The One Memory of Flora Banks My Rating:
So different, but so good!
Published by: Penguin Group (USA) on January 12th, 2017
Genres: Cliffhanger Free, Coming of Age, Contemporary, Mature Young Adult, Social Issues, Young Adult
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.
It’s hard for me to gather my thoughts and piece this review together. The One Memory of Flora Banks is the first book I’ve read by Emily Barr. It’s her YA debut, although she’s written many books for adults.
First line: The music is too loud, the room too crowded, and it feels as though there are more people in this house than any human being could possibly know.
The story is… different. The writing is different, as well. To be honest, when I first began the book I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish. It is just written in such a way that everything seems disconnected and the main character, Flora, was portrayed much too young for a seventeen-year-old. And the repetitiveness, the constant statements and restatements of where she is, where she’s going, and (Good Lord!) that she kissed a boy on the beach, although necessary to immerse the reader in Flora’s mind, became annoying quickly. However, I wouldn’t change it. It plays an integral role. Flora’s memory (or lack of) is almost another character.
Flora’s memory (or lack of) is almost another character.
But there was just something about Flora’s story that kept pulling me back. I needed to know what happened to her. The things she managed to do alone. And how she did them. I wanted to console her and tell her everything was fine when she lost her memory in the middle of an airport…or a restaurant… or the middle of a conversation and was scared and confused.
Flora, be brave.
She is a character that readers will root for. You just can’t help it. She is strong, but she forgets that fact. She’s independent, but she isn’t allowed to be. She is bright and smart, but it’s dulled by medication and fear. She’s normal but feels broken.
The sun is shining. This place is beautiful. I don’t think I’ve told Agi that I’m not normal, and so she is treating me like a real person. She is treating me like a friend who has writing on her hand. I am going to do my best to be normal, all day. That is my challenge to myself. I do not want anybody to guess the truth about me.
I look down at me left hand. I have written BE NORMAL on it. I see Agi looking at it too.
Flora’s character was so well written I felt as though I knew her. She was layered and alive. Barr wrote in deep POV throughout the book. It was a bold move considering the type of character Flora is and the amnesia she lives with, but I think it paid off.
I’m so glad I kept reading the book. The issues I had became nonissues and I enjoyed it much more than I expected to. The age discrepancy in Flora’s thoughts and actual age is explained. The disconnected and disjointed writing became Flora. It’s her on every page. The reader is in her mind, seeing the world through her eyes—all the scary, confusing, wonderful things she discovers.
This is an enchanted land. It is a fairy-tale place, a place in which a princess can meet a handsome prince. There is snow falling from the sky in fat flakes, landing in my hair, on my coat, all over the road and the buildings and the mountains. It is drifting through the air like feathers. I had no idea snow did that.
From the quote above you can also get a glimpse at how wonderfully descriptive the writing is. The author was not only good at describing times and places and people, but she did it all through Flora’s eyes.
There were many secondary characters throughout the book. Some aren’t in the story long, but still play an important role. There were no cardboard cut-out characters. Each had a purpose, big or small. Flora’s family was probably the biggest set of secondary characters. I can’t say much about them without giving away spoilers, but her family is flawed and hurting, and just trying to hold on to any piece of normalcy they can, especially Flora’s mother. And although I can’t relate to having a child with Flora’s condition, I could still relate to the overwhelming need to protect and shelter my children. To keep my family unit running smoothly. View Spoiler »Flora’s mother struggles with this. And, in an effort to protect her daughter, she drugs her. Not with anything “bad.” Although, the act in itself would be considered bad. She does it to keep her pliable, easy to control. Flora is a free spirit and likes to live life. So, when she’s un-medicated, she tends to go on adventures. Her mom keeps her heavily drugged with medication that she buys on the internet to prevent that. « Hide Spoiler Flora’s mom is a character I both felt sorry for and anger toward.
Best word: Anterograde Amnesia
My Favorite passage:
Time is the thing that makes our bodies shrivel and decay. That is why people are scared of it. It doesn’t affect me: I know I will never get old.
I am not like the rest of them. I can look out the window for a while, and in human terms, I have missed a night. I can sit for hours and hours at the breakfast table on my own, staring at the bread and fish in front of me: I can sit there and stare and wait until a day and a night have passed and it’s the next day’s breakfast, and then the woman I like will come and sit down beside me and it will turn out that in human terms, only two minutes have happened.
Bottom line: The One Memory of Flora Banks is a different sort of book. Rather, the way the author handled writing from Flora’s perspective is different. Barr could have watered Flora’s personality down. She could have shied away from including all the repetitiveness in her life. But then the book wouldn’t have represented Flora—and that’s what made it great. Seeing the world through Flora’s eyes. Feeling her happiness when she achieved a goal and her panic when she’d forget where she was. Without that, the book would have been flat and plain. But Barr dove head first into Flora’s life and mind. It was risky. It was bold. It turned out beautifully.
I highly recommend, but I offer one piece of advice: if the writing or rambling bothers you at first…stick with the book. It will be worth it. I’m so glad I did.
Hey, everyone! Don’t forget to check out my latest novel, The Stock, at Swoon Reads! You can read it for free, along with other great books! Then, cast your vote for it to when a publishing contract with Swoon Reads, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing. I’d be so grateful! Happy reading!