I first heard of this book way back at YALC, where Penguin were giving away free ice cream and putting together jigsaws. Given that I love ice cream, jigsaws, and slightly creepy books, this was bound to be a winner for me, so I was eagerly awaiting the release of this book.
Luckily, then, I was approved for a NetGalley ARC of Flora, and I raced through it on my twelve-hour journey home for Christmas, in the dark, through the wilds of Wales, which added every bit of atmosphere to this sometimes romantic, sometimes creepy, and almost always wonderful story of a girl forging her way through life without her memory.
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.
I really thoroughly enjoyed this book. Flora is a stellar main character, with little idea of who or where she is and what she’s doing, but the mental fortitude to help herself along the way and go on a magnificent adventure, not quite figuring out anything, but also realising everything, of importance along the way.
The writing style was really evocative of Flora’s memory problems, with short, choppy sentences which jarred at first but quickly settled into a style which added greatly to the atmosphere of the book, and Flora’s constant summing up and reminding herself of what she’s been through meant that – for once – I managed to get through an entire book without forgetting who any of the characters were.
The fun thing about a book with memory loss, though, is that each reiteration can be slightly different, and the reveals and twists and turns of the book aren’t always reliable. Flora’s indomitable spirit, and that one memory of the searingly romantic kiss with Drake, propel her halfway across the continent to find herself, and her memory.
The last book I read which dealt with anteretrograde amnesia was Before I Go To Sleep, which I’ve mentioned briefly before, but never really discussed. That particular book, and its film adaptation, is incredibly creepy, and throws in every kind of twist and turn to this girl with amnesia that I went into Flora not trusting anything.
I think in some ways that may have spoiled the book a little for me. While there were hints dropped throughout the book that not everything was as it seemed, because of my prior reading of B4IGTS, I was on the lookout for everybody and anybody being totally unreliable.
That said, though, I love a book with an unreliable narrator, and Flora is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. She’s both likeable and frustrating, and her adventure from Brighton to Svalbard is endearing and enjoyable, but also emotional, tugging on the heartstrings on more than one occasion.
My last blog post for 2016 is a resounding thumbs up for Flora and a recommendation to find her when she publishes in January 2017.
The next week or so will be posts summing up this year and looking forward to next, which I’m hoping will be another good one for this blog!