Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Impossible Knife of Memory

Anderson, Laurie Halse. The Impossible Knife of Memory. New York: Viking, 2014. Print.
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My Thoughts
"Because you can only be brave if you're scared" (Anderson 390).
Hayley Rose Kincain has led an unconventional life. Her dad Andy is a war veteran who suffers from PTSD, depression, mood swings, and alcoholism. Hayley's mom is dead [The reader will find out what happened, at least according to Hayley's memory, at page 247.]. For much of her younger life, she bounced from place to place with dad until he decides they need to settle down in the town he grew up in and Hayley will go to school there. She hates it. She hates the "zombies" that surround her. She hates the superficial teenagers. She hates that her guidance counselor won't leave her alone. Then she meets Finn Ramos. Finn is not a "zombie" and they develop a great friendship that leads to a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.

Hayley tries to hide and protect her dad, especially on "bad days" when he goes into a dark place mentally. However, life is funny, and ultimately, in protecting her dad, she is the one needing protecting. I worried that Hayley might be experiencing her own PTSD.

I liked some of the lessons Anderson writes through Hayley. When Hayley must walk home, she fakes listening to music. "I needed to hear the world but didn't want the world to know I was listening" (Anderson 5). When Hayley's guidance counselor is prying, Hayley says, "The trick to surviving an interrogation is patience. Don't offer up anything. Don't explain. Answer the question and only the question that is asked so you don't accidentally put your head in a noose" (Anderson 21). After Hayley and Finn meet, she realizes that she doesn't know "The Rules" of dating (Anderson 146). I laughed when she was looking up college entrance essay prompts. "How could filling in a bunch of blanks and writing a fluffy essay about the 'moment of significance' in my life let them know if I was good enough to go here?" (Anderson 209).

I always am tickled when I see connections between the words on the page and my life. In this book's case, one very important episode occurs at Halloween. I'm read this book during the month of October. Creepy timing.

I was surprised that Dad's friend Michael didn't turn out as bad as I predicted.

I also wondered about the reliability of the narrator (I'm always an English teacher :) ), especially when Hayley seemed to start "cracking" after dad's ex-girlfriend Trish reappears. "I couldn't stop the pictures in my head, explosions like a flash-bang grenade was going off behind my eyes: carnage in the street, bodies on the floor of a pizza shop, a movie theatre, the county fair...if someone, somewhere was pushing the button that would detonate an explosion. Lining me up in his sights and pulling the trigger" (Anderson 323). This sounds more like what her dad would experience.
I liked the believable resolution of the story. I liked thinking about how our brains do work and how one episode can have many memories.

I'm super excited that I got to meet (and get my picture with) Laurie Halse Anderson at  TLA. She even signed this book, which I will be keeping to reread.

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