About the Book
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHO TO TRUST WHEN YOU CAN’T EVEN TRUST YOURSELF?
I look at my hands. One of them says FLORA BE BRAVE.
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, and the next day she remembers it. It’s the first time she’s remembered anything since she was ten.
But the boy is gone. She thinks he’s moved to the Arctic.
Will following him be the key to unlocking her memory? Who can she trust?
I’ve read a few of Emily Barr’s previous novels and always enjoyed them so I was excited when I got approved to read this new book, Emily Barr’s first young adult novel, back in January. I read the book back then but didn’t manage to get my review finished and posted but I can say that the book has really stayed fresh in my mind, which is always testament to a great read!
Flora Banks is such a brilliant character, I loved reading about her from the opening chapter. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to not be able to form new memories, to only have memories from childhood. Flora is now a teenager but her mother, in her need to protect Flora, keeps her trapped as a child. Flora tries to keep a grip on her life by writing notes to herself but inevitably they get muddled up, or moved and then she has to try and piece things together. One night she experiences her first kiss and the next day finds that she has remembered it. The details around the kiss are not there but she remembers the kiss so clearly.
The novel is all about Flora learning to forge her way in the world in spite of her memory problems. Flora believes that if she can just find the boy she kissed that it will unlock her memory, that he is now the answer to everything. Life never goes as planned though and Flora encounters a lot of difficulties on her journey to find him. She becomes fiercely determined to prove to herself that she is growing up and that she will be able to manage on her own. Reading about Flora as she attempts to find the boy she kissed is really touching. To see this girl making such valiant attempts to remember things, to find ways to trigger her memory is incredible.
I felt quite on edge at times as the novel went on, it was nerve-wracking seeing Flora out in the world without her support systems in place. There are moments when she becomes really quite confused and upset, and I was so involved in the novel that I wanted to reach into the pages and tell her it would be ok. I was really cheering her on and wanting her to find the boy on her own and for everything to work out fine.
I love how Emily Barr managed to show us Flora’s life, to show us how it is to have amnesia and while inevitably some things are repeated throughout the book as we experience Flora’s confusion each day, the book never feels repetitive.
I also really appreciated how this novel never became too cliched. I was fully expecting Flora to easily find the boy and for them to fall in love and live happily ever after as is often the case, but it wasn’t remotely straightforward for her. She has so many challenges to overcome and life is never going to be easy for her. The novel for me felt so much more about Flora finding a way to have some independence and to gain a life of her own than it is about a boy, although the boy is the catalyst for the story.
It was also really interesting how we get to see Flora with her childhood best friend Paige, who’s a healthy seventeen year old. The contrast between them is quite stark at times and it really highlights just how much Flora has missed out on due to her amnesia. Early in the book the two girls are at a party together and Flora really does seem like a child, it’s quite sad to see. Paige is tied to Flora because they were friends before the amnesia – Paige tries hard to be a good friend but you can see how hard it is for her at times, particularly in the early part of the novel. It must be so difficult to be growing up and having more and more independence while the girl you grew up with is still ten years old in her mind. This is so sensitively written and I was really hoping that their friendship would survive as the book goes on, more so than I was wanting a romance between Flora and the boy.
I really enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to everyone. It is aimed a young adults but it’s a book that can be enjoyed by anyone.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
I started out working as a journalist in London, but always hankered after a quiet room and a book to write. I managed, somehow, to get commissioned to go travelling for a year, and came home with the beginnings of a novel set in the world of backpackers in Asia. This became BACKPACK, a thriller which won the WH Smith New Talent Award, and I have since written eleven more novels published in the UK and around the world.
I live in Cornwall with my partner Craig and our children, and am working on my second YA novel, which is set in Rio.
(Bio taken from EmilyBarr.com)