Title: The One Memory of Flora Banks
Author: Emily Barr
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars (3.5)
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.
WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW
I have mixed feelings about this book. The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr was a bit of a slow paced read. It started slow, and it continued to remain at that slow pace throughout the book. Part of this can be attributed to Flora’s voice. She is often confused and inside her head through most of the story, and it tended to slow the pace down. Not only that, but her natural voice for the narration of this book is very dry and lacking in any overt personality. This is probably one of the biggest factors of why I dropped my rating for this book down to a 3.5 or 4 stars. I had a hard time telling if Flora’s dry, vegetative voice was a byproduct of her medication, her damaged brain, the author’s inability to write young characters, or a case of over-editing. It kind of sucked the life out of the book, and for some people, this is going to be the reason they set this book down.
That being said, I did enjoy this book quite a lot. Flora’s medical condition, though used before in fiction, is still a relatively fresh idea, and very much a fascinating one. It creates all sorts of problems in Flora’s life and became a captivating twist in the narrative as the reader is swept along with the mystery of Flora’s life. The plot was one of the biggest draws for this book, and it kept me enthralled as I followed Flora along on her adventure. Another positive point was the characters. I liked them—nearly all of them—and despite the relatively small amounts of time we got to spend with most of them, they seemed well fleshed out.
There were some parts of this story that were definitely hard to stomach. The way Flora’s parents and others treated her sometimes enraged me. It was heartbreaking to see so many people avidly lying to Flora and abusing her trust. On the other side of the coin though, there were also a lot of really great characters that were kind to Flora. It balanced out well, and even if I didn’t particularly like how Flora was being treated, it lead to a provocative narrative.
If you enjoy contemporary YA fiction, and you’re looking for a book that will make you think, this may be a good pick for you. This is a slow read, and Flora’s narrative voice isn’t going to be for everyone, but the core of the story is thought-provoking and captivating, and if you give it a chance, you won’t be wasting your time.