Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

review by Maryom

Following an operation to remove a tumour when she was younger Flora Banks has been unable to make new memories. She's now seventeen, and, although she can remember events before the operation, and basic everyday things like making tea or how to work the TV, anything else slips away after a few hours - until now.
After a going-away party for her best friend's boyfriend Drake, Flora kisses a boy on the beach - and it's the most wonderful thing ever! Maybe it's the totally new experience, maybe it's the heightened emotions of the moment, but, for what ever reason, Flora can remember it the next day.
There's a snag though - the boy on the beach was Drake, and now he's gone away to study in the Arctic, and her life-long best friend Paige will no longer speak to Flora. So when her parents are called away on an emergency, instead of Paige staying over, Flora is left alone. With only her post-it note reminders and her one clear memory of kissing on the beach, Flora becomes increasingly obsessed by Drake and convinced that he is the key to unlocking her memory, so decides to set off on a journey to find him ...

Whatever you care to label this book as - teen romance, psychological drama, travel adventure - I loved it!
It's hard, and terrifying, to put yourself in Flora's shoes, to imagine what it must be like to have no memory of what happened to you yesterday, last week, or a year ago. It would be so easy for her to just drift along doing as her parents say, always treated a child and never achieving independence, but given the opportunity Flora isn't going to sit back and let that happen to her. She's filled with indomitable spirit and tremendous courage. On her hand she has a tattoo saying "Flora be brave". It's intended to get her through her 'normal' everyday confusion of waking up and believing she's still a ten-year old, but she's now adopted it as a motto to live her life by. With the aid of reminders written on her hands, in notebooks and on her phone, she heads off to the Arctic in search of Drake and some answers. I think she's amazing!
I loved the sense of place within the story - from comfortable, sunny Penzance to Flora's amazing journey to Spitsbergen and her adventures there, brought to life by the author's evocative descriptions of snow in summer and midnight sun (so much so that I ended up on Google maps trying to trace her steps!)

It's the sort of book that has you sitting up late, needing to know how things work out. Is Flora's one and only memory reliable? Is she right in suspecting her parents are keeping something from her? - after all, she can't remember what happened yesterday, so it would be so easy to do!

Although this is billed as YA, and could be seen as a coming of age novel, the story is gripping enough for all. It's a story of the mistakes we might make for love, of breaking free and finding one's own way in the world.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Penguin

Genre - teen/YA romance/adventure/drama/coming of age

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