An early 2014 YA novel that Jessilynn Norcross, owner and children’s buyer at McLean and Eakin Booksellers in Petosky, Mich., looks forward to handselling is Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory, due from Viking on January 7.
I’ve picked up several teen books this fall that left my sweet tooth aching with sentimentality or my mind numb with overwrought emotional relationships. None of these flaws arises in Anderson’s latest novel. You also won’t find any magic, dystopia, paranormal activity, or action/adventure sequences. What you will find is a touching account of a typical teenage girl trying to live a typical teenage life despite the broken father she loves.
Hayley and her father have left behind life in his 18-wheeler where, “The miles under the tires helped fade everything we didn't want to remember into a vague pattern of loosely knit-together shadows that stayed just out of reach, where they belonged.” They've moved into her father’s childhood home, she is attending regular high school, and normal should be setting in anytime now – only it can’t.
Hayley’s father is in the throes of PTSD from his army tours, where he saw violence that no teenage girl should ever have to hear about. But Haley does. And she has to watch as her father continues to lose his battles with his demons. He’s self-medicating with booze, weed, and possibly more. She’s the one trying to keep everything together, and that doesn’t leave much time for teen angst, drama, or mischief. But when she meets Finn, she just might have found something for herself.
Laughter through tears and all manner of matters of the heart make this novel a standout for any reader 15 and up. It doesn’t have to be for children with substance abuse in their families, but what a gem it is for those who do. Hope, after all, is something we can all appreciate.
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson. Viking, $18.99 Jan. ISBN 978-0-670-01209-1