From Goodreads: 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.
What if you couldn’t remember anything for more than a few minutes or hours at a time? What if you had no memories from the past seven years? What if, suddenly, one moment and everything about it sticks? Would you travel to the ends of the earth to chase the only memory you have?
For Flora, the written word, whether it’s on Post-its, in notebooks, or on her arms, is her lifeline to the world around her. With no ability to create new memories, she must rely on these notes to help her make sense of her life. It is her normal. But when she wakes up the morning after a party with the very visceral and real memory of kissing her best friends’ boyfriend the night before, an entirely new set of possibilities opens up for Flora. Could Drake be the cure for Flora’s mind? Can love really heal?
Continuing on my quest to read my backlog of ARCs, I picked up one that was recently sent to me from Philomel Books and Penguin Random House– The One Memory of Flora Banks. I had seen it mentioned a few times around Goodreads and Bookstagram, so I was pretty excited to get a copy! Which leads me to the usual ARC disclaimer– I was given a free advanced copy of this book from the publisher, with no other compensation or expectation of a review. All opinions are mine, and any quotes or references to the book have come from an uncorrected proof and may not actually appear in the final publication.
Now that that’s out of the way…
I read this book in 2 sittings. I had started it about a week ago, and then last night, feeling under the weather, I just laid in bed and read for about 3 hours until I had finished the book completely.
I have slightly mixed feelings about the book. I liked the story. It’s an interesting concept– a “Memento” love story. Despite her memory, Flora shows resilience and determination to take control of her life and set out to find love and a possible cure for her memory. There’s love, there’s a bit of mystery and adventure as Flora sets out on her quest, and there’s some twists and turns that make you question things.
However, There were a few concerns I’d seen in other reviews that I also felt the same way about, but at the same time, I understand why they are necessary.
One of the main problems that people seem to have with this book is that it is incredibly repetitive. The ENTIRE book is centered around Flora kissing Drake and her love for him. She mentions it, relives it, revels in it over and over and over and over. It can (and will) get grating and irritating. But the thing is, that’s how Flora’s mind works. She forgets things. She has to constantly remind herself of even the smallest details. So she repeats herself over and over and over, because she has to. And that’s the one memory that manages to stick. So of course she’s going to hold on to it for dear life and keep repeating it to herself and living within it. For seven years her mind is blank! Wouldn’t you hold on to the only memory you had, fearing that it too would be taken from you eventually?
And then there’s the idea of Insta-Love. Which I normally loathe. But again– in this context, it’s understandable. Think back to your first kiss. Or at least your first real kiss with someone you had a crush on. Think about the first person you loved. I bet they’re pretty strong memories. You probably remember where you were when the kiss happened. You may even remember what you were wearing. What was said. What you felt. And your first love? You probably remember even the tiniest details that you would forget about any other person. Memories centered around emotions are some of the strongest memories we form. So it would make sense that in Flora’s world, one where she has been monitored and kept safe because of her condition, she probably hasn’t had too many opportunities to experience romantic love and the all the emotions that surround it. And when she does finally experience it, it leaves a major impression. One strong enough to create a memory from a blank slate. Does she become a bit obsessive over Drake after just one kiss? Yes. But in this case, I think somewhat justifiably so. She’s holding on to not only the memory of the kiss, but the idea that Drake could help her bring her entire memory back. A slightly misguided assumption, but that brings me to the next point–
Flora’s voice. One review I saw said that this reads like a middle grade novel rather than YA. True. But again, take it in context. Flora, as she constantly reminds us, is seventeen. But her memory stops at 10 years old. She still thinks with a 10 year old brain, therefore she talks with a 10 year old voice. Many times she mentions that she’s startled by the mirror because her reflection is older than what she expects it to be. This is true also for her parents and her friend Paige. She recognizes them because they exist in her “before” mind, but it takes a minute, because they appear older than she thinks they should be. To Flora, the seven years that have passed don’t exist in her mind, so she forgets they’ve passed for the rest of the world.
She also shows up to Drake’s going away party in the beginning overdressed because, to her 10 year old mind, parties mean frilly dresses and birthday cakes, not jeans and dance music and alcohol. So taking it in context that Flora’s physical age and body are almost 18, but her mind is stuck at 10, it makes the obsession over Drake a bit more understandable as well. Ten year olds lack the maturity to truly understand what it means to be in love, and how one should behave within a relationship. So while I loathe Insta-Love on a systematic basis, the context of Flora and her story make it slightly more palatable. Which is not to say that I didn’t still find it irritating at times, skimming through some of it just to get past it, because I did. But I understand it.
And of course, there has to be some plot twists. I won’t reveal them because SPOILERS, but they sort of get dumped on you in the last part of the book. I almost wish the first had shown up a little sooner. It would give us a little more time to work through it before we get another larger twist thrust upon us. And an earlier reveal of the first would have added a bit more spice to the latter half of the book and maybe quelled a bit of the repetitiveness of it all.
If you can look past some of the glaring issues that may cause you some hangups, it’s a story of a girl who creates her own methods to overcome challenges in her life, and on her quest to find the “love of her life,” finds herself instead. She proves that she is more capable than anyone gives her credit for. If I had to compare if to another YA, I’d say it’s a bit like Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon.
With only very mild romance and a little bit of alcohol, I’d easily put this at a higher reading level middle grade novel and above.
The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr
Format: Hardcover – List Price: $15.99
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Buy your copy: Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Book Depository, Nook, Kindle, Audible
Learn more about Emily Barr