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Stuff for the Teen Age

Booktalking "The Impossible Knife of Memory" by Laurie Halse Anderson


17-year-old high school senior Hayley Rose Kincain struggles to cope with running the household and keep her severely depressed, drug-addicted and alcoholic father safe and alive. One time, she picks up her inebriated stepfather from a bar because he cannot see straight, let alone locate his vehicle. Another evening, she calls the cops after he passes out in the house; the ambulance takes him away to a hospital due to his severe dehydration. Spock, the family dog, keeps her company amidst all of this.

No wonder her grades are in the toilet. Finnegan Ramos is supposed to be tutoring her in mathematics. That is not exactly what occurs during their encounters.

Finn has a renegade sister, Chelsea, who stays with his mother. Nothing compared to cleaning up bits of glass from the floor from so many glasses, plates and bowls that a PTSD veteran shattered in one of his flashback-induced rages.

Hayley is ashamed of her home situation, which is surreal to her. However, "Tsunami Trish", who left her and her father when she was younger and is alcoholic herself, reappears now and again in their lives. At least Hayley has one adult to ask for help.

As for high school, this is how Hayley describes the kids that seek to meld into one amalgam group in order to gain peer acceptance:

“I was first in line when the bus pulled in. Took the seat on the left two rows from the back. Stared at the zombies on the sidewalk dramatically reciting their lines, stalking to the edges of their stages, playing at life.”

Finn is enamored with “Nerdvana” aka Swevenbury College, swimming, and keeping Hayley sane. Hayley is alternately breath taken with Finn’s suave athleticism and confused by her pressing desire to confide in him.

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, 2014

True to form, Laurie Halse Anderson’s raw honesty makes the book palpably real. This is the most strikingly intimate portraits of alcoholism and its effects on the sufferer and family members that I have ever seen.

I like the title because it indicates how unpredictable and fallacious that memory can be, and I Iove the cover with the person (presumable Hayley) standing on a crack of ice that reveals frigid water underneath.


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