Tag Archives: diverse

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr
Published in January 2017 by Penguin.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Penguin for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA contemporary.

My rating:

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.

The One Memory of Flora Banks is a strange, claustrophobic story. Flora has a medical condition that prevents her new memories from sticking, so she forgets everything that happens to her almost instantly. Her overprotective parents understandably hover over her every move and her friends (especially her best friend Paige) help her by explaining things to her when she gets confused.

Flora writes everything in her journals, takes photos with her phone, and writes messages for herself on her arms so that when she finds herself lost and blank, she can read everything she’s written and find her way again. When you think about it, it’s a horrifying condition that makes me anxious just by thinking about it. I had a brief moment of unease when I was reading it because I imagined not remembering my kids – my mind is the most valuable thing I have and not being able to rely on it is deeply scary for me.

Flora’s last memories before the illness that caused her condition were of her being ten years old, so she’s basically a child in a young woman’s body. But she has wishes and thoughts of a teenager, too, and ends up kissing her friend’s ex-boyfriend on the night of his departure for Svalbard (he’s going to study there). The next morning, she wakes up and, inexplicably, remembers the kiss.

Convinced the boy will help her fix her memory and left alone in the house because her parents left to visit her older brother, whom she barely remembers, she packs up her things, buys a plane ticket, and travels right to Svalbard, though she has to keep checking her journal because she keeps forgetting what she’s doing. It’s a mad plan concocted by someone who is not thinking very clearly, but it’s also the bravest thing she could do, because she’s so very alone.

This is all I’m saying about the plot. I liked the story, I liked the plot twist, and even though the thought of being/becoming like Flora made my stomach clench painfully, I enjoyed reading about Flora’s thought processes. I’ve never read a story with a similar mental problem before – sure, you get amnesia, which is also scary AF, but is usually not permanent in the way Flora’s condition seems to be. Flora is also a cool young lady, though it was difficult to really get to know her, especially since she’s both a child and a young adult, and has very little sense of self apart from the journals she keeps.

The mystery surrounding Flora’s condition, her brother’s messages, hidden and confusing, the bright light of summertime Svalbard – all the elements are geared towards creating a slightly paranoid, claustrophobic environment that complements Flora’s sense of disorientation quite perfectly. I think Barr did very well with writing the right atmosphere for Flora’s story.

What bothered me is actually an inherent part of the story: the constant repetition of known facts. Every time Flora’s memory is lost, she goes over the basics – how old she is, what she’s doing, who she’s with, etc. As this happens multiple times a day, reading about it can become slightly tedious, though I then felt like an asshole for begrudging Flora her repetitions. I don’t know if the author could have done things differently without hammering home the effect of Flora’s memory loss, but I thought the constant litany of basic facts became too stretched out.

It’s also hard to imagine how this story would actually go down in real life. This is a contemporary story, which usually means: “Hey, this could happen any day, right around the corner.” I’m exaggerating, but you know what I mean. I just think that overprotective parents would not leave such a confused child on her own (even if her best friend promised she’d check on her). She was still a minor and prone to wandering off. Also, how did nobody at the airport(s) notice her strange behaviour? How did she get all the way to Svalbard without attracting the attention of officials? Eh, I don’t know. I just had trouble believing everything.

All in all (wow, this review is longer than I thought, thanks for sticking with me!), this was a good contemporary story about disability, friendship, and bravery, with a twist of mystery thrown in. I’d recommend it if you’re intrigued by her condition, which was superbly rendered, and like a bit of ominous anticipation in your contemporaries.

Have you read The One Memory of Flora Banks? What did you think?

Can you recommend any books with similarly intriguing mental problems (OK I know that sounds horrible when I put it like that but you know what I mean)?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
Published in October 2016 by Thomas Dunne.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Thomas Dunne for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA magical realism.

My rating:

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

srcek

When the Moon Was Ours is Anna-Marie’s second novel – I also reviewed her debut, The Weight of Feathers, which I enjoyed a lot. I can say without a doubt that I’ll be reading whatever she writes next because frankly, her writing is beautiful.

When the Moon Was Ours is a book that made me think. It stayed with me for weeks after I’d finished it and it got me to consider questions and topics I’ve never really thought about before, so even if everything else was shit, I’d cherish it for that alone.

