Published by Philomel Books on May 2nd, 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.
I had no idea what I was in for when I picked up The One Memory of Flora Banks. I just knew the book had been calling to me, and as soon as I was granted access, I downloaded it and dived right in. I’m so happy I did so because I love books like this.
It’s been a while since I read a convincing amnesia story. It seems that there’s always holes in the story. The amnesiac character always conveniently remembers different details and they never actually seem inhibited by the memory loss. Other than some foggy details, they go on with their life while the memories trickle in. But for Flora, that was never the case. The details never come trickling back. Emily Barr took us deep inside Flora’s head and I felt myself forgetting and remembering alongside her. However, at the same time, the commitment to Flora’s memory loss ended up being quite frustrating, just having to read “I kissed Drake” like eighty thousand times, over and over again.
As a mystery, the book did have a handful of twists that I found exciting, even if they were predictable. Once it was revealed that her parents were hiding a secret from her, I became that much more interested in the story. One of the “twists” about her parents wasn’t very enjoyable, and though I obviously won’t go into detail, it was recently done in another contemporary, so I’m sure those who have read that title could see this coming from a mile away. I do wish the ending had more clarity, too. I’m not entirely sure what really did happen and if one of the details was real or not. The final delivery of all the details was kind of sloppy and jumbled and some things were never verified to my liking.
Ironically, I came away from Flora Banks forgetting most of what I read. In the moment, the book is quite enjoyable and fast paced. It was easy to keep turning the pages. But the characters were unremarkable. The only trait that really stuck to Flora was forgetful, and maybe impulsive, but that’s it. I never got a real feel for who she is, because she didn’t even know. The rest of the characters were just players on a board: the loving brother, the smothering parents, the best friend. I did enjoy getting to know the people in Svalbard, but on the whole, everyone was simply unexceptional.