Title: The One Memory of Flora Banks
Author: Emily Barr
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK
Publication Date: December 12th, 2016
Shelves: Young Adult; Contemporary; Mystery
Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.
With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.
I received an ARC of this novel from NetGalley and Penguin Random House UK in exchange for an honest review.
” I look at my hand: I am Flora. I must be brave.”
Flora Banks has anterograde amnesia, which has prevented her from creating new memories since the age of ten. As a result of this, she has to write everything down, and needs constant reminders about everything and everyone around her, including herself. But when her best friend’s ex-boyfriend Drake kisses her during his leaving party, Flora wakes up the next morning and is thrilled that she still remembers it. Believing Drake has the potential to help her and her amnesia, she sets off across the world in the hopes of reuniting with him.
I spotted this novel on NetGalley, and with that beautiful cover and intriguing synopsis, it was hard to say no to! I was keen to get back into reading more YA in 2017 and I thought this novel would be a perfect way to start.
Probably my favourite thing about this novel was Flora. I found that I liked her pretty instantly. She’s so sweet and I found myself to be protective over her from the beginning of the novel. I actually found myself to be pretty heartbroken for her during her moments of confusion. There’s many times in the novel where she gets scared and frustrated over her inability to remember things, and it’s sad to read:
“I imagine my head filled with clear pictures of all the things that have actually happened, just filed away so I could look back on them whenever I wanted. I cannot imagine how luxurious it would be, and I go to sleep crying at everything I have been missing.”
And this protective instinct the reader feels for her only increases as she goes off on her adventure. But you also want her to explore and try new things. Her mother is especially protective of her, and I liked seeing Flora be brave and do the things she wanted. I felt pride and excitement over her making her own decisions, even when it was something as small as painting her room a different colour. I think Barr goes a great job of making the reader feel what Flora feels – when she’s scared, you feel scared; when she’s frustrated, so are you. She’s a character you really feel affection towards.
I do like that the focus is on Flora as it should be, but on the other hand, a lot of the secondary characters are not very fleshed out. Paige is Flora’s best friend, but they fall out after Flora kisses Drake. I was slightly irritated with Paige at first, since she was supposed to be looking after Flora while her parents are away from home, but you realise, like Paige has known for a long time, that Flora doesn’t need watching over! I actually loved Paige by the end of the novel. I need me a friend like Paige! I also would have loved to have seen more from Jacob, Flora’s brother. He seemed so sweet and caring, he’s such a good brother and he deserved better!
In terms of the plot, I really liked that it was more focused on Flora and her travels over the romance. Of course, if this had been a novel where a kiss magically cured her amnesia, no way would I have picked that up! Though I will say that I didn’t much like that Flora’s one memory she managed to hold on to was the kiss she shared with Drake. I just found it hard to believe that out of all Flora’s experiences over the past seven years, a kiss is the thing she vividly remembers (I am aware this information is in the official synopsis, so I have no one but myself to blame). Some aspects of the novel I really enjoyed – Flora meeting new people, making friends, and experiencing new things. Though some bigger parts of this novel (Flora’s past, her illness, her family, etc.) really weren’t delved into enough for my liking. The novel ended with many important things left unanswered, and I was slightly disappointed and saddened by that.
The writing of Flora Banks reminded me a lot of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident in that the writing is quite simplistic with short sentences. You could even say that the novels are similar (teen characters with disorders, unique narratives, solo adventures, family secrets). Also, since Flora constantly forgets things, she repeats herself a considerable amount in her narrative. Reading some other reviews, people seem to have found this slightly irritating but it didn’t bother me at all. Flora’s narrative also contains messages written on Post It notes and letters and emails written to her, which was also a nice addition.
A pretty unique and emotional book, with a main character you instantly root for. Though I feel that there was too many things left unanswered.
Would you read this novel again? I really enjoyed this novel, but no.
Who would I recommend this novel to? YA fans wanting something more unique to read. Fans of adventure stories and coming-of-age novels.