Title: The One Memory of Flora Banks
Author: Emily Barr
Publisher: Penguin Random House
UK Release Date: 12th January 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: Local independent book shop
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.
A remarkable and powerful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit—and the mind—against all logic.
There are some books which are good, but just don’t grab you, so although you do plough through all (or at least most) of the book, it’s a long drawn out process with perhaps some other books read in between. Then there are books which are the complete opposite to this, where it’s a struggle to put them down for more than a couple of minutes, where at the end of every chapter you say to yourself ‘just one more’, where the rest of the world fades away and time slips by as your focus narrows until the only thing you are thinking about is the book in your hands. The One Memory of Flora Banks, for me, was unquestionably the latter.
The opening of the book was striking, and created dozens of unanswered questions. Why couldn’t Flora remember anything? Why did she think she was ten years old? What on earth was going on? I was definitely curious to find out more, and this level of engagement with the reader was continued throughout the book. I was also very impressed by the style in which the book was written. The way the sentences read was quite simplistic and straightforward, which perfectly reflected how Flora periodically thought she was a ten-year-old, and there was also a fair amount of repetition, which showed Flora’s confusion.
When I originally heard about the concept behind the book, I was slightly worried that the ending would be something along the lines of ‘Drake helps Flora fix her memory, they get together, Flora’s brain is fine again, and they live happily ever after’. However, this was the most different ending possibly imaginable from what actually happened. Also, the reason Flora was so drawn to him was not because she was in love, but because she drew the connection between him and getting one memory – so her motives were in self-development rather than in romance.
The characters were definitely a stand-out feature of the book for me. Flora was this wild and extraordinary girl, utterly determined, and capable of so much more than anyone expected of her. I disliked Paige at first, but she redeemed herself to me towards the end, and I also realised that the actions which made me dislike her were part of what made her a rounded character. All the characters had their good traits along with their bad, and were so balanced and three dimensional – even if I didn’t like some of them, their complexity was still obvious.
My favourite part of this book was without a doubt the plot twists. Plot twists usually make a novel for me – there are very few things that can make me rave about a book more than a good plot twist. The One Memory of Flora Banks had more plot twists than I could count, and was completely and utterly different to all of my expectations of the book. The whole of the first half of the book focused on building up one version of events, and then as soon as she found Drake, everything quickly crumbled around her, and a new version of the truth was created. It shocked and surprised me, and was everything a good plot twist should be.
I don’t think I can recommend The One Memory of Flora Banks enough, and it has set a high standard for the rest of 2017. If you like romance (or romantic ideas, at least), plot twists, incredible and bold characters, adventures to the Arctic, unique concepts, stylistic skill, books that will make you think – and I could go on – then read this book!