January 31, 2014


Laurie Halse Anderson's latest book is about Hayley trying to find her footing in a new town senior year while dealing with her painful past and taking care of her PTSD-suffering veteran father.

As always, Anderson's subject matter is gripping, characters believable and well defined, language gorgeous, and ending dramatic---but I almost didn't make it to the ending.

My only question or disappointment with this book is the length---389 pages. Does IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE's word count seem overboard for contemporary YA?? Or only overboard for a frazzled mom who reads in sleep-deprived snatches these days? (Hmm. The problem here is probably the reader and not the book.) I can't pinpoint exactly what I wish were trimmed. I can only say that to me, Hayley's repeated experiences dragging herself through school only to come home and find a new unpleasant surprise related to her father's illness each day began to feel a bit predictable. At the same time, I suspect Anderson's approach here is a very realistic portrayal of what it's like to live with PTSD---a maddening combination of both never-ending sameness and unnerving unpredictability. Getting Hayley's full experience is probably justification enough for the length. I just wasn't expecting to take weeks to get through a Laurie Halse Anderson book.

I'm glad I did. I especially admire how Anderson worked in Hayley's father's flashbacks without getting too much "adult" perspective in a YA book (and I don't use quote marks liberally. A steady theme of this book is questioning who is really the child and who is the parent).

By the book's end I gained great empathy for Hayley and her dad and by extension a greater understanding of what some vets and their families sacrifice, sometimes for senseless political reasons.

Have you read it? Do you think anyone but Laurie Halse Anderson could get away with a 389-page contemporary? Oh, yeah, Sarah Dessen.

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