Review: The impossible knife of memory by Laurie Halse Anderson – Zombies and freaks

18079527Title: The impossible knife of memory

Authors Laurie Halse Anderson

Series: standalone

Genres: young adult, romance, contemporary

Format: audiobook

Length: 9 hrs 12 min

Narrator: Julia Whelan, Luke Daniels

My rating: 5 stars

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

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.


Laurie Halse Anderson books are an absolute must read for me, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one, and I wasn’t disappointed.
The book opens with Hayley and her dad moving back to her dad’s childhood home, and after years of ‘homeschooling’ (I use the term loosely, you’ll see why) she finally goes to a public school for the first time. Here’s the thing about Hayley: she’s NOT for everyone. Anyone who’s read previous books from this author already knows that her main characters aren’t exactly on the ‘sunny side’ (see Speak, Twisted or The catalyst) and this book is no exception. Hayley starts off with the following ‘lovely’ statement:

A quick lesson.
There are two kinds of people in this world:
1. zombies
2. freaks.
Only two. Anyone who tells you different is lying. That person is a lying zombie. Do not listen to zombies. Run for your freaking life.
Another lesson: everyone is born a freak.

She’s rude, judgemental and distrusting. She’s stubborn, cynical and jaded. She sees the world in a way only broken people do. Her inner voice is something like this:

“Maybe that was why I want to slap so many of the zombies; they had no idea how freaking lucky they were. Lucky and ignorant, happy little rich kids who believed in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy and thought that life was supposed to be fair.”
“Looking out the window, I wondered how many of those kids had parents who were losing it, or parents who were gone, taken off without a forwarding address, or parents who had buried themselves alive, who could argue and chop wood and make asses of themselves without being fully conscious.”

If this doesn’t sound like something you can relate to or at least empathize with, then this book isn’t for you. I feel the need to say this, because the few bad reviews I did read about this book, all centered around the same thing: how awful Hayley is. And I don’t think that’s true at all. But you need to understand how much a person’s, especially a child’s behaviour and general outlook on life changes when they have to be the grown up in the family. She had an awful lot to deal with pretty much her whole life, and she’s doing her best. I dare you to be perfect and not have a few hangups of your own in a situation like this. That’s not to say I didn’t feel the need to shake her at times, and scream at her to accept help already, but I could definitely empathize.  And then there’s Finn. He’s pushy and at times annoying (sounds dreamy, right?) but I liked him. You have to be pushy and annoying to get through to Hayley. He’s also kind of a nerd, but no complaints here. 🙂
If I have any pet peeves about this book, that would be the ending. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it felt just a tiny bit rushed for me. Things wrapped up a little too fast. But maybe that’s just me.
Overall, I loved this book and eagerly anticipate the next Laurie Halse Anderson. In the meantime, working up the courage to finally read Wintergirls so I can cry some more.


The audiobook version of this book is amazing,  Julia Whelan is a personal favourite of mine, and Luke Daniels is a nice addition, voicing Hayley’s dad’s flashbacks about the war.


4 thoughts on “Review: The impossible knife of memory by Laurie Halse Anderson – Zombies and freaks

  1. This book keeps popping up around the blogosphere.. I might be forced to check it out! From what you quote here, the narrative voice looks like it’s something I can really relate to. A great review here.


    • Aw thanks! 🙂 I was struggling a little with it, because it’s an emotional read, and I can’t quite explain why I loved it so much!
      Not like some fantasy book where I clearly know what works for me and what doesn’t. That’s the thing about contemporary YA.
      And I didn’t want to discourage anyone from reading it, but tried to pick quotes that really describe Hayley’s general attitude.
      I just hated those negative reviews (goodreads again, I should really stop doing that…) where (I would bet my life) adults hated on her, they clearly didn’t get her life. They shouldn’t have read the book in the first place.

  2. Pingback: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson Audiobook Review | The Reading Date

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