The Impossible Knife Of Memory and the Dangers of YA

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by Nadin P.

During the past few days, my twitter and Facebook, and pretty much all other social network accounts, were flooded with discussions and arguments about the rights and wrongs of reading YA books. I’m not entirely sure who started it and where it came from but the subject both appalled and infuriated me. First of all, if 50 Shades of Grey series has the right for existence – which is still debatable – then YA literature is certainly the kind of genre that needs to be left alone once and for all. And secondly, why would anyone think they have any right to tell you what you should or shouldn’t be reading?

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There are so many things completely and absolutely wrong with our society – from something as trivial Crocs and Uggs that make my eyes bleed, to social standards, to the ever growing level of discrimination – that making a fuss over each other’s reading habits seems not only vain but almost unacceptably ridiculous.

Which, in turn, got me thinking about the reasons of said attack on the seemingly harmless genre, and me doing the thinking thing doesn’t usually end well.

Unfortunately, much to my shame and dismay, after giving the matter some consideration, I realized that even though I absolutely do not approve of any sort of mistreatment of YA books, I also, on some level, understand where it comes from.

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Being the kind of person who walks out of the theatre in the middle of screening if the movie is bad and puts away boring books, I have, in fact, picked up and never finished a bunch of books that were so badly written I thought I’d have to claw my brains out. All of said books were YA, like Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My Mom by Susin Nielsen, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher or The Dead And Buried by Kim Harrington that hurt my mind so bad I’m not sure I will ever recover. And that’s just a tip of the iceberg! I usually gladly add Sisterhood series by Ann Brashares and Pretty Little Liars books, all of them, by Sarah Shepard to the list, even despite the fact that I do know many people who read and enjoy them, if only because they seemed to be so plain and shallow when I gave them a try I wanted to scream. If I had to base my opinion about YA solely on the books mentioned above, I wouldn’t be particularly fond of that genre either.

The problem with the YA perception and rejection it has to deal with comes from general assumption that it is a literature for teenagers, which is far from the truth. It is sad that most of the YA books feel like they were written for 12 years old by 12 year olds who are incapable of thinking, period. Being generally aimed for the ages from 16 till 25, they should not, under any circumstances, be confused for the teen fiction, which is another species entirely.  And yet, here we are.

What saddens me most in this whole situation – aside from the fact that if anyone ever dares shaming you for your tastes, you should just go and punch them in the face – is that there seem to be more people protecting against YA and diminishing it as a genre than people lobbying against the existence of such atrocities as Twilight and 50 Shades, which would make more sense. How did we even get here? In the past few years I’ve hear people say that Twilight made teens read again, that it’s better they read Twilight than nothing at all. But how does that make any sense? I cannot, for better or for worse, speak from experience, but I would rather have my child not read at all than read some trash.

Needless to say that all this fuss is making me really worried about the future readers and what they’ll have to deal with, both in terms of bad literature and shaming coming from their peers.

For the time being though, I am happy to report that the latest book written by the every brilliant Laurie Halse Anderson – The Impossible Knife Of Memory – was an absolute win. Not that I was in the very least surprised but it never hurts to be cautious, even with the “safe” authors.

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Laurie Halse Anderson first caught my attention with her absolutely amazing Wintergirls a few years ago. Being a person who’s been struggling with an eating disorder for over a decade now, I couldn’t not appreciate her insight and understanding of the struggle the person fighting this battle goes through. From then on, I’ve been a devoted fan.

The Impossible Knife Of Memory is a story of a 17 year old Hayley Kincaid whose father Andy, a war veteran, is suffering from a severe PTSD, which gets much worse after they opt for settling in his hometown so that Haley could graduate from high school like a normal teenager after being home schooled for a few years. Easier said than done! Not only Hayley has to take care of her dad whose crazy peaks now that he can’t hit the road and run away from his demons, and adjust to the new lifestyle that includes going to classes and maybe thinking about college and doing her best not to quit everything, she also, of course, falls in love. Making it through one day at a time, both Hayley and Andy try to find their bearings in the world that is alien and strange and full of monsters living in their heads and haunting their waking hours until one day it gets too much.

Just like with her previous books, Laurie Halse Anderson managed to make The Impossible Knife Of Memory hauntingly realistic and poignant, never once sliding into the shallow world of ‘teenage life’, which you always half expect, half fear from any YA piece. She obviously went deep into the research of the matter, which raises its head more and more these days, addressing not only the issue of PTSD itself but also its influence on the people around the person suffering from it and how it impacts everything, crumbling lives and making people question their sanity.

One of Laurie Halse Anderson’s talents that I admire more than anything else is her ability to give hope for the happy ending without sticking actual sickly sweet happy ending down our throats. We all know it’s now how life works anyway. The hope, on the other hand, is sometime more than enough sometimesto make people keep moving forward one step at a time, and she does it beautifully.

All things considered, I assume less people would be attacking YA books if more of them were written as wonderfully as Laurie Halse Anderson’s pieces. What are you waiting for? Check them out!

A coffee junkie and a passionate traveler, Nadin is in love with all things writing – because who wants to live in the real world, anyway? TV or films – everything needs to be fast paced and dramatic. Scary? Even better! A vampire at heart, she can always be found in her cave, glued to her laptop. As a dedicated yogi and someone who can easily hike all the way to Alaska, Nadin thinks she’s the unhealthiest healthy person ever – because pizza, duh? She strongly believes that live needs to be lived, so… walk away from whatever makes you sad and make things happen!

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