ARC Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks

The One Memory of Flora BanksThe One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Release date: January 12, 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.

The One Memory of Flora Banks reminds me of another book about a teenage girl with amnesia. Granted, this one is more specifically about a medical condition, but I feel the blurb gives the vibe of it being a romance. I mean, yes, it starts with a boy, and for roughly two-thirds of the book she is convinced she loves him (girl you met him for like two hot seconds) and literally goes to the ends of the world for him. When the boy and the romance took centerstage during the most of the book, I was unable to keep reading. It took me two days (two days!) to read roughly 300 pages, and I am not even in a slump! I went and read another book while in the middle of this book – it was that difficult for this one to hold my interest. But I kept returning because of that prologue scene, and my overactive brain jumping the gun and assuming something nefarious happens. Coming back to Flora – she is a teenage girl whose last strong memory was that of being 10 years old, and while she can form short term memories, the long term ones elude her, and she cannot remember people, events or anything that happens for more than a few hours. But her one memory of her first kiss is so strong that she thinks he holds the ‘cure’ to her condition. Already this is becoming slightly ableist because it is reinforcing the idea that she needs to be cured to be a functional human being. (I am not even going to touch that suicidal-ish scene later on in the book). Anyway, by the grace of book rules, her parents happen to leave her alone because her older brother is dying (dying!) in France and they need to be there. So, she heads out to search for the love of her life – it gets very middle-grade at this point, with her convinced she is going to marry him and stuff. The fact that she is also forgetting and remembering things (via written down stuff) means that there is a lot of repetition in the first half, which frankly I could’ve done without.

Then when she gets to where he is, her next challenge is to find him. She is determined to do so and honestly as a person who has social anxiety and who would sweat at the thought of going alone unplanned to a foreign country where you don’t even know the language, I was awed by her bravery. Honestly, if this was about anything other than a boy, I would have even raised it with another star. I mean, she could have gone to France to see her dying brother, and that would have still been an interesting story. But no, the story will happen over near the North Pole, with her searching for a guy who once asked her to send nudes. Then when she actually falls into trouble, and gets lost, thankfully all the people around her care for her, which is already straining credulity. When the plot twist finally arrived at nearly the end, I finally sat up and raced to finish the book. The ending, was surprising and somehow managed to save this from being a total problematic book. I liked that she finally takes charge of her life, or at least has someone help her take charge of it, but it did come too late. Most of those developments were crucial and they just all were put together – there was the truth about the cause, the truth about her brother, the truth about the emails (which was wrapped up too hastily and easily) and finally the future ahead of her – while all this could’ve been paced out throughout the second half. And I not sure what kind of message it is sending out eventually. In conclusion, this was a book I was not much taken by and even with a good ending, it left me all sorts of confused.

Received a free galley from Penguin, via Netgalley.

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