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Review of The One Memory of Flora Banks

The One Memory of Flora Banks
by Emily Barr
High School    Philomel    296 pp.
5/17    978-0-399-54701-0    $17.99

Ever since, as she’s been told, Flora had a brain tumor removed when she was eleven, she’s been unable to make new memories. She can remember things for only a few hours and must negotiate her life by means of copious notes and reminders (written on Post-its and notebooks and all over her hands and arms) and the care of her parents and best friend, Paige. Then, when she’s seventeen, she kisses Paige’s boyfriend Drake on the eve of his departure from Cornwall to Svalbard, Norway. Somehow, that kiss stays in Flora’s memory, and Flora is convinced that Drake is the answer to healing her anterograde amnesia. Defying her parents, she follows him north — her quest fraught with uncertainties, and not just because of her amnesia. Barr sets herself quite a challenge with this first-person narrator, who can’t remember anything much about herself from one hour to the next. The resulting story is a subtle progression of repetition and variation; declarative statements that often repeat but even so build toward an increasingly mysterious, then revelatory, journey. Cumulatively, Flora wins us with her spirit and bravery — a bravery deepened by her intense, amnesia-induced naiveté and dogged commitment to her one memory. Barr’s tale mingles Oliver Sacks–like scientific curiosity with Arctic adventure and YA novel in a way that’s equally unsettling, winsome, and terrifying.

From the July/August 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.





Deirdre Baker About Deirdre Baker

Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca
at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the
past tense.

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