Authors: Laurie Halse Anderson
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Social Issues, #Depression & Mental Illness, #Love & Romance, #Historical, #Military & Wars
Despite my best intentions, I was beginning to understand how my dad saw the world. The shadows haunting every living thing. The secrets inside the lies wrapped in bullshit. Even Gracie
of pills was beginning to make sense.
For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, trying to outrun the memories that haunt them both. They moved back to Andy’s hometown to try a “normal” life, but the horrors he saw in the war threaten to destroy their lives. Hayley watches, helpless, as her father turns to drugs and alcohol to silence his demons. And then her own past creeps up, and everything falls apart.
How do you keep your father alive when death is stalking him? What are you supposed to do when your parent stops acting like an adult? And what happens if a sweet guy who can make you laugh barges his way into your world and, for the first time, you find yourself thinking about the future?
Timely, compelling, surprising—this is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest.
ADVANCE READERS’ COPY
NOT FOR SALE
Laurie Halse Anderson
Laurie Halse Anderson’s
established her as one of the most important voices in young adult literature.
, a National Book Award finalist and a Michael L. Printz Honor Book is that rare thing, a contemporary classic. In the years since its publication, it has passed from hand to hand and changed countless lives.
was followed by four other highly acclaimed contemporary novels:
She is the recipient of both the Margaret Edwards Award and the ALAN Award for her contributions to young adult literature, and she has also been honored by the National Coalition Against Censorship for her efforts to combat censoring of literature.
Laurie and her husband live in northern New York State. Follow her on Twitter @halseanderson and visit her at madwomanintheforest.com.
the impossible knife of memory
Laurie Halse Anderson
Ages: 12 up
Grades: 7 up
Trim size: 5½ x 8¼ On sale: January 7, 2014
Price: U.S. $18.99 ($20.00 CAN)
Laurie Halse Anderson
H “The plot is gripping and the characters are powerfully drawn, but it is its raw and unvarnished look at the dynamics of the high school experience that makes this a novel that will be hard for readers to forget.” —
H “Anderson perfectly captures the harsh conformity of high-school cliques and one teen’s struggle to find acceptance from her peers. Melinda’s sarcastic wit, honesty, and courage make her a memorable character whose ultimate triumph will inspire and empower readers.” —
H “Uncannily funny even as it plumbs the darkness. . . .”
H “Stunning. . . .”
* Laurie Halse
H “Poignant and gripping.” —
“Anderson’s taut, confident writing will cause this story to linger long after the book is set down.” —
School Library Journal
“Stunning and masterful, with the abrupt unfairness of real-life tragedy. . . . A compelling treatment of that eternal question: what do you do when life hands you something you can’t bear?” —
“A heavy-hitting, thought-provoking book that will leave readers questioning priorities in their own lives.” —
H “Crisp and pitch-perfect first-person narrative.” —
School Library Journal,
“A fearless, riveting account of a young woman in the grip of a deadly illness.” —
New York Times Book Review
H “As difficult as reading this novel can be, it is more difficult to put it down.” —
starred review “If you’re a teenage girl,
might just save your life.” —
“Beautiful, heart-wrenching and important. . . .” —
Detroit Free Press
H “Both screamingly funny and surprisingly tender.” —
“Anderson again succeeds in creating real characters whom the reader will immediately recognize. . . . Keeps the reader guessing right up to the happier-than-before ending.” —
“Few adolescent girls will be able to resist Anderson’s modern fairy tale.” —
l AU R ie H A L S e
A n D e rs o N
the impossible knife of memory
An Imprint of Penguin Group (USA)
Published by the Penguin Group Penguin Group (USA) LLC 375 Hudson Street
New York, New York 10014
A Penguin Random House Company
First published in the United States of America by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 2014
Copyright © 2014 by Laurie Halse Anderson
Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to
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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA IS AVAILABLE
Printed in U.S.A.
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Designed by Nancy Brennan Set in Dante MT
for my father
_ “—These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished. Memory fingers in their hair of murders . . .”
Wilfred Owens, “Mental Cases”
“Apparently misinformed about the rumored stuff of dreams: everywhere I inquired, I was told to look for blue.”
Carl Phillips, “Blue”
It started in detention. No surprise there, right?
Detention was invented by the same idiots who dreamed up the time-out corner. Does being forced to sit in time-out ever make little kids stop putting cats in the dishwasher or drawing on white walls with purple marker? Of course not. It teaches them to be sneaky and guarantees that when they get to high school they’ll love detention because it’s a great place to sleep.
I was too angry for a detention nap. The zombie rulers were forcing me to write “I will not be disrespectful to Mr. Diaz” five hundred times. With a pen, on paper, which ruled out a copy/paste solution.
Was I going to do it?
I turned the page in
, a forbidden
book at Belmont because we were too young to read about soldiers swearing and bombs dropping and bodies blowing up and war sucking.
Belmont High—Preparing Our Children for the Nifty World of 1915!
I turned another page, held the book close to my face and squinted. Half of the lights in the windowless room didn’t work. Budget cuts, the teachers said. A plot to make us go blind, according to the kids on the bus.
Someone in the back row giggled.
The detention monitor, Mr. Randolph, lifted his orc-like head and scanned the room for the offender.
“Enough of that,” he said. He rose from his chair and pointed at me. “You’re supposed to be writing, missy.”
I turned another page. I didn’t belong in detention, I didn’t belong in this school, and I did not give a crap about the Stalinist rules of underpaid orcs.
Two rows over, the girl wearing a pink winter jacket, its fake-fur-edged hood pulled up, turned her head to watch me, eyes blank, mouth mechanically gnawing a wad of gum.
“Did you hear me?” the orc called.
