Home > Categories > Books > Young Adult > The Impossible Story of Hannah Kemp review
Hannah Kemp is dealing with a traumatic accident for which she was responsible. Struggling to comes to terms with her guilt, she is ostracized in a community that condemns her. She deals with this by rebelling and pushing away anyone that offers kindness or seeks to understand her.
Crippled by her own guilt and anger, she comes across a mobile library bus where every book is the true story of someone's life, and realises that judgement of others is almost always shallow and uninformed. When she finds her own book, she also finds that her past can reshape her present.
There cannot be a person on the planet who has not made at least one faux pas at some time in their life - after all, making mistakes is the way people learn to get things right the next time. From the first tumble a baby experiences when learning to stand upright, to accepting that a friend has been hurt by a throwaway comment, to the realisation that being cheeky to parents comes with consequences, young people proceed through life continually bouncing from one "disaster" to another. The survival instinct is strong, and therefore the commitment to improvement.
But what if the disaster is too serious to recover from? This is Hannah's situation at the start of the book. At the beginning, the reader does not know what she actually did, only that it was something terrible. As the story proceeds, the details emerge. In her own eyes, Hannah is an evil person, beyond redemption and completely unlovable.
On one level, Leonie Agnew's story traces Hannah's journey to self-acceptance and the realisation that no deed is so bad that it cannot be addressed in some way. But on another level, it is a tale of the supernatural, a "what-if" narrative of the impossible becoming reality. Between the two themes is the background of teenage angst and coming-of-age; it includes situations that many youngsters can relate to.
Unlike some books meant for young adult readers, which concentrate heavily on action narrative rather than description, this one depicts most of the various characters in detail. It is easy to picture Hannah's parents, the bullies who make her life miserable, Mrs O'Halloran, her friends Jody and Dylan... they come across as fully developed people as they interact with Hannah. The only two who do not fit this description are the librarian, a shadowy and unpredictable being who intersects Hannah's life like a chameleon, and Max, the boy from her own past. Hannah's life moves between two worlds, the real and the maybe, two worlds that are so carefully dovetailed that it is hard to know just what is true.
I enjoyed this book; in fact, I could not put it down! I asked my cousin's grand-daughter (aged 14) to read it as well and she too found it very readable. Although the book is written in language that an average teenager can relate to, it is not dumbed down. The story flows easily, leaving the reader keen to find out what will happen next: both of us agreed on this. Leonie Agnew knows what makes kids tick; it is this insight that makes the dialogue and the analysis of the teenage friendships so believable. Incidentally, Miss 14 thoroughly approved of keeping a duck in the bathtub - it is the sort of quirky thing that she might do - and said she would love to visit a mobile library like Hannah's one day!
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