Plot: Since Haley’s father returned from Iraq, they had been living on the road. But for her last year of high school, he decides to move them back to his home town so she can have a normal life. But her life is anything but normal: her father is still haunted by the war and Hayley is hiding bad memories of her own.
This review is based on the audiobook narrated by Julia Whelan and Luke Daniels.
Laurie Halse Andersen’s most recent novel tackles PTSD and the way it affects both those suffering from it and those around them. Hayley’s dad can’t hold a job, self-medicates with alcohol and drugs, has nightmares and rages. Hayley constantly fears that he will harm himself while she isn’t watching him.
Hayley has her own problems. She distances herself from people and she has huge gaps in her childhood memories. Many readers will dislike her. She is cynical and unfair to the people around her, especially her step-mother. But I don’t think you have to like a character in order to find her interesting. It is her development, her slow realization of her own problems which made her a good character.
The romance didn’t do it for me though. Finn’s interest in her is sudden and unexplained. The only explanation I have is that he found her challenging, which I don’t consider a solid foundation for a relationship. And their relationship seems to revolve around him badgering her to do things: write articles for the school newspaper, swim, etc. I know she needed a human connection but I didn’t buy this one.
The novel didn’t affect me emotionally as much as I expected, I didn’t cry. But it is a hard subject and thought provoking book, as are all of Halse Anderson’s novels. I think that it is an important subject to make people aware of, especially as the Canadian government is cutting services to veterans, and Halse Anderson writes it with her usual skill.
I thought Whelan was a very effective narrator and the book worked well as an audiobook, except for Hayley’s text conversations. However I didn’t care much for Daniels, who recounted the war flashbacks, it jarred me out of the narrative.