contemporary · Fiction · young adult

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

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.

(Goodreads)

Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary/Fiction

Pages: 303

Rating: 1.5/5 Stars

First Line: “I am at the top of a hill, and although I know I have done something terrible I have no idea what it is.”

Okay. This book. This book made me feel lots of different things and I am not sure that was a good thing in this case.

I’m gonna do that sandwich critique thing for this one so here’s something positive first: the writing was really good. Emily Barr wrote memory loss in a way that felt realistic without being annoyingly repetitive. It was captivating to put myself in the position of someone who could only hold on to her memory for a few hours tops. I found it especially intriguing to read what exactly Flora felt was important enough to write down or take pictures of, in order to help herself remember. There’s a repeated reference to a missing cat poster that she took a picture of that always made me smile for some reason. It’s sweet to think that that was something Flora considered important enough to try to remember.

What makes this book iffy for me was this: it made me uncomfortable. I mean, this girl is basically stuck in the mental state of a ten year old, and this seventeen year old boy comes along and kisses her? That was a bit weird to read. But I went with it because after that kiss Flora was suddenly able to remember (that’s the entire plot of this book so I feel like that’s not a spoiler, right?) so she now knows that she is seventeen and that she kissed a boy. So that makes it slightly more acceptable I guess? But then Flora starts getting these emails from him. And these emails are not innocent emails you would exchange with someone who you expect to have forgotten your kiss and who you think is mentally ten years old. Oh no. Not even close.

So I had a hard time liking the story because a huge part of it was this relationship that seemed so unrealistic and even inappropriate. But Flora was so intriguing. And, I mean, she goes to the flipping arctic by herself to find this boy. I had to know what happened to her.

I guess that’s where the other kind of positive thing this book has going for it comes in: a completely unpredictable twist. Usually I can sense these things coming but ohmysweetgoodness this book left my mouth-open, drop-the-book, reexamine-the-world-through-new-eyes shocked. And from there layers just kept being added (and some taken away) so that the end became the best part of this book.

I like Flora as a character. But her innocence, at times, bothered me. I think the best character in this whole book is Flora’s mysterious older brother, Jacob, who develops over the course of the book into this very loveable person.

I think this book had a lot of potential. And if you’re willing to stumble through some awkwardness and uncomfortable scenes, I’m sure you’ll find little bits of it to love, just like I did. But I don’t think this book will be living on my favorite book shelf any time soon.

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