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.
Note: Forgive me for not being here! I’m currently away in Madeira with my family but I’m getting a lot of reading in and here’s my review for the first book I’ve finished since I arrived.
Unfortunately I don’t have my laptop with me, so forgive this review for being a little all over the place! I’ll edit it properly once I’m back off my phone.
I’ll be back home on Saturday, but for now I’ll just be posting reviews of books I’m finishing. Other posts would be too hard without my laptop!
I think the easiest way to describe this book is unique. It’s possibly the most unique YA book I’ve ever read.
This book made me reconsider the boundaries of YA itself. It pushed everything I know about YA aside and created something entirely new and wonderful.
I won’t lie – I found this book a little mixed up. The narrative is some of the strangest I’ve come across. Due to Flora’s amnesia, a lot of the book is deeply repetitive (especially in the first ~100 pages). This kind of annoyed me a little for a while, but I did get used to it and understand how it was vital to the story.
“I am really here. Yet I know I am not.”
I obviously can’t speak for the accuracy of how Flora’s illness was portrayed, but I have to say it felt real. The complex plot really reflected the wild randomness of Flora’s mind, and I really admire Barr for being able to create that.
“I am inside something that must be buried in my head.”
The main thing I loved about this book is it’s complexity and cleverness. I won’t say I didn’t see the plot twists coming – I did guess some – but I also enjoyed the discovery.
However, there were parts of this book I didn’t enjoy. Specifically, Flora’s narrative. Yes, the repetitiveness of her story is vital. It is also incredibly, incredibly tedious. I found her incredibly childish at times and found the writing suitable for middle-grade. Therefore, the “emails” seemed very out-of-place and weird compared to the narrative.
“I am layers deep in my own brain.”
So overall, I didn’t love or hate this book. It was intriguing, involving and I found myself completely absorbed in the story from after around 100 pages. I liked the setting(s), numerous characters and complex plot. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but it’s certainly very intriguing and I’d still say give it a go if you like the sound of the synopsis!
May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