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Book Review

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

When Flora Banks was 10, her family had a horrific car accident. Her only clear memories now, as a 17-year-old, are of the years before the crash. Sometimes she can only recall events for a few minutes. She writes messages to herself on her arms to remind her where she is and what she’s doing. One message tattooed on her arm reminds her to be brave. She doesn’t remember how it got there.

Her childhood friend Paige remains in her life. Flora finds herself at a going away party for Paige’s boyfriend, Drake, who has decided to study in the Arctic. After the party, Flora runs into Drake on the beach. He tells her he’s always liked her and kisses her passionately. He invites her to spend the night with him, but she reminds him her mother will be looking for her.

Drake apologizes, and they part ways. The moment has been so profound for Flora that she remembers it the next day. She relives the kiss again and again in her head, writes it down in story form and decides she loves Drake. She still can’t retain any other information, but the fact that she has one recent memory gives her hope.

Shortly after the kiss, Flora’s brother in Paris becomes deathly ill with kidney cancer. Flora’s parents quickly arrange for Paige to stay with Flora at their English home, while they visit Jacob. Just before they leave, Paige reads notes Flora has written to herself about kissing Drake.

Paige is angry and refuses to stay with Flora, although she doesn’t tell Flora’s parents. When Flora’s parents leave, Flora finds herself living on her own for several weeks. She writes herself notes so she’ll be reminded of her parents' whereabouts when she wakes each day.

Despite some struggles, she manages to survive fairly well. She begins exchanging emails with Drake. They say they love each other, and he says he wants to have sex with her. His messages eventually suggest they should cut off the relationship because she can’t be there with him.

Flora decides to travel to Svalbard and find him. Leaving herself numerous notes and using the credit card her parents have left, Flora books the trip. She accidentally leaves her medicine at home. In her attempt to locate Drake, she experiences the beauty of a new part of the world and meets many interesting people. Flora hasn’t told Drake she’s coming because she wants to surprise him. He’s stopped answering messages so she can’t get his address. While Flora is in the Arctic, she texts her parents so they think she’s safe in England with Paige.

When Flora finally finds Drake’s home, she discovers he’s having an affair with an older woman. He tells Flora she’s crazy and shouldn’t have come. He insists he never communicated with her by email, and she shows him the emails they exchanged. It’s quickly obvious by looking at the email thread that she wrote the entire conversation herself. When Flora realizes this, she is stunned by what she’s done. Drake also tells her he never kissed her the night of the party.

Some of the kind residents Flora has met in Svalbard contact her father. He comes to bring her home. Paige makes up with Flora once she's returned to England. Paige has discovered a photo that proves Drake did kiss Flora the night of the party. This shows that Flora’s memory of that night is legitimate. Drake had tried to take advantage of Flora because he thought she’d forget the incident.

Jacob dies, and Flora receives a long letter from him, via his boyfriend, explaining the truth about her memory loss. While she’d always been told it was a medical problem, Jacob says her memory loss was the result of a crash. Their mother was driving.

Jacob also received injuries that left him scarred. Jacob says their mother’s guilt led her to be overprotective and fearful. He says he doesn’t believe Flora needs the numbing medicine that their parents make her take, especially if she can travel on her own and even retain a memory.

He gives her the name of a neurologist in Paris that he hopes she will visit once she becomes a legal adult. He has contacted Paige, who will start swapping out Flora’s medication with sugar pills. Then, if and when Flora is old enough and ready, Paige will help her travel to Paris to see Dr. Epstein.

Flora and Paige eventually go to Paris. Flora agrees to let the doctor treat her and feels hopeful. According to Jacob’s letter, she had run away to visit him in Paris a few years earlier. At that time, he’d introduced her to Dr. Epstein. Jacob had also helped her get the tattoo reminding her to be brave.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Flora walks into a church, hoping that some god or other will help her out. Another time, she says the universe would be amused by humans’ efforts to organize days, if the universe could be bothered enough to notice. Jacob says if there is any form of afterlife, he will be there looking out for Flora.

Authority Roles

Motivated by guilt and fear, Flora’s mother keeps her unnecessarily medicated. Flora’s dad is a loving, supportive father who goes along with his wife, even though he doesn’t entirely agree with her methods. Adults that Flora meets in Svalbard look after her and help her father find her so she can return home.


The Lord’s name is used in vain a number of times. The f-word, s---, h---, b--ch, a--, b--tard and screw also appear a few times. Flora carves Drake’s name into her arm until it bleeds. She goes over and over the letters, and the pain makes her feel alive.


Drake kisses Flora and suggests they spend the night together. Later, Flora writes emails to and from Drake, not realizing she is creating the entire discussion herself. In her conversations, they often talk about seeing each other naked and having sex. Drake is having an affair with an older woman in the Arctic. Jacob’s boyfriend, Jacques, sends Jacob’s letter to Flora.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Drinking: Flora writes notes on her arms to remind herself not to drink alcohol. Sometimes she ignores them and does it anyway to fit in with others.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

14 to 18


Emily Barr






Record Label



Philomel Books, an imprint of Random House LLC


On Video

Year Published





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