The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr
Release Date: 12 January 2017 by Penguin Random House UK Children’s
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Young Adult
Series: None (Standalone)
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.
Disclaimer: I was given an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not in any way influence my views on the book.
Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks has one of the most interesting premises I’ve come across and that blurb instantly hooked me so I was delighted when I managed to get my hands on an ARC copy.
First things first, this was a totally unique book in terms of premise, plot and protagonist. I have never read anything where the main character suffers from “anterograde amnesia” and The One Memory of Flora Banks really gave an insight into what it’s like to live with a chronic illness like that. Especially at the beginning of the book, we follow Flora as her memory “resets” several times in a day and it is so disconcerting to see her retracing the same steps over and over again. It really brought home how difficult simple things must be for Flora.
How can I have forgotten that I have amnesia? How, though, could I possibly remember?
And it is precisely that which makes the plot of the novel so much more compelling. Although I know the premise of a kiss/boy spurring Flora on to undertake a cross-continent journey has understandably rankled some readers, I thought it was less the kiss and more the profoundness of her recalling something. I’d like to think if it was any other memory, she’d react in the same way purely because of how rare it is for her to remember anything. It was heart breaking to see Flora deal with having a memory and her desperation in wanting to believe it an indicator that she is healing.
I check my hand. FLORA, it says, be brave.
I loved reading about Flora’s coping mechanisms. I could vividly imagine her with her arms scribbled on and her house with things to trigger her memory of who she is. Flora’s voice is so captivating, her thoughts, fears, and dreams really jump off the page. I found it inspiring how candid Flora is about her memory loss and how she’s both naive and brave at the same time – she doesn’t let her chronic illness and constant reminders that she shouldn’t try to function alone stop her from going after Drake and the truth.
This is how my journey will begin. One thing at a time.
The story itself kept me intrigued, wanting to know why she’d remembered the kiss and what would happen when she found Drake. The setting of Svalbard was brilliant – Barr really excelled at using the desolate landscape to draw comparisons with Flora’s state of mind. The other characters were intriguing in how they dealt with Flora’s amnesia, especially how they must adapt to her forgetfulness. For 90% of the book though we are “alone” with Flora seeing things through her eyes so you’re always wondering how much of a reliable narrator she is.
He does not know me, or he would never ask what I did yesterday. People tell me what I did yesterday: they do not ask.
For me, the book picked up the pace in the last quarter of the book and I was riveted by the last few chapters! However, it felt like it ended rather abruptly – I actually would’ve liked to see more development and the aftermath of what happens in those last few chapters. Without giving away spoilers, I’m also a little disappointed at how some things were explained away rather easily when they seemed to me to be pivotal parts of the narrative and plot.
Despite these few niggles though, The One Memory of Flora Banks is great if you’re after a good slow-burn thriller with a compelling narrator and story or if you’re interested in a good YA exploration of living with a chronic illness. I’d definitely recommend it to fans of Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything and Eileen Cook’s With Malice. This book was Barr’s first foray into YA but I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for her other offerings. The One Memory of Flora Banks is out next week on Thursday 12 January!
Are you looking forward to The One Memory of Flora Banks? Are you a big fan of mystery/thrillers? Any recs for great YA similar to TOMoFB? Drop me your thoughts in the comments below!