The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

Monday 16 October 2017

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.

This book. Where do I even start? My thoughts are all over the place and I have no idea how I'm going to gather them. In a way, this is fitting, as it connects me to the amnesiac main character, Flora. But it also makes reviewing this incredibly difficult.

And I want to review this, as I feel like there's a lot to talk about. There's the fact that this feels like it's tackling much deeper psychological issues than just memory loss. The fact that there's - disputably - an age gap between Flora and her love interest. The fact that the love interest is... not that great. That none of the characters are particularly likeable. The plot twist. The simple writing. The fact that this short book felt so long as I was reading it. So. Much. Stuff.

But unfortunately, none of it worked in my favour. I was initially intrigued by Flora's memory loss, and it ended up taking a route that I hadn't thought about so I commend the author for that. However. I also condemn her for pining all Flora's hopes and dreams of getting better on a boy. It's the age old trope of 'love fixes everything' and I found it to be so disgustingly harmful in this book. And not just because of the love interest: I don't think the family who loved Flora loved her in a good way as no one ever seemed to stop and remember that she's a person. A person who cannot form new memories, but a person with thoughts and feelings nonetheless. This made it incredibly hard for me to like anyone, but it also made it very tricky for me to hate one of the villains of the story as there is so clearly lots of mental illness woven into this story.

I also found it pretty hard to get into the story itself - characters aside - as a lot of the time is spent repeating itself or jumping from one point to the next, but somehow there's also a massive chunk of time spent dithering in the middle of nowhere that really could have been halved. I get that it reinforced Flora's condition (as this is told from her perspective) but it made things so simple and boring at times that I constantly found myself counting how pages I had left until the next chapter, clinging to the hope that something would happen. (Spoiler: Nothing really happens.)

After putting the book back on my shelf I just can't help but feel disappointed. I picked this up expecting a great mystery, and while there were mysterious and confusing elements, it just failed to deliver. The One Memory of Flora Banks is very much a young adult contemporary romance, so maybe don't pick it up if you know you don't like that type of story.

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