The One Memory of Flora Banks

The One Memory of Flora Banks

by Emily Barr


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It’s not a lie if you can’t remember the truth.
“Mesmerizing, electric, and achingly lovely, The One Memory of Flora Banks is unforgettable. One of the best YA novels I've read in a very long time.”
—Jennifer Niven, 
New York Times bestselling author of All the Bright Places
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—in Svalbard, Norway—Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.
But will following Drake be the key to unlocking Flora’s memory? Or will the journey reveal that nothing is quite as it seems?
Already a bestselling debut in the UK, this unforgettable novel is Memento meets We Were Liars and will have you racing through the pages to unravel the truth.

Praise for The One Memory of Flora Banks:

An EW Most Anticipated YA Novel of 2017

★ "[A] remarkable enthralling story...a deftly, compassionately written mystery.” —Booklist, starred review

★ "Barr’s tale mingles Oliver Sacks–like scientific curiosity with Arctic adventure and YA novel in a way that’s equally unsettling, winsome, and terrifying." —Horn Book, starred review

"Perfect for fans of both young adult romance and psychological thrillers, The One Memory of Flora Banks is destined to become one of your favorite beach reads of 2017. Promise." —Bustle

"Mesmerizing, electric, and achingly lovely, The One Memory of Flora Banks is unforgettable. One of the best YA novels I've read in a very long time." —Jennifer Niven, New York Times bestselling author of All the Bright Places

"Ultimately, this title will leave readers with a sense of hope and faith in the human spirit....A strong choice for YA shelves." —School Library Journal

"Flora’s situation may be singular, but her desire for autonomy should speak loudly to teens in the midst of their own journeys into adulthood." —Publishers Weekly

"An affecting portrayal of living with amnesia and discovering one's own agency." —Kirkus

"[T]his is [Barr's] first YA novel and it is a good one. It will not be forgotten by readers." —VOYA

"An extraordinarily moving and original novel, a story of secrecy and lie, love and loss that manages to be both heart-breaking and life-affirming...Barr’s first novel for as brave as Flora herself." —Daily Mail

"An icily atmospheric story...captivating...[a] pacy page-turner that packs a significant emotional punch." —The Guardian

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399547027
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 05/01/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 254,384
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Emily Barr ( began her career as a journalist at the Guardian before realizing that she was drawn more toward books. After taking a year to go backpacking for a column assignment, she returned home with the idea for her first book, the New York Times bestseller Backpack, and never looked back. She has since written 11 additional books for adults. The One Memory of Flora Banks is her young adult debut. Emily lives in Cornwall with her partner and their children. You can follow her on Twitter @emily_barr.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter Six

“They said they were coming back,” I tell the policeman, “but they didn’t. And they always do what they say. It says in my book that I’ve called them sixty-seven times.”

The police station is a gray building with an orange tiled roof. It is boring on the outside, and inside it is boring too. The reception area is small, with a little row of three blue chairs by the window.

The man who is sitting at the reception desk is being polite, but he doesn’t think my problem is the most interesting thing that will happen to him today. He has a bald head, which is shining under the electric light. There is a piece of paper in his hand and he keeps trying to read it. I know it has nothing to do with me.

“Sixty-seven?” he echoes. He looks up at me with a little frown. “Seriously?”

“They always tell me what they’re doing. Always.”

“Your parents are visiting your brother and have not come home when you thought they would?”

“That’s right.”

“Have you contacted your brother?”

“I don’t think so.”

“And they are fully functioning grown-ups?”


“As are you?”

I see him looking at the words on my hand, trying to read them. He looks at my face. He stares into my eyes for a few seconds, and his manner changes. He pushes his papers away.

“Oh. I know who you are.”

I don’t know what to say to that, so I say nothing.

“What are you?” he says. “Sixteen or so?”

“I’m seventeen and I kissed a boy on a beach. Before that I was ten and I was going to the amusement park. I met Paige when we were four.”

I only meant to say the first two words out loud. The rest of it was supposed to be in my head. He looks as if he wants to laugh at me, and I hate that.

