Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks

Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2/5)

*Review includes major spoilers*

Flora has anterograde amnesia. She can’t remember anything past a few hours and relies on the scribbles on her hand and the people around her. Until she kisses a boy, she shouldn’t and remembers it. But he’s gone now, and that’s all she can remember.

Oh, how do I feel about this? A large part of me was enjoying this book, to begin with despite the rather odd plot, but overall, I didn’t care for this. I kind of feel bad since it was pretty intriguing, but so much little things irked me that when stacked up, my reading experience wasn’t very good.

With a plot like this, it is no doubt very repetitive, and for some, it can be boring. I quite like it in a sense with the stop and start motions. It’s practically a collection of mini-stories where Flora has to repeat herself constantly. I think that part was done in a way that it didn’t feel completely lacking for me. On her hands are the words “Be brave,” and she is an impressive character to do what she does which such bravery.

I know suspension of disbelief is crucial to read this book, especially with this plot, but there’s a lot that I couldn’t just ignore. Like how Flora’s parents think it’s okay to leave their daughter with her best friend for a week. Sure, Paige knows what to do, but that’s a lot of responsibility to place on her. And I wasn’t even mad when Paige said her mum didn’t agree with it because it’s true, you don’t leave her amnesiac daughter with her only friend for a week. How social service did not catch wind of that is beyond me.

Paige isn’t off the hook either since Flora kisses Paige’s ex-boyfriend and, fair enough, she’s upset. It’s normal to be upset when your best friend kisses your boyfriend. But it’s even more reckless to not stay with Flora when she had already agreed with Flora’s parents. Like she just doesn’t even tell Flora’s parents that she’s not coming. Like, WHAT. Putting your friend’s life at risk was just SO BAD. In the end, Paige does what’s right, but it was still unsettling how she knowingly left her friend in danger for the sake of her own empowerment.

Also, Flora’s brother! He’s very much an enigma throughout the novel, whose real story doesn’t come to light until the very last chapters. And that was so disappointing. HE DESERVED BETTER.

Drake doesn’t deserve so much as a couple of lines. I don’t think it was appropriate to have a 19-year-old boy go after a 17-year-old girl who amnesia makes her still think she’s ten-years-old. Fuck that dude.

I’ll stand by this final point. The book should’ve ended where it began. It had Everything, everything vibes and where it ends is where the story becomes more interesting. We learn that Flora’s parents lied about the cause of her amnesia and they’re too scared to let her grow, so they give her drugs which make her more controllable. It ends with Flora learning that her amnesia could go away and leaving her parents to begin discovering herself. A story from there would’ve been more interesting. Or better, a better plot would’ve been replacing boyfriend with brother. Like, Flora remembers a memory of her brother and goes in search of him despite her parent’s disapproval. Honestly, anything apart from having to read about creepy Drake would’ve been worth my time.

Overall, this book followed the wrong parts, in my opinion. There’s so much to Flora that could’ve been uncovered more, but we got stuck with the love plot instead.


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Review: Does My Head Look Big In This?

Review: Does My Head Look Big In This?

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

Amal is sixteen when she decides to wear the hijab full time. But she soon faces trouble at her exclusive prep school. Suddenly, everyone seems to have an opinion on her. And as she begins navigating her last years of secondary school, she must find herself without losing her identity.

I think regarding the representation of a hijabi teen, it’s actually quite good. Amal reminds me of my cousin who is actually her age right now. The high school drama, the catty people, and the confusion that comes with growing up are portrayed quite realistically. When she comes to school wearing the hijab, everyone’s confused, and because they’re all children, it’s natural to ask questions. I only say this because a lot of reviews tend to call this part unrealistic. Amal is, at first, outcasted momentarily because they didn’t understand, and she then actually helps and informs her peers. Sure, there’s a lot of scenes that come across unrealistic, but her experiences are entirely valid, and loads of reviews haven’t really grasped that, once you consider the time it’s set in and location. Quite a lot of what Amal experiences were quite familiar to me.

Amal is very well-spoken, confident, and incredibly charming. I was rather proud at this young Muslim girl, who also wears the hijab, and was confident in her decision to do so. I don’t think I even had a shred of her self-confidence at this age.

I listened to the audiobook, so I don’t know what it’s like reading the book, but I felt like I had some issue differentiating some characters. She has like four friends, and along with huge dialogue dumps, it felt all the same. I’m not sure if that’s just the narrator’s voice. There’s also a reliance on a lot of typical stereotypes, and there’s a lot of phrases that are used that just didn’t sit with me. Also, sorry to Amal, I couldn’t see she liked Adam so much. But you do you, I guess. I actually preferred Amal and Adam as a friend. There was also a good potential for an arc with one of Amal’s friends who is often bullied for her weight. I was holding onto something more empowering, but I don’t think the book really hit the mark there. Amal and Leila’s polar opposite arcs can come across as being typical but do partially agree about having something more in the middle. Also, mean girl who is mean and nothing else was a bit boring.

