FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr revolves around Flora Banks, a seventeen-year-old teenager with anterograde amnesia. The book is written in first person and present tense. The author introduces the reader to Flora who finds herself in a cold and treeless place where she intends to hide until she knows “what it is that” she has “done”. Divided into three parts and told from her perspective, everything that happens next leads up to that moment.
Flora has had a tumor removed from her brain at the age of ten. She can remember everything up until that moment, but nothing between the years ten and seventeen. Not even why her brother Jacob is in France and why she hasn’t seen him. Though she is unable to make new memories, she does find herself able to remember one thing and one thing only: the moment she got kissed by a guy named Drake.
It’s not surprising that Paige, Flora’s best friend, would end her friendship with Flora after learning that Flora had kissed Drake. But what is surprising is how greenlight Paige turns out to be about it. Though it’s important to note that she isn’t entirely happy about the whole debacle. She keeps her distance, but like someone who does care about Flora, she checks up on her every now and then.
It doesn’t take long for the book to become even more interesting than the fact that its lead character has amnesia and a single memory of being kissed by a guy on a beach. Flora’s parents are off to see Jacob, Flora’s brother, who is hospitalized in Paris. Home alone and with know best friend to keep her company, Flora and Drake start communicating with each other online. Then Flora falls speedily in love.
The author, meanwhile, follows Flora’s quick feelings of love for Drake up by pulling the rug out from under the reader. Drake, out of nowhere, calls the relationship quits. His decision is understandable, considering that he’s all the way in the snow-covered Svalbard. Surprisingly, Flora doesn’t throw herself down a well of heartache. I couldn’t imagine this girl travelling to another country all by herself, but there she was, planning to do just that.
This Svalbard in the Arctic is a place where the sun shines almost constantly in the summer. In some ways, one could compare this continues daylight in Svalbard to Flora’s situation. Every day, though the reader is the only one who is privy to it, is the same for her. The only variations is her progression through her journey towards finding Drake and new notes that she is bound to forget come the next day.
To Flora, any given day’s brightness is what makes Svalbard magical. The magical feel of the setting is further underscored: Drake is the only one that Flora has ever encountered that could make her remember anything. In this coming-of-age adventure that takes readers to the North Pole, author Emily Barr writes an engrossing tale about putting weaknesses aside and going after what you want without fear. Tasteful writing from a truly brilliant writer.
Free paperback Penguin Random House South Africa.
Date Published: December 12, 2016
Genre: Teen & Young Adult