Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks

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The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr, narrated by Rosie Jones
Published by Penguin Random House on 12 December 2016
Length: 8 hours 9 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
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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.

If I had to sum this book up in one word, it would be… eh. It was an interesting premise, but poor execution.

First off, Flora’s characterisation was not done all that well. It takes a skilled author to pull off an almost-adult character with the mind of a child, and unfortunately Flora’s immaturity was grating. It didn’t help that she also felt a bit like a Mary Sue  – inexplicably, no matter where she went, everybody was willing to help her – a stranger – and found her endearing. They all seemed to take it in stride when she (repeatedly!) couldn’t remember who they were.

Also, Flora hasn’t made a new memory since she was ten years old. She’ll look in the mirror and has no idea who she is, because she isn’t expecting to see her 17-year-old self. So how the heck did she manage to get from Penzance to Whoop Whoop, Norway without ANY PROBLEMS WHATSOEVER?! It was so incredibly frustrating to listen to something that unrealistic. There were also a lot of things that didn’t really make sense if she had no new memories, like… most ten-year-olds wouldn’t be shaving their legs, so why is she? How does she know how to get herself to the airport, catch a train, row a boat? How can she use some of the words she uses? I’m assuming that there would be some developmental issues with the kind of memory loss Flora displays (if someone more educated on memory loss knows otherwise, please let me know!). There were just a lot of plot holes that couldn’t be chalked up to the unreliable narration.

In terms of the other characters, Flora happens to be saddled with some of the worst humans known to mankind. Drake, the boy she has a crush on, can only be described as a jerk (to put it nicely). He’s 19, and knowing that Flora thinks of herself as a ten-year-old, kisses her and makes her believe they’re in a relationship. However, he’s dating Paige, who, upon learning Flora kissed her boyfriend, cuts Flora out of her life completely. Which would be understandable, but Flora’s parents are going to France for a week and have asked Paige to care for Flora while they’re gone. A PHONE CALL IS NOT ADEQUATE CARE, PAIGE. Inexplicably, they’re friends again by the end of the book. But the characters who take the cake are Flora’s parents, who win the award for World’s Worst Parents.

The things I liked about this book? Her relationship with her brother (unfortunately who mostly stays off-page and we only get to know through his emails to Flora), which has such a huge impact on her story. Rosie Barr’s performance is also top-notch, it gets a whole star for that alone.

Ultimately, this book suffered from poor characterisation, terrible pacing, and trivial treatment of serious issues, and was rather unmemorable in the grand scheme of things.

★★☆☆☆

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