The One Memory of Flora Banks
By Emily Barr
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?
The one memory of Flora Banks could definitely be classed as a page-turner. Flora is a genuinely lovely character, one who is bound to captivate anyone who reads this book.
The book captured my attention from the first page with the first few lines:
“I am at the top of a hill, and although I know I have done something terrible I have no idea what it is.
A minute or an hour ago I knew, but it has vanished from my mind, and I didn’t have time to write it down so now it is lost. I know that I need to stay away, but I don’t know what I am hiding from.”
Flora Banks is 17 years old and has anterograde amnesia. When she was ten she had a brain tumour and when the doctors removed it they took her ability to retain memories from that time onwards. Flora has to write herself notes about important things so she doesn’t forget them. She writes these notes mostly on her hands.
In chapter one Paige is at her friend’s house at a going away party for Paige’s boyfriend Drake.
“I look at my hand. Party, it tells me, in thick black letters.”
“I imagine I dressed for what I thought a party was like. I stand out as the person who has got it wrong.
I look at my hand. It says I am 17. I look down at myself again. I look like a teenager, but I don’t feel like one.”
Initially I didn’t like Paige, for reasons that will become clear when reading the book, but I ended up becoming fond of her.
Paige is my best friend. I am on sure ground with Paige. I met her for the first time when we were four years old and starting school…I know Paige, and when I look at her, I am surprised to see that she is an adult.
Paige is beautiful, with long black hair that is thick and slightly curly, and creamy skin, and cheeks that dimple when she smiles. She looks like a china doll.
Paige has a bit too much alcohol and goes out for some fresh air.
I should not be out on my own. I Shouldn’t stand in the middle of roads. I have only just been allowed to start crossing rounds without a grown-up…I am ten years old. I don’t know why I am in a grownup’s body. I hate it and I want to go home.
Drake come out to check on her and they sit on the beech talking.
We stare at the words together. Flora, be brave, he says, reading the other hand. ‘I love the words on your hands. Does it work? Do they help you remember?
Whilst they are talking Drake tells Flora that he and Paige have split up because there was not much point in staying together when he was moving to Svalbard. After that he kisses her.
“The thing is’ says Drake, ‘I can say this, because, like, what the hell? You won’t remember anyway. I would be like, in the pub with you and Paige and looking at you, all like pretty and blonde and different from every other girl in the world, and wondering what it would be like to be with you.”
When Flora gets home she writes down what happened with Drake so she can remember it. “I read it, but I don’t need to because I can remember it.” Flora is very excited by this because it is the first new memory she has been able to make since the age of ten. “I have to spend my life with him because he makes my memory work.”
Paige sees one of Flora’s notes and discovers what happened with Drake. And you know what else? I’ve been the only looking out for you for years and years, you know. I’ve taken you out when your mum would have kept you wrapped in cotton wool at home…Every time you forgot where you are I help you. My mum always hated me doing it, she said I shouldn’t have to be your carer. But sure have my boyfriend.
Paige tells her that she had promised Flora’s mother she would do her a favour but she wasn’t going to do it anymore as they were no longer friends.
When Flora gets home she find out her parents had asked Paige to look after her whilst they went to visit Flora’s brother Jacob in Paris. Jacob was sick. Flora decides not to tell her parents that she and Paige aren’t speaking.
I liked Paige’s brother and father but I really disliked her mother even though I understood her reasons for being controlling and over-protective.
“My father is funny and lovely. At work he is an accountant but when the doors are closed at home he wears patterned jumpers that he knits for himself. His hair sticks up in the air, when mum hasn’t patted it down. He says funny things. He would do anything for me, I know that, and I would do anything for him, if I were capable of doing anything. Everything about him fills me with relief when I see him. He is my home.”
Jacob was probably my favourite character in the book, after Flora.
I know Jacob. He is the person I love most in the world. He is bigger than me. He used to pick me up and carry me around, and he let me sit on his lap to watch television, and I have a very clear memory of him allowing me to paint his toenails.
Whilst her parents are away Flora decides to go to the Arctic to find Drake with some interesting consequences.
This was the best YA book I have read so far this year and Flora’s rules to live by are pretty sound advice.
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