Whatcha Reading? The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

It's so easy to judge other people, isn't it? We assess all day, every day, what people say and wear and do and are, and they are doing the same to us. The culture encourages it, nudges us to rate everyone and everything, from thumbs up to thumbs down, one to ten, white to black, choose your spectrum. In The Impossible Knife of Memory, the main character and point of view, Hayley Kincain, judges simply: zombie or freak. Anyone living his or her life falls into one category or the other; Hayley is just getting by, defying either category, as she thinks everyone should.

Hayley Kincain has it rough, no doubt: her mom and then her grandma died when she was a little kid, her dad has severe PTSD from his tours in Iraq, and it's her first time in school in five years, for her senior year, in a new school. Fair enough, she should be bummed. Fair enough, she should be wary. Fair enough, she should have the reader's sympathy for the load she has to bear as a seventeen-year-old. Somehow though I don't care.

This shocks me, because I thought Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak indeed gave a powerful, searing, and memorable voice to a girl, Melinda, who couldn't or wouldn't speak for reasons I was desperate to know and hung on every word on the page until I found out, and then I rooted for her even harder as she made her way back from the brink. Here though, with Hayley in The Impossible Knife of Memory, I'm having such a hard time caring, as much as I want to care. She pushes everyone away, and that includes readers. She judges everyone, and that includes the people in her life who are nice to her, judges them so harshly that I wondered at times (many times) why they (or I) continue to bother. Why does her best friend stay with her, for nostalgia? Why is the nice hot guy interested in her, and how in the world does he continue to be? And even, most troublingly, does her father never ever call her to task, even when he is having a "good" day? I still want to find out though, so I guess The Knife has itself at my throat after all.

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Laurie Halse Anderson http://madwomanintheforest.com/

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