A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Impossible Knife of Memory is about a girl living with her father, a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq who suffers intense post-traumatic stress disorder. He recalls the horrors of war, including seeing a woman with no face after an explosion and bombing a house full of women and children by mistake. An alcoholic, he's also violent at home, punching the wall, stabbing the furniture, getting in bar fights, and attempting suicide. His daughter, Hayley, remembers him shooting a TV set in a hotel room. There's some swearing, teen drug experimentation, and an encounter in which Hayley and her boyfriend nearly have sex but don't. The book could spark thoughtful discussions about veterans and how to best support them and their families.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Hayley tries to prop up her father, an Army veteran wounded both physically and emotionally. But now that they've returned to live in his late mother's house, his problems only seem to grow worse -- he gets into fights, is fired from a string of jobs, and even intimidates Hayley's boyfriend. Hayley constantly monitors her dad, but the daily burden of figuring out how to act around him and checking to see whether he's been in an auto accident is far too much for her to carry, especially as she's dealing with her own painful past. She works hard to repress childhood memories of a stepmother who abandoned her, even as the same woman wants back into their lives.
Is it any good?
Readers will find themselves quickly immersed in THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY, a thick, rich, compelling book. They'll easily empathize with Hayley, who feels responsible for taking care of her broken father, even though she does worrisome or frustrating things, such as blowing off her schoolwork or pushing away a boy who really cares for her. Teens will learn something about the horrors of war through Hayley's father's graphic flashbacks and their aftermath in the pair's chaotic life since he's been back home.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about movies and books that deal with war. Why do you think it's such a common theme, both the conflicts and their aftereffects?
Do you think that we as a country do enough to support our veterans, both medically and emotionally?
Author Laurie Halse Anderson's critically acclaimed books feature such intense subject matter as rape, eating disorders, and slavery. Have you read any of them? What do they have in common with The Impossible Knife of Memory?
- Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Penguin Group
- Publication date: January 7, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 400
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: July 13, 2017
Our editors recommend
For kids who love Coming-of-age stories
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.