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Original Essays | September 17, 2014

Merritt Tierce: IMG Has My Husband Read It?

My first novel, Love Me Back, was published on September 16. Writing the book took seven years, and along the way three chapters were published in... Continue »
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The Impossible Knife of Memory


The Impossible Knife of Memory Cover

ISBN13: 9780670012091
ISBN10: 0670012092
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chapter one

  I spent the last Friday of summer vacation spreading hot, sticky tar across the roof of George Washington High. My companions were Dopey, Toothless, and Joe, the brain surgeons in charge of building maintenance. At least they were getting paid. I was working forty feet above the ground, breathing in sulfur fumes from Satan’s vomitorium, for free.

Character building, my father said.

Mandatory community service, the judge said. Court-ordered restitution for the Foul Deed. He nailed me with the bill for the damage I had done, which meant I had to sell my car and bust my hump at a landscaping company all summer. Oh, and he gave me six months of meetings with a probation officer who thought I was a waste of human flesh.

Still, it was better than jail.

I pushed the mop back and forth, trying to coat the seams evenly. We didn’t want any rain getting into the building and destroying the classrooms. Didn’t want to hurt the school. No, sir, we sure didn’t.

Joe wandered over, looked at my work, and grunted.

“We done yet?” asked Dopey. “Thunderstorms rolling in soon. Heavy weather.”

I looked up. There were no clouds in the sky.

Joe nodded slowly, studying the roof. “Yeah, we’re done.” He turned off the motor on the tar kettle. “Last day for Tyler, here. Bet you’re glad to be quit of us, huh, kid?”

“Nah,” I lied. “You guys have been great.”

Dopey cackled. “If them sewer pipes back up again, we’ll get you out of class.”

There had been a few advantages to working with these guys. They taught me how to steal free soda out of the vending machines. I snagged a couple of keys when they weren’t looking. Best of all, the hard labor had turned me from Nerd Boy into Tyler the Amazing Hulk, with ripped muscles and enough testosterone to power a nuclear generator.

“Hey, get a load of this!” Toothless shouted.

We picked our way around the fresh tar patches and looked where he was pointing, four stories down. I stayed away from the edge; I wasn’t so good at heights. But then I saw them: angels with pony tails gathered in the parking lot.

The girls’ tennis team.

Wearing bikini tops and short shorts.

Wearing wet bikini tops and wet short shorts.

I inched closer. It was a car wash, with vehicles lined up all the way out to the road, mostly driven by guys. Barely clad girls were bending, stretching, soaping up, scrubbing, and squealing. They were squirting each other with hoses. And squealing. Did I mention that?

“Take me now, Lord,” Toothless muttered.

The marching band was practicing in the teachers’ lot. They fired up their version of “Louie, Louie.” Finely toned tennis-angel butts bounced back and forth to the beat. Then a goddess rose up from the hubcap of a white Ford Explorer.

Bethany Milbury.

The driver of the Explorer said something. Bethany smiled and blew at the soapsuds in her hands so bubbles floated through the air and landed on his nose. The driver melted into a puddle on the front seat. Bethany threw back her head and laughed. The sun flashed off her teeth.

Joe’s tongue dropped out of his mouth and sizzled on the hot roof. Dopey took off his glasses, rubbed them on a corner of his shirt, and put them back on. Toothless adjusted himself.

Bethany bounced along to the next car in line, a dark-green Avenger that was burning oil.

Bethany Milbury pushes me against the hood of my cherry-red, turbocharged Testarossa. “I love fast cars,” she whispers, soapy fingers in my hair.

“This is the fastest,” I say.

“I’ve been waiting so long for you, Tyler. . . .” Her head tilts, her lips open.

I am so ready for this.

She grabs my arm and snarls, “Be careful, dummy, you’ll break your neck.”

No, wait. I blinked. I was on a hot tar roof with three smelly grown men. Joe was gripping my arm, yanking me back from the edge.

“I said, be careful, dummy. That first step is a doozy.”

“Sorry,” I said. “I mean, thanks.”

A navy-blue 1995 Mercedes S500 sedan rolled into the parking lot. It came to complete stop. Left blinker flashing, it turned and parked in front of the building. A man in a black suit got out of the driver’s seat. Stood next to the car. Looked up at me and tapped the face of his watch once, twice, three times. I had inconvenienced him again. Dopey, Toothless, and Joe crawled out of sight. They had seen my father detonate before.

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Beverly B, January 27, 2014 (view all comments by Beverly B)
Impossible Knife of Memory is another emotionally honest and wrenching story featuring a smart, funny, snarky survivor. The Impossible Knife of Memory will hit home with many readers. Hayley Kincain is not a normal teen. She has spent more time trying to save her wounded vet father than she has in school or pursuing normal teen activities. She does not know how to socialize with her peers, but she knows to count the number of pills in her fathers prescription bottles and to check to make sure the guns are still in the gun safe. As much as Hayley wants a normal high school experience, she finds the other students to be shallow dolts with entitled lives. Hayley is slow to learn that no one really knows what goes on behind other families' closed doors. Although Hayley and her friends are well developed characters, the adults come across as one dimensional clichés especially the teachers and her father's friends. The end is ambiguous which is probably appropriate for a novel about mental illness, but it may disappoint some readers. Fans of Laurie Halse Anderson will be pleased. For Laurie Halse Anderson newcomers, Speak or Wintergirls may be better first choices (for older YA; Chains for younger YA).
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Product Details

Anderson, Laurie Halse
Viking Juvenile
Boys / Men
Situations / Adolescence
Girls & Women
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 7
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 12

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Related Subjects

Children's » General
Children's » Historical Fiction » Military and War
Children's » Sale Books
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Young Adult » Fiction » Social Issues » Depression and Mental Illness
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Young Adult » New Arrivals

The Impossible Knife of Memory Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$18.99 In Stock
Product details 304 pages Viking Juvenile - English 9780670012091 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

The cover art makes this look like a bleak book about survival. It is about survival, but The Impossible Knife of Memory is vivid, hopeful, and full of life. Anderson tackles tough subjects with her usual grace, avoiding the maudlin and cutting straight to the heart.

"Review" by , "It will not disappoint her legion of fans....Anderson really does know how to write a story that will resonate with teens."
"Review" by , "Anderson's novels...speak for the still-silent among us, and force all of us to acknowledge the real and painful truths that are too dangerous to ignore."
"Review" by , "As in Speak, Anderson provides a riveting study of a psychologically scarred teenager, peeling back layers of internal defenses to reveal a girl's deepest wounds."
"Review" by , "In Anderson's skilled hands, readers will find a light shining on the shadowy reality of living with someone who has lived through war — and who is still at war with himself."
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