veteran, have returned to their small upstate New York hometown after years of unschooling and long-haul trucking. Ostensibly, they're back so Hayley can have a typical senior year of high school, but it's clear that Andy's untreated PTSD has made it impossible for him to make a living as a trucker. Both Kincains are bright, sarcastic loners plagued by agonizing memories that won't quite stay repressed, despite their best efforts, and that punctuate the narrative in counterpoint: Andy's experiences during his four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan appear fully formed, while Hayley's childhood recollections are more fragmented and less reliable than they at first seem. As Andy's mental and physical health deteriorate, Hayley is forced deeper into the role of caretaker. It's a part she's been playing so well for so long she doesn't even realize how much she resents the unfairness of it all until her sweet, bantering boyfriend, Finn, points it out. Anderson sensitively addresses the many problems--physical recovery, grief and survivor's guilt, chemical dependency, panic attacks and suicidal tendencies--that veterans can face when trying to reintegrate. This is less a bravura performance than a solid one, but Hayley's strong, wryly vulnerable voice carries the narrative toward a resolutely imperfect, hopeful conclusion. A characteristically honest and deeply felt exploration of the lingering scars of war. (Fiction. 14 & up)

    COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from January 1, 2014

    Gr 9 Up-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.-Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA

    Copyright 2014 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Laurie Halse Anderson
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