So, I promised I'd read this book for you guys--and, wow, I actually managed to get around to it! Gotta love school libraries. I just have to say, Laurie Halse Anderson keeps on proving herself to be a really, really good author. I wasn't sure if she could continue her awesome streak of one poignant, heart-wrenchingly real book after another, but she has. The Impossible Knife of Memory is another winner for sure.
Hayley Kincain and her dad have never stayed in one place for long, so when they move back to his hometown in time for her senior year things are bound to be different. Hayley's father struggles with post traumatic stress disorder, meaning that their home life is pretty different from the kind most teenagers deal with. There's a love interest and high school drama, but the plot mainly centers on her dad's PTSD--his inescapable demons, his drug habit and his terrifying anger issues. Make no mistake--he's not a monster. In fact, I thought he was the most likable character in the book. That's one of the reasons why this book is a winner; Anderson portrays mental disease honestly, neither criminalizing nor exaggerating the issue.
The Kincains were an incredible team. Firecracker Hayley's ruminations were enjoyable to read, from her "zombies vs. freaks" rule or her more serious thoughts on PTSD and other issues including drugs, divorce or assault. The poetic war flashbacks, presumably from her dad's point of view, were equally creepy and fascinating. Hayley's relationship with boyfriend Finn was not my favorite part of the book, but it was a welcome break from some of the book's heavier stuff. And, surprisingly for a very self-reflective book, there was a plot twist at every corner--a sudden relapse here, an old face turning up at the wrong moment there--which made the book exciting. I admit I had to set the book down and think at some points, in order to let myself catch a breath.
All in all--an exciting, contemplative, amazing book that taught me new things and made me think. Interested? Check out the first six chapters here. Go forth!