Friday, 20 January 2017

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr was a suspenseful, chilling, moving novel

The One Memory of Flora BanksTitle: The One Memory of Flora Banks
Series: N/A
Author: Emily Barr
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publication: January 12th, 2017, Penguin
Pages: 303 Pages, Paperback
Source: Thank you to Penguin and LoveReading4Kids for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!
Rating: 4/5 cupcakes!
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. 

This book was composed of unique and scintillating characters and a plot laden with suspense against a breathtaking backdrop of the Arctic's winter wonderland. This heart-warming story told through the eyes of an unreliable narrator makes The One Memory of Flora Banks a divine conglomeration of serendipitous journeys, mystery, and eccentricity that provides a thrilling literary experience.

My relationship with this book was tumultuous at first. I struggled to the story initially as the writing is very repetitive due to Flora's memory loss and the sentences were quite halted (perhaps to emphasize Flora's staccato thought process?). Hence I struggled to be immersed in the story for quite a while due to this reason but once I'd familiarised myself with the prose, man, I devoured it. It was the kind of book that completely engulfed me, time passed swiftly and by the time I looked up, I was over half way through the book and a blanket of darkness had replaced the final rays of sunlight – this book had me gripped and the last 200 pages had me feeling the whole spectrum of emotions. I grew to fall absolutely in love with this book so if you're struggling with the writing at first, persevere – it's worth it.

I absolutely adored the characters. Flora is a spectacularly memorable character, she almost always wears an oversized coat, carries a black stone in her pocket and writing covers her arms to remind her of all the things she needs to know. Her story will tear at your heartstrings – her willingness to chase adventure, pursue her dreams and forge a life for herself that many people think are impossible due to her condition makes her one of the bravest and determined female protagonists I've ever encountered. She was na├»ve and innocent which made me adore her even more because I feel as if 95% of YA heroines are incredibly savvy, confident and independent and it was fantastic becoming acquainted with a character that stands out among a sea of similar characters without even trying. I must mention, though, that even though I loved Flora, I couldn't connect to her 100% and I still don't feel as if I know enough about her. I felt as if there was a glittering ball of personality hidden inside her that she allowed me glimpses of, but she prevented it forever fully emerging (does that make sense? Probably not). I feel because she was so preoccupied writing notes, thinking of Drake and trying to remember I never felt like I learnt much about her. Her personality felt quite suppressed at times and I feel bad for saying that as after finishing the book I feel like she's a wonderful friend, but I did find her lacking slightly in personality for the majority of the novel. However, I can understand why the author made her be like that but I would've liked her to feel slightly more complex.

One character that I absolutely ADORED is Jacob, Flora's older brother who resides in Paris. He stole my heart and just thinking about his warm, charismatic personality and how brilliant he is, made me tear up. He was so caring, sassy, sweet and encouraging – an extraordinary older brother that would do anything to protect his sister whilst simultaneously allowing her the freedom to soar. He was the best. YAY for fantastic sister/brother relationships!

I liked Paige (Flora's best friend) by the end of the book but I was disappointed with her for basically abandoning Flora for something that she didn't have much control of. Even if my best friend did what Flora did, I would still be there for her. Always. I thought it was incredibly selfish of Paige to desert her but she redeemed herself by the end of the novel, which is always a good thing.

I loved how close Flora was to her parents and although I'm fortunate enough to not suffer from her condition, I do have severe anxiety which has made me very close to my parents and I do rely on them a lot, a lot more than your average seventeen years old which probably isn't a good thing, but hey – everyone's different, right? I loved that this book showed such a close child/parent relationship. I loved Flora's dad. He was so sweet and caring and did everything in his power to make Flora feel better! I'm not sure how I feel about Flora's mom, though. She has clearly been subjected to harsh trails and tribulations which led to her taking severe precautions when it came to Flora, precautions that I most definitely didn't agree with. Her mother could be quite stifling but I could understand why – fear and heartbreak had turned her into being perpetually terrified of something happening to Flora.

There was a host of other luminous characters found within these pages such as Toby and Agi! They were so supportive, caring and wonderful to Flora, yet they managed to perfectly care for her whilst simultaneously allowing her freedom on her journey. I absolutely adored them – they were wonderfully kind and they made my heart warm and fuzzy inside because they're good people and I loved how they handled Flora's condition.

I also feared that this book was going to be a romance novel where kissing a boy solves all the problems but that wasn't the case at all. In fact, there was very little actual romance in this novel. Flora did obsessively think of Drake for most of the book but I can understand why – wouldn't you be intent on finding the person who made you remember something after not being able to remember anything the past seven years? The repeated manta of Drake being the love of her life and needing to find him did feel slightly tedious in the beginning but once Flora reached the Arctic, I was more swept up in the description of the wondrous landscape and the trials she had to overcome whilst she was there to pay much attention to the continuous mention of Drake (who was such an idiot, I can't even). Although he was mentioned a lot, this isn't a love story. If anything, it was a breathtaking journey of self-discovery, pursuing your dreams and overcoming your fears. Flora managed so many incredible feats – it has inspired me to try doing the same.

There were two other things I loved about this novel: It's set in the Arctic (how freaking cool is that?! Very cool. Ha. Ha. See what I did there?) which I've never encountered in a book before and I also loved that Flora was an unreliable narrator as I haven't read many books that feature one! Although I found it quite confusing at times as Flora had her memory lapses and retreated into memories that she could remember from when she was younger, coating the story with a slightly hazy, surreal quality – I still liked it. It left me in suspense the entire way through the book and I felt gripped by an icy hand the entire way through – was that really what happened? Can she trust anyone around her? Chills scaled themselves up my spine on several occasions due to the deliciously subtle suspense.

Another thing that I must mention, is that The One Memory of Flora Banks is one of those books that will make you feel. I was gripped in anxiety and trepidation as I watched Flora navigating the world on her own and encountering things that would've given me ridiculously high levels of anxiety. It made me cry on more than one occasion (the hopelessness of Flora's situation, her incredible character growth and breathtaking journey to self-discovery also because of Jacob because I LOVE HIM), it made me smile and it made my heart warm and fuzzy inside – to see the kindness in people, Flora's strength, her strong relationship with her parents. This book tugged at my heartstrings and I love it for that.

The One Memory of Flora Banks is a spectacular story about an unforgettable character's extraordinary journey to the sublime Arctic in an attempt to find the boy who made her remember. But don't mistake this book for a magical, fluffy love story – it's a gritty look into the hardships of those living with amnesia, a dark insight into what grief and fear can turn us into, an atmosphere thick with suspense and mystery as a girl with a fur coat and letters to herself streaked down her arms stares her demons in the eyes and soars to the ethereal Norwegian landscape. I've never read a book quite like The One Memory of Flora Banks and I doubt I ever will. Utterly captivating.

I give it: 4/5 cupcakes

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