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••• The International Writers Magazine: Teen Fiction

The One Memory of Flora Banks
by Emily Barr
Penguin Books 2017
ISBN: 978-0-141-36851-1
• Sam Hawksmoor review
It’s quite a brave thing to do – write Momento for teens. 

Flora Banks

Flora Banks can’t remember anything for more than about an hour or two at most.
She has to write everything on her hand.  Without it she would be lost.
Flora Be Brave.  Don’t drink alcohol.  I am 17.  Paige is my best friend.

It begins at a party.  She is dressed wrong. Like her mother dressed her and that’s probably true.  Everyone else is in t-shirts and jeans and she’s in a white dress like she’s going to a kid's party with jelly and cream.  That’s the problem with Flora, in her head she is still ten years old when ‘something’ happened and every time she sees herself in the mirror its a shock – who is this 17 year old girl?

She doesn’t like the party. Too noisy, someone has given her wine and she’s sitting outside at the beach when Drake, the fiancé of her best friend comes over and kisses her.  It’s a major thing.  She is on the beach kissing a boy and in the morning she can still remember it.  This is a first.  She has been awakened.  Better yet the boy starts sending her emails saying he wants to see her naked. Her best friends fiancé no less.  She knows it is wrong but you can’t take a kiss back.

Meanwhile her brother is deathly ill in Paris and her parents have to leave her alone for five days to go there.  They entrust her to Paige, the best friend, who, unbeknownst to them has discovered Drake kissed her and believes she even slept with him and has terminated their friendship forever.

Flora has never been alone before.  There is food in the fridge. Her mother sends her reminders to take her meds but Flora is in love and forgets – still amazed she can remember the kiss and Drake, whose name in now written on her hand and arms.

Only Drake has gone to Svalbard to study there.  It’s somewhere near the Artic.

Now all Flora can think about is going to Svalbard.  She discovers she has a passport.

There’s money and her father’s bankcard …  normally she doesn’t even leave the house. She can just about get around Penzance without getting into trouble, but to leave the country to find a boy who kissed her. Impossible.

She leaves the house.

Flora’s awakening, her tragic search for the elusive Drake in Svalbard is extraordinary. So are all the people she meets who befriend her, but sadly she doesn’t remember every day.  Everyday is Groundhog Day for Flora and she is never sure which memories are real – but remembers enough to lie to her parents that everything is fine in Cornwall where clearly she is not. Meanwhile she manages to email her dying brother and he does not give the game away. He's all for her escaping, just as he did from a controlling mother.

Emily Barr puts you inside the head of a girl with short-term memory and it’s hypnotic, unnerving being Flora and surprised by every event.  She is free for the moment – anything could happen – she may even find Drake – but she hasn’t told him she’s coming.

An excellent story of awakening and a developing passion for life.

Buy the book here

© Sam Hawksmoor March 2017
author of Marikka – the girl who fled the fire.

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