Friday, September 25, 2015

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson tells a story masterfully, and this book is definitely masterful. This story of Hayley Kincaid and her father gives us such a deep and brutal look into the lives of a family living with PTSD. Through it all Hayley tries to control (or run away from) her own life while watching her father continue to hide from his own demons.

I loved the way chapters in Hayley's father's voice were interspersed throughout the book. I felt it gave depth to his character and gave us a window into what he was dealing with.

I think the reason this book touched me in the way it did is because I work everyday with young people. These young people are so often scarred by the actions of their parents. They come to school each day hiding these moments of their lives, but often acting out and struggling because of them. As teachers we don't always take time to learn what demons our students are fighting, and we focus on the ways in which they act out or fail to achieve.

Hayley and her dad became real people to me, and I found myself sobbing at the end of the book. I hope that we can provide ways for young people to share and deal with their demons and truly meet the needs of the whole child, and not just their academic needs.

I have loved everything I've read by Laurie Halse Anderson - and this book is no exception!

Ten Things we did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) by Sarah Mlynowski

Let's pretend that I'm fourteen and telling you about this book. Then I would say it was awesome, and funny, and mushy, and one of the best books I've ever read. Let's face it, any book that sets up a 16-year old girl (April) with the most gorgeous guy in the world, parents who can be played, and a best friend with a "modern" (and missing) Mom has to be great, right? And living with Vi while her parents are out of the country, spending her food money on a hot tub, throwing wild parties, and skipping school sounds like so much fun and adventure, right?

I'll give you that - the girls had a great time and probably shouldn't have done all that they did.

Now, as an adult reader, I found the book to be predictable and shallow. However, it was an enjoyable read and one that I wouldn't have any problem recommending to a teen. I just would tell them not to do any of the things April did. Actually, I can't imagine any teen getting the opportunity to do the things April shouldn't have done. It's true, she made some bad choices along the way. In the end, however, I think she tried to tell her readers that she would do things differently - and that, if given the chance, they should too. It's incredibly easy for teens to glamorize the idea of being on your own like April was, but in the end we realize how much more it means to be in a loving, stable family and to have your parents by your side, and not across the globe.

Here's an author video with Sarah Mlynowski: