Review: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

I flew through this book. Of course, I didn’t have anything to do this weekend, really, but I usually procrastinate anyway, but with The Impossible Knife of Memory, I couldn’t put it down. Honestly, it’s probably the best contemporary book I’ve read so far this year. My love of this book may have something to do with how excited I’ve been to read it, and how I eagerly awaited it’s arrival through mail after ordering it online, but point is, I do love this book… so much! This book is almost higher on my favorites list than The Fault in our Stars by John Green, which I adored.

the plot

The Impossible Knife of Memory is about a 17 year old girl named Hayley, who lives with her father, Andy. They’ve just settled down in her deceased grandmother’s home, which was left to them when she died, after having lived on the road of the last six (I think) years. It’s Hayley’s first and senior year of high school, and she’s not really adapting well.

She’s struggling in math, and ends up in detention way too often, but that’s not the hardest part of Hayley’s life. Andy has PTSD and some days he refuses to leave his bed, others he’s fine, and on especially bad days, he’s dangerous, drunk/high, and impossible to calm down. It’s very clear how much Andy’s illness affects Hayley, after having spent six years with him on the road. She’s adapted to his patterns and ways of thinking: Threat, Assess, Action. She suffers from anxiety and has panic attacks, and hates being surrounded too many people.

She refuses to remember her past, and wishes she could runaway from the her memories they way they had when they were on the road, but now, Hayley and her father are stuck, and he’s only getting worse and dragging Hayley down with him.

I think I felt a very strong connection to Hayley and her situation, as I could identify with a lot of her emotions, anxieties, and certain aspects of her home life. I was totally immersed in this book.

This book was sad, emotional, but also very cute and funny at times! I loved the glimpses, however short, that we got to see of Andy’s past/memories from war.


the characters

Hayley’s character might be hard for some to like because she’s sarcastic, a little judgemental, and has all the typical teenage angst plus some, but I adored Hayley, if not because I could relate to her feelings, then because I could understand why she behaved the way she did.

Her father, Andy, was extremely likable during his good days, and I could really see glimpses of who he used to be, who Hayley wanted him to become once again, and that’s probably why I didn’t immediately give up on his character. On his bad days, he was untrustworthy and scary, and often it was difficult to tell if he was having a good day or a bad day. He was unstable and though Hayley loved him, the distrust created from his PTSD was obvious.

My favorite character was Finn, though, who becomes Hayley’s friend, and then boyfriend. He’s weird and sweet and is perfect for Hayley! I shipped them from the start!

Other minor characters like Hayley’s best friend, Gracie, were great too, and despite Hayley’s pessimistic view on just about everything, they managed to try their hardest to help her. Gracie was an amazing best friend, too, and I loved that she didn’t betray or leave Hayley, and that their relationship grew over the course of the book.

Then there’s Trish, Hayley’s stepmom who left her and her father years ago, who says she wants to help, but Hayley won’t forgive her, and is convinced she’ll only make Andy worse. Trish isn’t very active in the book, but she plays a pretty huge role, and of all the characters, she is the only one who can truly help Hayley and Andy.


I loved this book. I loved the characters, the plot, everything! The writing is beautiful and gripping and the story will pull you in, and spit you out feeling like a changed person. At least, that’s how I felt. I never wanted it to end, and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened. This is one of the few books that I think everyone should read, but if you’re a fan of contemporary, romance, and stories about tough times and mental illness, then you should definitely pick this book up!


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