The One Memory of Flora Banks

A really interesting concept – ‘You always remember your first kiss. Flora remembers nothing else’ – which was unfortunately crippled by the pacing and the narrative.

When I picked up this book, the blurb gripped me:

Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets several times a day, and has since the age of ten. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. And that one memory becomes one she can’t forget.

This was all I needed and I couldn’t wait to see how the story unfolded. Unfortunately, I had a lot of waiting.

The idea of Flora’s kiss with Drake giving her some glimpse of hope about the state of her memory was extremely endearing. Her belief that this one kiss, this one boy has the potential to cure her memory loss is the typical mentality of a ten-year-old, and that’s way I was initially very drawn to her. Of course, it is this certainty that Drake is her cure which pushes her to take the reigns of her own life and traipse to the Artic in the hope of finding him and achieving her happily ever after.

Yes, this is incredibly brave and courageous, the exact qualities you want in the protagonist of the story. Her love drives her into undertaking a dangerous and exciting journey, abandoning the comfort of her home in Cornwall and flying all the way to Svalbard, despite having no idea where Drake lives or the fact that she has amnesia. Yes, her way with coping with her memory loss is amazing, using her notebook and her arms to write important messages to herself, rules, her location…it’s extremely heroic.

But here’s where the issues start to show their head. After Drake and Flora kiss, there is a lot if ‘fluff’ that fills up a big chunk of the book until we actually get to the trip which is arguably the most crucial part of the story. A likely counterargument to this is that the author has a big topic to handle and build. Making a character who has amnesia appear believable and authentic is hard. Yet I will continue to believe that Barr could have handled it better. There is a huge amount of ‘instalove’ present in the narrative which becomes boring and repetitive. Flora’s determination is amazing, but the constancy of ‘I love Drake. Drake is my soul-mate. He is my one true love’ (after just one kiss…may I add mere moments before she struggled to recognise him as more than a stranger) was too much and made me really dislike the story. It took up a lot of time and prevented anything exciting happening.

This leads me into the dialogue. “It’s not tragic. Not really. I love Drake. I kissed Drake.” This does not sound natural. Perhaps if this style of cringey dialogue was limited to just Flora (who has the mentality of a 10-year-old) then I could let it slide, but unfortunately all the characters speak in this way and I found it very hard to believe and read. I don’t think this can be blamed on the fact that this is a YA novel; I’ve read a lot of YA and the dialogue is most often well crafted. I think the issue lies with having to deal with such a complicated protagonist who is young in her mind, but old in body, and so is surrounded by a lot of old people who should (but aren’t) speaking like their age.

The last chapters of the book were the most thrilling and resulted in me deciding to give the book more credit. The continues sense of mystery (perpetuated by Flora’s unpredictable memory) finally reaches it’s climax. Twists are revealed which were surprisingly unexpected and clever which made me feel like sticking with it was worth it.

I wish there was more of Jacob in the book. He seemed like a genuine well-rounded character who had the potential to move the narrative along but he only featured in the shadows. Readers both knew him and didn’t which unfortunately made him quite a redundant character and he deserved more…(so did the readers).

I’d love to know whether any of you have read the book and what your thoughts are. Maybe get a bit of a bookclub style debate going on in the comments. To make it a bit more interesting I have noted down a couple of discussion questions that are in the back of the book – give them a go, they may change your opinion of the book!

Stars:  ★★

Book Club Questions

  1. Though Flora’s memory remains finite, she manages to grow as a character throughout the novel. How does she mature, and what has she gained by the end of the story?
  2. Do you think Flora’s bravery is a product of her memory loss? In other words, does she push herself to take risks she might not if her memory were intact?
  3. How does the repetitive nature of Flora’s story affect the reader’s experience in relation to character and plot?

Let me know your thoughts! 🌷

Laura Marie

Copyright: Laura Davis © 2018, all rights reserved.

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