Published: 12th January 2017
Genre: Young Adult
★ ★ ★ – 3 Stars
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.
Having heard about this book at a recent publishing event, I grabbed it immediately. I loved the idea of Flora and I was fascinated to see how this played out. It is pushed I suppose as being similar to 50 First Dates, but it isn’t like that at all. Flora knows her story; she retells herself about what has happened with cues and prompts from notes, her notebook, and people around her.
Her parents have been by her side since the accident but a family emergency takes them away, suddenly Flora is on her own which is where the adventure really begins. Remembering kissing Drake is the key to the entire book, it is what drives Flora and it is the motivation that gets her through, even when her memory fails her.
There are a lot of great achievements for Flora moments in the story that are average for everyone else; she buys plane tickets, goes to the shops, she navigates her world pretty superbly, considering. There is a point however, around the beginning of the book, where the whole thing seems a tad incredulous. These parents who have wrapped up their daughter in cotton wool for 7 years leave her with her friend and go overseas; though Barr does offer reasoning and explanations which fit the narrative and the story rather nicely.
All uncertainty aside, by the end of the book of course I had tears welling up in my eyes and I’m frantically turning pages. It’s 2am, I haven’t been able to put it down, worried for all the things that may happen or have happened and I just keep reading on, getting myself emotional and forgetting all the doubts from the beginning because Barr makes sure everything fits.
This is a beautiful story, I really wish Flora was real so I could be proud of her and love her and praise her for all she has achieved, not that someone being fictional ever stopped me. There are moments that are crushing and silly and sad, but at the end it’s so uplifting and it’s a great little book. The writing explores Flora’s moods incredible well. The fear, the uncertainty, the frustration! There is a great moment when it just gets to Flora and you see her frustration at her inability to recall anything. She isn’t going through life blissfully unaware – she knows she forgets and she knows it must annoy people, it annoys her most of all. It’s amazing when she has these emotional changes because it also helps depict how her memory works, how it can go at any time.
I adored that Flora got out and had her adventure, it gives her hope and joy and it makes you curious about just how she is managing to do all of this. Barr explains it well; there are repeat paragraphs and phrases throughout, which normally may be tedious but it kind of works here. There is a constant repetition and it helps you understand and figure out where Flora’s brain is at, what stage of remembering and forgetting and how she is working her way back.
Books like this make you also realise how technology has been such an improvement to people and their lives. Writing things on phones, text messages you can reread, taking photos and giving yourself reminders; it’s all so critical to Flora and her journey.
There are surprises in this which are crushing and delightful and wonderful to read. Barr expresses Flora’s actions in a way that makes you understand her process and it brings you inside her mind and shows life from her perspective. Of course there are times when she is foolish and in a strange grey area between being 17 and ten years old, she has the impatience and impulse of a child but the desire of a teenager and it can be a strange mixture but this only adds to the story.
This book had a hold of my heart for all the right reasons. Flora and her determination will fill you with warmth and pride as you see her take on the world in order to follow this one new memory that has changed her world entirely.
You can purchase The One Memory of Flora Banks via the following
Publisher | Booktopia
Amazon | Book Depository
Fishpond | Dymocks