In her senior year of high school, Hayley Kincain must stop traveling the country in her dad’s eighteen-wheeler and go to a traditional school in his hometown. The new life is one that Hayley hopes will help her dad deal with his post-traumatic-stress-disorder and help his nightmares from the Iraq war end forever. However, as Hayley’s struggles with her new environment (and her surprise romance) increase, her dad falls even deeper into his own problems. Hayley must try to help her dad while attempting to outrun her own painful past. If she fails, both their lives will fall apart.
I love Laurie Halse Anderson, so I was really expecting Impossible Knife of Memory to be amazing. There’s also a lot of Printz buzz going around about it, so naturally I wanted to get my hands on it. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great book. It tackles a tough issue that many people don’t really want to look at — post traumatic stress disorder — in a way that makes things heartbreakingly real. And, if the book were just about Hayley and her dad (and maybe Finn), I think I might have liked it more. But, as the novel progresses, Hayley issues creep up from her past (of course), Issues I thought (because of all the tension surrounding them) would be extremely rough and important. Turns out, they’re really not that bad (not in comparison to Hayley’s current life, anyway). I just didn’t appreciate the way Anderson built up all this suspense surrounding what happened to Hayley, and then delivered a very anti-climatic reveal.
My other issue was — of course! — the romantic relationship between Hayley and Finn. Finn’s a great guy, and Hayley is super smart when it comes to their physical relationship. Eventually, though, Hayley winds up depending way too much on Finn — too much for my taste, at least. Of course, she’s a girl with daddy issues, so maybe it was more real for her to become dependent, but I still would have liked to see her build up more self confidence.
Negative comments aside, this is still a great book. Hayley, while sometimes annoying, is a believable character with important problems. The romance is flawed, but cute. Pick it up and see what you think. Maybe not a Printz winner, but still a good read.
For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.