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.
In ways similar to “Elizabeth is Missing“, “The One Memory of Flora Banks” tells the story of someone with memory difficulties. Rather than dementia, Flora has a type of amnesia and since the age of 10 hasn’t been able to make new memories which last for more that a couple of hours. Among her day-to-day thoughts, she even has to remind herself that she is 17 via notes she constantly makes on her hands. She calls a taxi company to ask what day it is and keeps a box of memories under her bed.
I enjoyed the flow of writing in this book. Written from Flora’s point of view, her thoughts are repetitive to reflect her memory loss. She is always making deductions about her surroundings to put the pieces together in her head and summarizes what we had already read. Author Emily Burr successfully did this without seeming monotonous, distracting or annoying and allowed us to feel Flora’s struggles while learning about her background and character.
So Flora takes a trip to the Arctic to hunt down a boy she has a memory of. It seems so bizarre to me that she would be able to reach her destination without some form of security or alarm being raised at Flora’s condition, but this is YA fiction, so I let it slide and enjoyed her bravery and courage for leaving her family home.
Flora’s parents and brother felt somewhat unrealistic to me, especially towards the end, and at times I had myself questioning whether Flora’s family had actually made her brother up. Was he really ill? Was he really in France? Had they actually just gone on holiday? I believed they were that awful. Paige also irritated me, it was madness that, as Flora’s best friend, she knew about her condition yet happily left her alone for a week when Flora’s parents were rushed off to their son’s sickbed.
I also had problems with some of the actions Flora took herself. In her mind she is 10, however some of the things she does are quite adult and I struggle to see how she would know how to do these things. She shaves her legs and armpits without question, she knows exactly how to use a credit card, she can easily navigate an airport. Unless I was a very inexperienced 10 year old, these things seem odd.
Yet it was nice to see Flora grow. She made new friends and discovered more about the world, opportunities she would never have had if she has stayed in Penzance. I read most of this book with a smile on my face and found myself gripped to see which way she would turn next. I was glad that the ending wasn’t romanticised as I had imagined it might me. It would have been disappointing to read a lovey-dovey happy-ever-after and I’m glad the ending was left open for our own interpretation.
Overall rating: A charming little YA book about a girl with amnesia trying to explore the world and find her man. Despite its flaws, the disjointed style of “The One Memory of Flora Banks” makes a heartwarming read which I’m scoring 3 stars.