“Yeah. You’ve been here before. You’ve met my colleagues. OK. I’ll call someone for you. Have a seat. Do you have a friend? Neighbor? Any other family around?”

“Paige is my friend.”

“Let’s have Paige’s number then. I’ll get her to come and pick you up. Maybe you can stay at her place.”

I look at my phone, searching for Paige’s name and number. Paige will pick me up and take care of me. But I know as I say the words in my head that they are not right.

There are texts on my phone, but they are all from me. All of them say things like: “Hello Paige. Are you going to be back soon?” She has not replied. I hope she is OK. I scroll up and up until I find her last text to me. It is from a few days ago, and it says: “Flora. This is the last time I’m going to answer. I am not your friend anymore, not since you kissed my boyfriend. WE ARE NOT FRIENDS. Leave me alone.”

I stare at the words. I did kiss her boyfriend. That happened: I can remember it. I kissed a boy on the beach. He was Drake. I love him. That means Paige and I are not friends.

I look up. I am in the police station because my parents haven’t come home, and there is a man with a shiny head and a pen and a yellow Post-it note in front of him. He is waiting for me to tell him Paige’s phone number so he can ask her to come and get me.

I stand up.

“It’s OK, actually,” I tell him, and I walk to the door, and then through it, and then I run down the road, all the way home. I am on my own. It is suddenly exciting. I skip down the road. I dance. I can do anything.


I scrawl the words on my arm. Contact Jacob. Maybe Jacob might help me.

If the policeman called Paige she might try to help me in spite of everything. I could go and bang on her door and she would probably let me in. Yet I cannot do that because I would not be able to tell her about my e-mails with Drake, and she would find out instantly because his name is everywhere in my world. It is on my hands and arms and a hundred new little notes perching around the house like butterflies.

I need to take the new notes down in case my parents get back. I must remember to do it.

There is too much to remember.


“Hello?” I call. There are no extra shoes on the porch, no coats, no luggage, no voices. I want my parents to be here. “I’m home!” I add, and stand and wait.

Contact Jacob.

My parents keep paperwork in a filing cabinet and in teetering piles in a bedroom that has a single bed without any sheets on it. I start with the teetering piles.

I write a note: Looking for Jacob’s phone number and stick it onto the edge of the table with tape.

There is nothing about my parents’ trip. There are no travel details, no hotel booking, no letters. I would probably find them if I looked harder, on the big computer.

I open the filing cabinets and look for traces of my big brother. This involves plowing through lots of boring pieces of old paper, checking each one for his name. I find an envelope that says flora on the front, and take out a sheaf of papers from inside, but words like “temporal lobe,” “associated confabulation,” and “GCS 8” jump out and make me nervous. I write down some of the strange words and put the piece of paper in my pocket. Then I shove everything back in its envelope and push it down into the cabinet.

There is a postcard with a picture of the Eiffel Tower on it. That is in Paris. I turn it over and see that it is addressed to me, in messy handwriting. It says: “Looking at this right now and thinking of you. You’re amazing. Jacob xx.”

I stare at it. I take a photo of it. It doesn’t have his phone number or his address on it. I put it on top of the filing cabinet. Jacob was thinking of me, in Paris. I must have seen this card before. I screw my eyes tight shut and tell him that I am thinking of him too. I hope he knows.

I find a passport, and oddly it turns out to be mine. It was issued two years ago and is valid for another eight years. I leave that out on the side, just in case, and write I HAVE A PASSPORT! in big letters down the inside of my left arm.

I think of Drake. He makes me remember. I can remember kissing him. The smell of the sea.

The black stone.

“We could spend the night.”

“My mom.”

He is far away. I put the passport into the back pocket of my jeans.

After a long time I find a piece of paper with a handwritten address on it, topped with the words “Jacob.” It says, “Paris,” but it does not have a phone number.

It does not look like a new piece of paper. It looks like the kind of piece of paper that would fall out of an old book. It says: “Jacob, Apt. 3, 25 Rue Charlot, 75003, Paris, FRANCE.