I muttered forbidden gerunds. (You know, the words that end in “ing”? The -ings that we’re not supposed to say? Don’t ask me why, none of it makes sense.)
“What did you say?” he brayed.
“I said my name isn’t ‘missy.’” I folded the corner of the page. “You can call me Ms. Kincain or Hayley. I respond to both.”
He stared. The girl stopped chewing. Around the room, zombies and freaks raised their heads, awakened by the smell of potential combat.
“Mr. Diaz is going to hear about that attitude, missy,” the orc said. “He’s stopping by at the end of the period to collect your assignment.”
the impossible knife of memory
I swore under my breath. The girl in the jacket blew a lopsided bubble and popped it with her teeth. I tore a sheet of paper out of a notebook, found a pencil, and decided that this, too, would be a day not to remember.
A quick lesson.
There are two kinds of people in this world:
Only two. Anyone who tells you different is lying. That
person is a lying zombie. Do not listen to zombies. Run for your freaking life.
Another lesson: everyone is born a freak.
That surprised you, didn’t it? That’s because they’ve been sucking on your brain. Their poison is making you think that freaks are bad. Dangerous. Damaged. Again— don’t listen.
Every newborn baby, wet and hungry and screaming, is a fresh-hatched freak who wants to have a good time and make the world a better place. If that baby is lucky enough to be born into a family—
(Note: “family” does NOT only mean a biological unit composed of people who share genetic markers or legal bonds, headed by a heterosexual-mated pair. Family is much, much more than that. Because we’re not living in 1915, y’k now.)
—lucky enough to be born into a family that has a grown-up who will love that baby every single day and make sure it gets fed and has clothes and books and adventures, then no matter what else happens, the baby freak will grow into a kid freak and then into a teen freak.
That’s when it gets complicated.
Because most teenagers wind up in high school. And high school is where the zombification process becomes deadly. At least, that had been my experience, both from long-distance observation, and now, up close and personal for twenty-four days, at Belmont.
Where was I?
By the time the bell rang, I had written “Correcting a teacher’s mistake is not a sign of disrespect” one hundred and nine times.
Between the attitude chat (lecture) by Mr. Diaz after detention and my stupid locker, I missed the late bus.
There was no point in calling my dad.
I had four miles to walk. I’d done it before, but I didn’t like it. I swallowed hard and started down the sidewalks of the neighborhood closest to school, my chin up, fake smile waiting in case an old guy at his mailbox waved at me, or a mom unloading groceries from her van checked me out. My earbuds were in, but I wasn’t playing music. I needed to hear the world, but didn’t want the world to know I was listening.
Fifteen minutes later, the safe little houses turned into strip malls and then a couple of used-car lots and then what they call “downtown” around here. I did a quick scan left and right every couple of steps: abandoned mattress store; house with boarded-up windows; newspapers covering a drunk or drugged or dead homeless body that reeked, but was not a threat. A tire store. Liquor store. Bodega with bars on the windows. Two empty lots with fields of gravel and grass and broken furniture and limp condoms and cigarette butts. Storefront church with a cross outlined in blue neon. Two guys leaned against the church.
Took my hands out of my pockets. Walked like I owned the sidewalk: legs strong and fast, hips made for power, not playing. The guys would size me up as female, young, five foot eleven-ish, one-sixty. Those facts were the language of my body, couldn’t change it. But the way I walked, that made the difference. Some girls would slow down in a situation like this. They’d go rabbit-scared, head down, arms over chest, their posture screaming: “I am weak you are strong I am afraid just don’t kill me.” Others would stick out their boobs, push their butt high and swing it side to side to say, “Check it out. Like it? Want it?”
Some girls are stupid.
I swallowed the fear. It’s always there—fear—and if you don’t stay on top of it, you’ll drown. I swallowed again and stood tall, shoulders broad, arms loose. I was balanced, ready to move. My body said, “Yeah, you’re bigger and stronger, but if you touch this, I will hurt you.”
Five steps closer. The guy facing me looked up, said something to his friend. The friend turned to look.
There was nothing in my backpack worth fighting for. In fact, it would have been a relief if they stole it cause I’d have a legitimate excuse about why I didn’t do my homework. If they grabbed, I’d twist so that their hands landed on the backpack first. Then I’d shove one of them against the cement church wall and run like hell. They both looked stoned, so I’d have a huge reaction-time advantage. Plus adrenaline.
Plan B: the Albany bus was two blocks away. I’d let them pull off the backpack, then sprint toward the bus, yelling and waving my arms like I didn’t want to miss it, ’cause if you act like you’re running from wolves on a street like that, people pretend not to see you, but if you’re trying to catch a bus, they’ll help.
My last defensive option was the empty bottle of Old Crow whiskey carefully set next to the base of the streetlight directly across from the two guys looking at me. The long neck of the bottle would be easy to grab. I’d have to remember not to smash it too hard against the wall or the whole thing would shatter. A light
with the same amount of pressure you’d use to crack open an egg, that would be enough to break off the bottom. One
and a sorry whiskey bottle turns into a weapon with big, glass teeth hungry for a piece of stoned wolf boy.
I was one step away.
The eyes of the guy who turned to look at me were so unfocused, he didn’t know if I was a girl or a ghost. I looked through him to the other guy. Less stoned. Or more awake. Eyes on me, narrow eyes, cement gray with muddy hollows under them. He was the one who smelled dangerous.
For one frozen second I stared at him—
glass bottle at eleven o’clock knee his nuts reach for the weapon cut everything
—then I nodded curtly, chin down, respectful. He nodded back.
The second melted and I was past them and past the bottle and the bus rumbled along to Albany, loaded with old zombies staring at me with dead eyes.