Sunday 25 June 2017

Amnesia plot makes for memorable YA novel

Young adult: The One Memory of Flora Banks, Emily Barr, Penguin, pbk, 300 pages, €11.20

Original: This is Emily Barr's first YA novel
Original: This is Emily Barr's first YA novel
The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

Kelly Gregg

Seventeen-year-old Flora suffers with anterograde amnesia, caused by an incident that happened when she was 10. Because of the condition, Flora can't make any new memories - but then something happens that she just can't forget.

In The One Memory of Flora Banks, author Emily Barr creates a mind-boggling world through Flora's eyes - one of adventure, mischief and filled with the hope of finding a place where she can belong.

This is the British writer's first book for young adults and it carries a strong, original plot. Barr says she was inspired to write the book by time spent in the cold mountainous lands of Scandinavia.

Barr captures the difficulty of living with amnesia through her use of repetition. This is irritating for the reader at times - but gives a picture of how it must be to relive things every day, as if for the first time.

As a memory deposits itself in Flora's mind, it is quickly lost again. It's as if she falls asleep while the entire universe continues on without her, leaving her to lag far behind in the goings-on of her life. Flora is completely reliant on those around her to help her remember. She paints words on her arms in a bid to enable her to create a picture of her life for when she is again 'awake'.

Her worried parents try to contain her in her world, giving her pills that keep her in a compliant, zombie-like state. Then, one night, she meets a boy and the memory of that meeting stays in her mind for days. He is her best friend's boyfriend and is leaving town the next day - and yet the memory of him stays put. Could he be the person to fix her fractured brain?

And so begins an obsession that leads Flora in search of the boy, with nothing more than a tattoo reading "Flora Be Brave" on her hand.

While the protagonist is well drawn, others in the book are more sketchy - Flora's older brother, ­Jacob, and her best friend Paige would have benefited from having more depth of characterisation.

Throughout the novel, the universal struggles of being a teenager - with or without a memory disorder - ring true. The One Memory of Flora Banks shows the wondrous ways in which all minds work.

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