When I type the address into the computer it appears on a map: it really is in Paris, the capital of France, and it could be where he lives, or it could be a place he lived in once. There must be a better way of getting ahold of him, but since I can’t think what it would be, I write him a card saying who I am and that I am worried because our parents haven’t come home, and I ask him to call me if he’s well enough, or to get our parents to call me, as soon as he can if he gets this. I add my e-mail address, just in case.

I read it over. It sounds all right, I think. It sounds normal.

I find three first-class stamps in the drawer with the tape and semi-working pens, and I run outside and mail it.

I report it all back to Drake and write it in my notebook. Time passes, and then Drake replies.

He’s probably on Facebook, he advises. Have you looked? But there must be tons of Jacob Bankses.

I try to look him up, but I can’t log in, because I don’t have an account. I follow the instructions to make one, but when I put in my e-mail address, it says I do have an account after all. The laptop fills in the password with a row of dots, so I click “OK” and look at a part of me that I had no idea existed.

There is a photograph of Paige and me. We are cheek to cheek, smiling at the camera. I miss Paige. She is not my friend anymore, though she is listed as being one of my friends on Facebook. I only have five friends on here, and they are people I remember from primary school. My page has nothing written on it. I don’t know how this works. I remember Jacob being on Facebook when I was little, and I remember pestering him to get off the computer and come play with me. The website was blue then, and it is blue now.

I type “Jacob Banks” into a box, but then it comes up as my status, so I know I entered it in the wrong place. I type it in a different box and see what happens.

Many Jacob Bankses show up in a long list. Except it is impossible to see anything about most of the people who appear, and I have no idea what my brother looks like now. In my memories he is big and wonderful. In the photos in this house he is still a teenager, but I think now he is much older than that. Some of these profiles say things like “San Diego” underneath them, so I know they’re the wrong Jacob Bankses, while others show teenagers in their photographs (teenagers who do not look like my pictures) so I know they’re not him either. There is a photo of a man with a big red scar all down the side of his face. I don’t click on that, because that’s not my brother, and also it says that he lives in Gay Paree, wherever that is.

Whenever I click on a likely photo, I get: “Do you know Jacob? To see what he shares with friends, send him a friend request,” and a suggestion to “add friend.” I do that with everyone who I think could possibly be my brother, and the “friend request sent” messages pile up until there is nothing more I can do but wait.

I search the internet to find out where else you might find people. This leads me to a website called Twitter. There are lots of people with his name there too, but hardly any of them have privacy settings. This is easier, and I plow through until I have eliminated every single one of them. I try to do the same with a few other websites, but it is suddenly all too hard. When I check back in with Drake, he thinks it’s funny that I have asked all the Jacob Bankses to be my friends, and we agree that we have explored the obvious social media connections.

All we can do is wait. I decide to sleep.

Although it’s not actually night, I turn the corner of my parents’ duvet back and leave the chain off the door, because I might sleep until morning. I curl up on the sofa and close my eyes.


When I wake up it is light and I am scared. I read everything in my notebook and all the notes I can find, and get it into my head, and it makes me more scared, though my only rule for life appears to be that I mustn’t panic. I go to my room and read everything I have stuffed under the bed.

I sent Jacob a letter. My parents have not come home. Drake is in the Arctic and I love him.

My parents’ bedroom door is ajar, and I give a polite little tap before I push it open. The bed has not been disturbed.

I need help.


There is no one in Penzance who can help me. I turn on my phone and the computer. There is one new e-mail from Drake, and a string of messages from Facebook. I have eleven “friends”: six of them are named Jacob Banks and the rest are people I used to know.

According to my notes, I sent requests to more than twenty Jacobs. If any of them is the right one he will know who I am. I make tea in what a note on the fridge tells me is Mom’s favorite mug (World's Best Mom!) and sit at the table, which is covered in junk. There are yellow notes everywhere. They are scrawled with Jacob, Mom, Dad, France and Drake, Drake, Drake. As I start to make my way through the six Jacob profiles that are now open to me, my phone pings with a text.

