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.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: One instance of self-harm, mild sexual themes
Booklist starred (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. A sufferer of anterograde amnesia, 17-year-old Flora has not been able to create new memories since doctors removed a brain tumor. Every day, she wakes up forgetting everything after age 10 and must use a complex array of notes, phone messages, and maps to negotiate the world. But something happens on the night of Drake’s going-away party. She remembers meeting him on the beach, and she remembers kissing him. Desperate to know how and why, Flora assembles a plan—one Post-it note at a time—to travel from England to Svalbard, an island near the North Pole, where Drake works as a research assistant. What follows is a remarkable odyssey of an atypical unreliable narrator—one who cannot rely on herself. Barr has crafted an enthralling story reminiscent of the film Memento, placing readers in the position of Flora’s memory. We follow what happens to her across scenes, yet are forced to watch her continually lose sense of time and place. One of the book’s driving forces is the hope that Flora will break out of these cycles, using both her ingenuity and grit. The one message that cannot be erased—a tattoo on her hand—encapsulates the book and the character perfectly: Flora, be brave. A deftly, compassionately written mystery.
Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2017)
A white British girl with anterograde amnesia travels to the Arctic to chase after a boy whose kiss has stayed in her memory when nothing else has.Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks cannot remember anything that happened before she was 10 years old, when doctors removed a tumor from her brain. Her memory resets itself every few hours, and ever present written reminders help orient her to her reality. Until one evening, when her best friend’s boyfriend, Drake (also white), kisses her, and she finds that she can remember every detail of their brief time together. The next day Drake leaves to study abroad in Norway, leaving Flora clinging to her singular new memory and the desperate hope that Drake holds the key to her recovery. When her parents inadvertently leave her home alone, she takes matters into her own hands: she travels to Norway to look for Drake. Despite difficulties and delusions, she meets charming strangers who help her along the way and ends up discovering hidden parts of herself amid the icy, beautiful Arctic. Slowly, memories of her past begin to filter through and puzzle pieces fall into place, revealing that there is more to Flora’s story than she realizes. Flora’s voice is frank and childlike, yet her verve and determination help to drive forward a necessarily cyclical plot. An affecting portrayal of living with amnesia and discovering one’s own agency. (Fiction. 14-18)
About the Author
Emily Barr worked as a journalist in London, but always hankered after a quiet room and a book to write. She went travelling for a year, writing a column in the Guardian about it as she went, and it was there that she had an idea for a novel set in the world of backpackers in Asia. This became Backpack, which won the WH Smith New Talent Award. She has since written eleven more adult novels published in the UK and around the world, and a novella, Blackout, for the Quick Reads series. Her twelfth novel, The Sleeper, is a psychological thriller set on the London to Cornwall sleeper train.
In 2013 she went to Svalbard with the idea of setting a thriller in the Arctic. The book that came out of it was The One Memory of Flora Banks, a thriller for young _adults
Her website is www.emilybarr.com.
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