The Mud and Stars Book Blog

thoughts from a girl who spends her days in other worlds…

YA Contemporary: ‘The One Memory of Flora Banks’ by Emily Barr (ARC Book Review)

on January 5, 2017


The One Memory of Flora Banks. Emily Barr. Penguin. Release date: 12th January 2017.

You always remember your first kiss.

Flora remembers nothing else…

“I look at my hands. One of them says ‘Flora, be brave’. I am Flora.”

Flora has anterograde amnesia. She can’t remember anything day-to-day: the joke her friend made, the instructions her parents gave her, how old she is.

Then she kisses someone she shouldn’t have kissed – and the next day she remembers it. The first time she’s remembered anything since she was ten.

But the boy is gone.

Desperate to hold onto the memory, she sets off to the Arctic to find him.

Why can she remember Drake? Could he be the key to everything else she’s forgotten?

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin for providing me with a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wow! I’m so, so happy I read this novel. I loved it to pieces, and I already want to pick it up again because I became so engrossed in this beautiful book about bravery and finding yourself.

If you think from the blurb that this is a book about love miraculously curing illness (which you’d be forgiven for assuming), I can assure you it isn’t. This is a story about an extremely sheltered girl with amnesia named Flora who goes on a wonderful journey of self discovery, involving a casual trip to the North Pole in search of a boy she kissed on a beach. But this book isn’t really about the boy Flora kissed on the beach. It’s all about Flora, and the bravery it takes for her to set off on her own, putting herself in great danger, in pursuit of the one full and accurate memory she’s managed to retain since the age of ten.

The story centres around what happens to Flora after she kisses Drake on the night of his leaving party. Drake is Flora’s best friend’s boyfriend, and he’s going away to study in Svalbard, a cold place where the sun in summer never sets. Flora remembers kissing Drake the next day, which is abnormal for her, because she hasn’t been able to form new memories since she suffered brain damage as a child.

When Flora’s parents are called away to visit her brother Jacob in France, they believe they are leaving Flora in the care of her best friend Paige. But, as Paige isn’t speaking to Flora, after the whole Flora kissing her boyfriend thing, Flora finds herself all alone. As she exchanges emails with Drake, she clings to the memory of their kiss, and becomes convinced that seeing him again will help fix her memory. So, despite the fact that she’s prone to forgetting where and who and why she is, she sets out on a reckless adventure to find Drake and remember.

Flora was such an interesting character, and her perspective was so unique. Everything was a mystery in this novel because everything was a mystery to Flora. She would learn things only to forget them a few hours later. She was constantly having to reorient herself, relearn where she was and why she was there. She wrote messages to herself on her arms and it was just astonishing to see how far she could get herself (all the way to Norway!) and how much she could actually achieve on her own, just relying on her notes.

Flora was so vulnerable, because she couldn’t trust her own memory, and if she were to lose her notes (which could so easily happen), she’d end up lost, not knowing who or where she was. I was often frightened for her, but she was an incredibly brave individual, and I admired her so much. She had the words ‘Flora, be brave’ tattooed on her hand, and a list of rules to live her life by which she kept adding to throughout the story, and I found myself wishing I was more like her. Reading about a girl who never doubted her own abilities, despite her severe memory problems, made me think about how much I doubt my own, and realise that I don’t need to. If Flora can brave and get things done, then so can I.

I absolutely adored the way this book was written. Flora’s narrative voice was one of childlike simplicity (Flora is always ten years old in her head, before she re-reads the notes on her arms and re-learns that she is seventeen) and there was something so endearing about the way she related her story. Despite the fact that Flora speaks like a younger child, she has a very sharp mind (well, as sharp as a mind can be when it has amnesia) and her observations, and ways of thinking and rationalising, showed just how grown up she could be when faced with situations where she had no choice but to be independent.

The section of this book I enjoyed most was the time Flora spent in Svalbard. This book made me fall in love with the Arctic. I’ve always had a fascination with cold climates (I used to actively seek out books that were set in places like Alaska and Norway and Northern Canada purely because I was so obsessed with them), and this book reawakened my longing to travel to those parts of the world. I adored the descriptions of the midnight sun, and the pure cold air, and the rough natural beauty of the mountains. I desperately want to visit Svalbard now.

I loved reading about all of the people Flora met during her time in Svalbard (even though she kept forgetting who they were!) Meeting people is a huge part of the travelling experience, and I loved that Flora had the opportunity to experience that, against such an unusual and extreme set of odds. Flora’s new friends were just as fascinated and enchanted by her as I was, and the way people gathered around her, and wanted to help her, was heartwarming.

I loved the secondary characters in this book, particularly Agi, a Finnish friend Flora meets at the guesthouse in Svalbard  who is catastrophically bad at using English idioms in the correct contexts. I also ADORED Jacob, Flora’s older brother, and the person whom Flora loves most in all the world. We don’t get to meet Jacob face-to-face in this novel, but his emails and letters to Flora were one of my favourite aspects of the story. This is one of the best portrayals of a sibling relationship I’ve ever read, and it gave me all the feels.

Overall, I absolutely fell in love with this novel. It was touching (though heartbreaking in places), unique, and compelling, with a protagonist I couldn’t help but love and wholeheartedly root for. I couldn’t put it down. This book comes out on 12th January and I can’t wait to go out and grab myself a physical copy, because I’ll certainly be reading it again.

20 responses to “YA Contemporary: ‘The One Memory of Flora Banks’ by Emily Barr (ARC Book Review)

  1. Georgiana Darcy says:

    Sounds like a very good book with an unfortunate blurb because I totally crossed it off my reading list when I saw it!

    • mudandstars says:

      Haha, yeah I totally get what you mean. When I got approved for it and read the blurb again, I wondered why I’d requested it, as it didn’t sound like something I’d go for. But it’s not how it sounds, the blurb is just unfortunate!

  2. Great review. I loved this book so much and I’m seriously tempted to adopt all of Flora’s rules for life. They just make me smile so much, particularly the last one. I totally agree with you about Jacob, despite never appearing in person he actually had the biggest impact on me. The letters and the emails…..<3

    • mudandstars says:

      Yay, I’m glad you enjoyed this one as much as I did! 🙂 I totally agree, her rules for life are very wise, I’m definitely taking them on board. Yes Jacobs letters and emails were perfect, especially the last one. My heart couldn’t cope though!

  3. Girl with a Pen says:

    I just brought this book and now I definitely can not wait to get into it!

  4. THIS SOUNDS LIKE A BLAST, I NEED IT! Loved your review, Jess! ❤

  5. Wow this sounds absolutely wonderful!!

  6. I just kept thinking of Dory from Finding Nemo/Finding Dory while reading this review lol Great review as always!

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