I first heard about this book on YouTube. The premise definitely caught my attention – a seventeen-year-old girl is only able to form a single new memory from the time she is ten. I haven’t read a lot of books about amnesia (and a few of the books I have read have been nonfiction), because, to be honest, it always seemed like it would be kind of cheesy – like a soap opera – or incorporated into the plot in a comedic way. But I feel like authors are beginning to handle mental disabilities and mental illnesses with a lot more sensitivity, and I recently read and loved a nonfiction book about amnesia, so I wanted to explore it a bit more in fiction. And The One Memory of Flora Banks seemed like a good place to start. (Finding a signed copy at Target sealed the deal.)
(From Goodreads) 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.
The One Memory of Flora Banks somehow managed to catch my eye despite the fact that I’ve haven’t been drawn to contemporary YA books at all lately. Especially those by authors I don’t already like. And I will say, it definitely had a few of the characteristics of contemporary YA I don’t particularly enjoy. However, they were handled in a unique way, since we have a seventeen-year-old main character who in many ways is still a pre-teen. She is confused by her age, and doesn’t feel seventeen. Which, oddly, made the insta-love in this book a bit more believable. It felt more natural for a ten-year-old to have a world-ending crush, because she lacks experience and doesn’t know better. (It was a bit cringey, but that’s at least partially due to the fact that I was that crazy ten-year-old.) I also loved that – without spoiling too much – we only get one side of the relationship, one side of the story. The love story is far from perfect, and it feels more true to life.
While I did, for the most part, enjoy the amnesia aspect of the story, I didn’t always like how Flora’s disability was handled. At times, it was a bit reminiscent of Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything, and even Fifty First Dates, which prevented it from seeming wholly original. I also didn’t like any of the characters. Even the adults seemed very immature for much of the book. I was annoyed that the teenagers tried to act like adults a lot of the time, but that’s something that generally irritates me. The characterizations felt a bit off. The one character I did love, we only catch glimpses of through letters and old memories, which was a bit disappointing.
The writing itself was simplistic and repetitive, especially in the beginning. And while that makes sense, since Flora is our narrator, and she has to constantly remind herself of things, it does get annoying at times. I was glad when the story began to pick up towards the middle of the book. I also want to mention the ending, because I have pretty conflicting feelings about it. While it contains one of my favorite parts of the story (I won’t give it away), it still somehow feels a bit cheap or anticlimactic or easy. I think I was supposed to feel relieved or hopeful, but all I felt was ambivalent and a bit let down. I don’t think it was a bad ending, per se, but it was a very expected twist, and I think the whole book would have been better if the ending had been more original.
★★★☆☆ – While I had a lot of issues with this book, I still enjoyed it enough to finish almost the entire thing in one sitting. So it wasn’t bad. If you like contemporary young adult novels, this might be a fun read for you. Personally, I liked it, but it wasn’t particularly memorable or exciting. Good, not great.
You can order a copy of The One Memory of Flora Banks on Amazon – or check your local Target to see if they still have any signed copies!
P.S. The cover (at least on the edition I got and shared above) might not look super exciting, but that silver spray across the front is holographic, and it’s so pretty in person.
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose The One Memory of Flora Banks as one of your two free books!