Release Date: 27th January 2017
Genre: Contemporary, YA
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. -GR
You can see from the one star I gave this book that I really didn’t like it. The reason I read it was because my dad bought it for me and I thought it was really sweet of him because he isn’t a reader so must have just picked it up because of the cover and thought I would like it. I do like the cover, a lot. The book itself, not so much.
Flora has the mind of a ten year old, as that is when her amnesia started. As such, the writing is very simplistic and juvenile, which was okay for a while, but then it started to bore me. For younger readers (I’m sixteen, myself) maybe this aspect would be totally cool for them and they’d love it, and that’s awesome, so don’t take that too critically.
A real negative for me was how repetitive the book was. Flora’s memory resets itself several times a day, so something would be happening, she would forget, and then would have to find out what she did and then circle back to forgetting again. I know this is a real condition and I can understand how horrific it must be for people who suffer from it but I just don’t think it was handled most effectively.
If I can just pick up from that point and go on a little tangent here, I personally (as someone who doesn’t suffer from any memory problems) found the plot to be a little insensitive. I can imagine it being frustrating for someone who does suffer chronic amnesia to read this book only to find out that the first and only thing Flora’s short term memory retains is kissing a boy. It just didn’t sit right with me and from other reviews, I see other people feel the same way.
I do give Emily Barr credit for not making this into a love story, though it so easily could have been. The sense of having a boyfriend/girlfriend curing mental and chronic illness could have been a lot lot stronger and then I would have been trying to figure out how to put minus stars.
Okay, back to negatives. I’m sorry for how ranty this review is but I’m trying to be fair and I just have a lot of feelings about this book.
I didn’t like Flora. That’s subjective. You may love her. However, Flora’s brother is dying and so her parents go to France to be with him in his last few days, and Flora acts like she couldn’t care less and swans off to Svalbard. I understand that she doesn’t remember her brother very clearly and so there isn’t the usual sibling bond between them, but she does remember her parents has that connection with them. That’s why I found it so unrealistic and selfish of her to disappear while she knows her parents are going through probably the worst moment of their lives, and drag them away from her brother as his life his ending. No matter what I was going through, I couldn’t do that to my parents. And if I did, I would be apologising for the rest of my life. Did Flora? Nope.
Another issue I have with the message of this book, and the marketing too, is the emphasis on independence. Flora is seen to grow from someone who is completely reliant on those around her to function, to being totally independent. I couldn’t see the independence there, just stupidity. People with conditions like Flora can be independent, of course, and can go places they feel comfortable with on their own. But (again, as someone with no experience of this) I’m sure there needs to be a lot of planning and precaution to be taken to make sure the individual is safe.
In the space of a few days, Flora buys a plane ticket, gets to the airport, flies to Svalbard, and stumbles around the country for a bit trying to find her ‘boyfriend’ to tell him he cured her. All of this is done completely on her own – WITHOUT TELLING ANYONE. She forgets so often where she is and what she’s doing and reads her note back to refresh her memory yet fails to see how dangerous what she was doing is, and that danger is never mentioned as being something other than admirable. She is a seventeen year old girl alone in a foreign country with amnesia, trying to find a boy who could be anywhere in the country, and all without anyone to call for help or to check she’s okay. It’s a harmful message to send.
I really need to wrap this up now because it just hit 1000 words. I don’t think I’ve written a review as critical as this before but as I said earlier, I’ve tried to be fair and not bash the hell out of this book because I appreciate the time and effort that goes into it. Maybe if you don’t mind simplistic writing and don’t think too hard about the messages of the story, you could enjoy this one.