Laurie Halse Anderson is brilliant at taking on social issues. The Impossible Knife Of Memory explores PTSD in veterans. Hayley’s father, Andy, served in Iraq. They have just moved to his home town to the house he grew up in so Hayley can go to high school. She spent many years being “home-schooled” while her father drove a truck. Hayley’s father is having a hard time adjusting to his home town. His only friend might be a drug dealer. Dealing with a new school situation is hard enough without worrying what her dad will do while she is at school. She makes a friend quickly who lives down the street and remembers Hayley from a long time ago. But Gracie has her own family issues to deal with. Hayley divides people into two categories, freaks and zombies. She meets Finn. He is going to tutor her in math but he wants her to write articles for him for the school newspaper. I love how their relationship builds throughout the story. The first date is pretty fantastic! Hayley’s relationship with her father and stepmother is painful and the climax of the story is intense. As usual, Laurie Halse Anderson brings light to painful issues and tells a compelling story at the same time.
Some ideas for discussing with teens:
Discuss what it would be like to be Hayley and go to school after spending the years on the road with her dad.
Discuss the moment where Hayley and Finn go to the quarry and she freaks him out.
Discuss freaks and zombies.
Discuss this passage, “Despite my best intentions, I was beginning to understand how my dad saw the world. The shadows haunting every living thing.” (pg. 193)
Discuss Gracie’s family life. How is it better or worse than Hayley’s.
Discuss this passage where Hayley breaks up with Finn, “The bitch wanted to fight, wanted to scream. She wanted someone else to get in the middle and give her an excuse to kick, to punch, and hurt.” (pg. 324)
Discuss Hayley not knowing The Rules. (pg. 146)
Talk about Hayley’s relationship with her step mom.
Discuss this passage, “Fear. The fear made me angry and the anger made me afraid and I wasn’t sure who he was anymore. Or who I was.” (pg. 115)
What do you think the future holds for Hayley and her dad?