I read it. Then I read it again. I copy it out to make it more real, and I read it again.

Darling, so sorry we’re late! Are you all right? Please text back immediately. We can’t use our phones in here. We missed our plane. We missed all your calls. I left you a message yesterday—did you get it? There was an emergency at the hospital and we couldn’t go anywhere. Jacob took a turn for the worse and for a couple of days we had to trust that you were OK and just focus on him. Stick with Paige. Emergency money is in a box at the back of Dad’s sock drawer, and a credit card, PIN 5827. Please reply. Jacob is now v. sick but we’re going to come home as soon as we can for a while at least. Will let you know more once we book a new flight. Thinking of you always. LOTS of love, Mom and Dad xxxxxxx

I read it again and again. They are all right. There is an explanation. It is not like them to forget me (I forget things, not them). They have me with them all the time, like a pet. I bet they are enjoying being away from me.

They are not enjoying it. There was a dire emergency. Jacob is very sick. He is probably about to die. He might be dead already. She might not have wanted to say it in a text.

I write 5827 on the inside of my wrist, and I go and find the money and the card and put it all in the middle of the table, where I can look at it.

I write to Drake and tell him that my parents missed their plane so everything is fine.

Everything is fine for me. My parents are still alive and they are still in France. Everything is not fine for Jacob and it is not fine for Mom and Dad either.

Jacob is my brother, and I have no idea what he is like now, why he went away and never came back. I know that I have looked at every piece of paper in this house, and I still don’t know. I cannot even miss him when he dies, because the only memories I have of him are from when I was very small.

But I do miss him. He let me paint his toenails. He picked me up when I was crying. I love him.

I am sad for my parents, sitting at their son’s deathbed. No wonder they forgot me.

I wander around, sit in different places, make some tea. All the time I am waiting for Drake’s reply. It arrives. Drake is the most dependable thing in my life. I have no idea what I would do without him.

He kissed me on the beach. He gave me a memory. He gave me a stone.

Hey, he writes. Have you noticed something? You’re living independently. You’ve been in that house on your own for days. You’ve been to the police, done some investigating, set up a FB account, and made friends with people mainly named Jacob Banks. You can do anything. You are brave.

I am brave. The thought is intoxicating.

I call Mom’s cell. It goes to voicemail and I leave her a message. “Don’t come rushing back,” I say. “Stay with Jacob because he needs you. I’m all right. Paige and I are fine here. Honestly we are.”

The house is beginning to close in, so I put on my shoes and a denim jacket as it is too warm for the beautiful furry coat that is hanging up with my name written on its label, and walk down to the seafront. The water is huge and splashy, the clouds low and bruised: I can see a storm approaching from the west, from beyond Newlyn. I turn my back on it and walk away, to the Jubilee Pool, where some people are doing laps and others are just splashing around with dry hair.

There are people sitting at the café drinking coffee, some of them eating pastries or sandwiches. I stop to look. I yearn for Drake. I need him to be walking along here holding my hand.

He thinks I can do anything.

He can’t come to me because of his studying.

I look at a note on my arm. I HAVE A PASSPORT, it says.


When I get home, there is a message on our answering machine from my mother.

“Darling,” she says. “Are you all right? Please call us back again. If you and Paige really are OK, then we will stay a couple more days. But I’m not doing it without speaking to you first. We love you. I so wanted to hear your voice.” Her voice cracks at the end and she hangs up abruptly.

I look at my cell and see there is a missed call from her. I cannot believe I missed the chance to talk to her. My eyes fill with tears, and for a moment I want to go to France so I can hug my family.

I want to go to France, but I want to go to Svalbard more.

Drake would meet me at the other end. I have a passport. And no one is here to stop me.

I call my mother back and carefully say all the right things.