Of course, everything else wasn’t shit – I really liked her style. I guess it might be too flowery and full of comparisons for some people, but I mentioned liking Anna-Marie’s writing in my review of The Weight of Feathers already. The fact that she writes magical realism, where the main character, Miel, has roses growing from her wrist, combines perfectly with the unusual metaphors and an almost too-rich language. Her writing is what I imagine synesthesia to be like: a burst of colours, sounds, and flavours.

I loved the characters as well. They were wonderfully diverse and while the outlandish elements of the genre might have made them seem weird (there are four sisters, for example, who basically function as one four-bodied organism – it’s strange), they are surprisingly relatable.

Miel, who lives with her relative Aracely, is an orphan with some bad, repressed memories. She came to live in the town after she was found in the old abandoned water tower (I know, it sounds weird) and her wrist-roses change colour depending on her mood. Super cool.

Sam, the other half of the main couple, is a transgender boy. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with transgender characters before and I really have no way of judging if the representation is accurate – but I think it might be. Very much so, in fact, because the author’s husband is a transgender man and it seems like this topic is incredibly personal to her. The book deals with the topic in this gentle way, but it’s pretty damn eye-opening, too.

All things considered, When the Moon Was Ours is a strong story with important issues and loveable characters. It’s a standalone, which is another plus, and I think it’s well worth reading.

srcek

Have you read When the Moon Was Ours? What did you think?

Do you have any magical realism recommendations for me?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria
Published on October 11, 2016 by Amulet Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Amulet Books for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA historical urban fantasy.

My rating:

It’s Boston, 1919, and the Cast Iron club is packed. On stage, hemopaths—whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art—captivate their audience. Corinne and Ada have been best friends ever since infamous gangster Johnny Dervish recruited them into his circle. By night they perform for Johnny’s crowds, and by day they con Boston’s elite. When a job goes wrong and Ada is imprisoned, they realize how precarious their position is. After she escapes, two of the Cast Iron’s hires are shot, and Johnny disappears. With the law closing in, Corinne and Ada are forced to hunt for answers, even as betrayal faces them at every turn.

srcek

Iron Cast was one of those impulse requests on NetGalley that usually turn out to be horrible – but I am very, very glad I let myself be pulled in by this gorgeous cover.

This is the story of two best friends, Corrine and Ada. I’ve recently talked about friends and cited this novel as a good example of a bookish friendship – and I stand by this. These two young women are an unlikely pair but I think their relationship is what made the book for me. I loved their loyalty, their willingness to sacrifice their own safety for the other, their acceptance of the other’s flaws (but not blind acceptance, mind you). This is what true friendship is about and I loved how Soria portrayed them.

As characters, Corrine and Ada are very interesting. They are both hemopaths – their “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to manipulate people’s emotions and create illusions through words and music – but their gifts are very different. Corrine, a daughter of an important and wealthy family, is headstrong, impulsive, and often too brash; Ada, a girl shunned not just for her ability but for her dark skin, is calm, thoughtful, and steadfast. I liked the contrast between their personalities, I think they worked very well together.

The supporting characters were well-fleshed out, too – I enjoyed their stories and the fact that I never knew who to trust, who to like. I’m not entirely sure whether this is meant to be the first part of a series but the story, while featuring a perfectly good ending, definitely made me wish for more. I hope Soria will continue Corrine and Ada’s story.

loved the world and the worldbuilding. The pre-Prohibition era isn’t a historical period I know well – it certainly isn’t very common in literature, at least I haven’t read a lot of books in set in that time period (I can only think of The Great Gatsby, which I hated). It wasn’t just about the dresses and the illegal clubs, though, Soria did her homework well and created a rich environment where the glitzy high society meets the underbelly of the city. The asylum brings a note of horror to the story (but not too much, it was fine for me and I’m a huge chicken when it comes to horror).

The magical system was very interesting as well – art as magic is a fantastic idea, especially since we have different types of hemopaths that use words, music, painting for their illusions and manipulations. The ethical implications of such abilities were very intriguing, too, and I liked that Soria took the time to explore them.

All in all, this is a really good novel. As far as I can tell, this is Soria’s debut – and you can be sure I’ll be on the lookout for her next novel, whether it’s a sequel to this one or something else entirely.

srcek

Have you read Iron Cast? What did you think?

Do you have any recs for books set in the same time period?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.