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The One Memory of Flora Banks 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Evelina_AvalinahsBooks More than 1 year ago
Do you know those games? Where you're supposed to imagine you wake up in a room with several items and you're supposed to figure out where you are, who you are and where you're going based on clues? Well, that is Flora's - who is the main character - life, that's her everyday existence. The idea of it is pretty daunting, and the book does a good job of making you feel like you're in this experience. However, it takes an awfully long time to go anywhere - partly because of precisely the same thing - that Flora goes through the same stuff a lot and talks about the same stuff a lot. I know it's supposed to be repetitive to illustrate her condition, but it kind of gets old quite fast. I feel like this book could have been printed on at least half as many pages as it is... this becomes okay about halfway in the book, but before that, you might be tempted to just give up. The good thing is at least that it reads fast, and it won't take you longer than an hour or two to reach the middle of it. However, this book talks about some very serious and important stuff. Like how people who can't fend for themselves often lose their rights because their caretakers make their decisions for them. And that disability shouldn't mean that you should relinquish your rights and not live the way you want. And how easy it is for a person who doesn't adequately understand their surroundings to be taken advantage of by someone. But it's not just about the bad stuff. It's also about the fact that good people who are willing to help a perfect stranger are always around. That as mean and dark as it gets when it comes to humanity, there's light there too. This book also comes with a hearty dose of #FEELS. It's definitely a good choice for people who love reading YA, but if you don't like unreliable narrators or knowing only as much as an amnesia sufferer does, you might not enjoy it.
xokristim More than 1 year ago
This was not the first book I’ve read where the main character has amnesia, I tend to really enjoy these types of books. I noticed that this book stood out from others I have read because it repeated things multiple times, but with a slight difference in wording each time. For example the main character Flora would ask herself the same questions many times over. I found this extremely frustrating. I found the writing style very choppy and hard for me to get a good flow while reading. On the other hand I completely understand the reasoning behind why it is written like this. I saw myself getting very frustrated with the writing style the whole time I was reading. I also found myself getting very annoyed with the main characters obsession with her love interest. I found it above and beyond and extremely frustrating. Overall this book was not for me, The story was sub par in my opinion. I am usually a big fan of books focusing on a character’s amnesia, but not this one. If you don’t mind a repetitive writing style definitely give this book a try.
AReadingRedSox More than 1 year ago
An interesting premise, and there were a lot of good things going on. I loved Flora and the person she became throughout the novel. The ending was a bit "been there done that" and kind of took away from the rest of the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book! It immedietly caught my attention and I knew that I wasn't going to be able to put the book down. Flora is an amazing character and the way she's portrayed is even better. This book made me sad, mad, and confused but all in the most pleasant ways!
Rosemary-Standeven More than 1 year ago
From the opening sentence of this book: “I am at the top of a hill, and although I know I have done something terrible I have no idea what it is” you know that you are in for a treat. Flora Banks is 17. She knows this, because it is written on her hand. She also knows that when she was 10 “a tumour grew in your brain, and when you were eleven surgeons took it out. Part of your memory went with it” because her mother wrote this in her book of memories. Apart from things that happened before the operation, Flora is unable to retain any memory for longer than about an hour. Anything she needs to remember she writes in her book, on her hand or arm, or on post-it notes scattered around. Though she cannot always remember why she needed to write something down. Then suddenly she manages to hold on to a memory for several hours, several days, weeks!!! The memory of when she was kissed by Drake. Her world changes. Unfortunately, Drake was the boyfriend of her best friend, Paige. Now she doesn’t have a best friend, and her parents are away. Flora is 17 years old, with a 17 year old body – but the experience of a 10 year old. If you have no memory, how can you grow up, mature? What is your identity? What do you want from life, and what can you expect? How can you cope when your only anchors to the world have disappeared? Actually, Flora copes amazingly well – so much better than anyone (except her brother) expects. For the last seven years she has built up coping mechanisms – she notices everything around her, and writes notes to herself. Somehow, without a memory, she retains more knowledge than most of us manage with our memory fully intact. What she wants, needs, is Drake, so that she can be with the one she loves and continue to remember. Flora is an innocent abroad, even in her home town. But she brings out the best in virtually everyone, and they all do their utmost to protect and help her. Few would ever consider taking advantage of her disability, so her trust of complete strangers (that is, everyone except her parents and Paige) is generally justified, and with their help she gets to Svalbard. Just ask yourself for a minute, how many normal teenagers could manage that, could they even find it on a map? Perhaps, few normal teenagers have the drive and elemental need that Flora has. Without Drake, Flora may never remember again. Finding him is her one chance at being seen as a regular human being. Flora is exceptional, and you cannot fail to fall in love with her. She will never be a regular human – she is something much more, someone quite amazing. Her story is utterly compelling, and you are with her all the way; whooping at her highs, and distraught at her lows. Few books can grab hold of your emotions as completely as this one. Flora’s outlook on life is a lesson for everyone: “Live in the moment whenever you can. You don’t need a memory for that”. I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
MsArdychan More than 1 year ago
Told in a unique voice, this book was bittersweet, yet satisfying. Please note: I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher. This did not influence my opinions of this review in any way. Many people ask me why I (a person long past her teens) read Young Adult novels. How can a book aimed at teenagers be appealing to me? The answer is easy. Many books of general fiction end on a bleak note, in an attempt to be realistic. I like YA books because, even in the grimmest of circumstances, they offer hope. The One Memory of Flora Banks, by Emily Barr, tackles tough topics but ends on an optimistic note. It is told with an original voice, and raises troubling questions about how we treat people with disabilities. I finished this book a week ago, yet I am still thinking about it. What I Liked: Narrative Style: The book is told completely in Flora's voice. At times, the reader is confused, just as Flora is. The narrative bounces from past to present. Flora sometimes questions what her age is. Is she a ten year-old, or a teenager? Flora has a life-altering event happen when she is ten years old. Did this leave her with the mind of a ten year-old forever? At times, reading this book was a challenge, due to the relentless repetition of facts that Flora must recite every time her mind resets. But this also gave me great empathy towards Flora. Flora has words written on her arm that say, "Flora, Be Brave", and she is, facing uncertainty and confusion every few hours. Never the less, she persisted... Characters: Flora goes from confused to bold then back to confused every few hours. This gets seriously worse as she stops taking her medications. I loved how, despite her own immediate problems, Flora is concerned for other people. She loves and worries about her brother in Paris, and is heartbroken that she may have betrayed her best friend, Paige. This shows Flora is an amazing person who will only become more astonishing if she can get better. I also loved Paige, and Flora's brother, Jacob. They both love Flora and want her to make a fuller recovery. Flora's parents were well written. Even though I understood why they did certain things, I hated how they treated Flora. Without giving too much away, I think the mother should be prosecuted for abuse! The mistreatment isn't obvious, but it is devastating to Flora. Minor Characters: I love books where there are many smaller characters that are fully realized. This attention to detail fleshes out a scene to reveal that there are interesting people everywhere, if you just take the time to see them. As Flora is constantly relearning her environment, she is the perfect person to encounter. She is completely in the moment, and people respond to that. I loved it! Individual dignity: As a person who works with students with disabilities, I am keenly aware of how I must work to maintain each student's personal dignity. This can happen in small ways (not speaking about the student as though they aren't there), to significant ways (appreciating how the student is on any particular day). I am there to help him or her access her education. I am not out to change a student to fit my needs. Someone needs to clue Flora's parents into these things! I was livid with how she was being treated by them!!! I hope that anyone reading this book will come away with this messege: Everyone should be treated with respect. Everyone's voice should be listened to.
book_junkee More than 1 year ago
I'm a sucker for an unreliable narrator, but couple that with a Memento-like premise and I was sold. I liked Flora well enough. She is in an odd situation and the majority of her actions are based on that. At times it was trying to be in her head because it was so so so repetitive, but it was an effective way to tell the story. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about parts of the plot. Namely the Drake parts. The ending was definitely interesting, but infuriating at the same time. Partially because I've seen it before. And yes, I'm being vague on purpose. Overall, it was an interesting and quick read. **Huge thanks to Philomel for providing the arc free of charge**
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely adored Flora and cheered her on throughout this book!