Considering when this book first came out, I have to give Randa Abdel-Fattah a massive amount of respect. Don’t expect this book to teach you everything about Islam, it’s merely one girl’s story, one where’s she learning. It does come across preachy at some moments, but in the end, Amal realises her mistakes and begins to show that she’s learning and growing, which is what I really liked.

Overall, it’s a somewhat entertaining book, and very hilarious at many moments. Regarding recommending, I’m not too sure. If I had read this ten years ago, the list of Muslims in YA wouldn’t have reached half a page, then sure, but reading it in 2019 is a much different experience. But it’s a straightforward book to listen to. A light-hearted journey of identity and discovering one’s self.


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Review: Furthermore

Review: Furthermore

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

In Ferenwood, colour is everything, but Alice Queensmeadows is devoid of it all. And that makes her different, outcasted, even in her own family. Three years after her father’s disappearance, the only person who believed in her, Alice joins a journey into the perils of Furthermore to find him.

Alice hides in her colourful clothes and bangles. And with her upcoming Surrender, the ceremony in which the younger generation of Ferenwood are given a role based on their magical abilities. Alice’s Surrender goes wrong which leads her to join Oliver through the world of Furthermore.

Alice has no choice but to team up with a past friend, Oliver, who is given the job to find her father. And he needs her help. Oliver takes her to Furthermore, a rule changing world, where one mistake will have you lost forever. Oliver is a gifted and strict while Alex is reckless and free-spirited. They begin at odds, but their friendship is forged quite quickly as they face fast-paced adversity. The way they bounce off each other was rather exciting. Their friendship was adorable, and I really enjoyed their development.

This is a fantastic Middle-grade read! I wish something like this existed when I was ten and discovering fantasy. While I fumbled with the world-building at first, the visuals are rather captivating. This book deserves its own graphic novel. The current cover is enough to justify it. It’s very adventurous, with its twisted logic, and Alice’s inner journey of self-love and friendship is fantastic.

Like I said, the world building was a bit confusing, to begin with, it makes more sense in the end, but I would’ve appreciated more clarity in the beginning. But the setting is so unique and thrilling. The eccentricity of all it all was somewhat entertaining. Mixed with its oddity of background characters, there is a lot to love in this book. I’m slightly disappointed in myself that kept putting this book off because I was not a massive fan of Tahereh’s Shatter Me series. I had learnt that quite a lot of other people shared this sentiment which I can now say, give Furthermore a shot, even if you didn’t like Shatter Me.

Overall, Furthermore is impressive. A story of loss and recovery, one of Tahereh’s more unique novels which show Alice and Oliver negotiate the harsh landscape of Furthermore and discover more about themselves. It’s fun, vibrant and imaginative! A definitely recommended read, especially for younger readers.


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Year of the Asian Reading Challenge – Sign Up Post! #YARC2019

Year of the Asian Reading Challenge – Sign Up Post! #YARC2019

Some pretty cool people (more specifically Lily, Shealea, Vicky and CW) have come together to host a reading challenge to celebrate Asian literature. The aim of this challenge is to read as many books written by Asian authors.

In order for a book to count, it must be started and finished within 2019. I really enjoy how laid back this challenge is and for someone like me, whose time available to read/blog fluctuates very easily, it’s often really difficult to participate in reading challenges. I’ve already planned to read more books by Asian authors but I thought it would be cool to join this challenge and document the books I do find! There’s no set number of books to read, just levels to reach which depend on how many books you end up reading!

I really like how all the levels are based on different animals in Asia. I initially got brave and thought I will be able to hit the Bengali tiger level, which is reading more than 50 books, but then I had to take into account university assignments and life, in general, so I’m aiming for the Malayan tapir level, which is to read around 31-40 books.

Green and blue award badge with a Malaya Tapir in the center, and with three gold stars above the award.
My journal spread for #YARC2019!

I’ll be updating my main progress on Twitter! You can follow me @zaheerahkhalik if you’re interested! If you’re interested in joining too, here’s one of the official sign-up posts.

Review: All The Lonely People

Review: All The Lonely People

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2.5/5)

*I received a copy via the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

When Kat becomes the target of an alt-right smear campaign, she has no choice but to erase her entire online presence. Suddenly, Kat is fading, and only The Lonely People know what to do. Wesley realises that people are forgetting Kat and he has to help her, even if he was partially responsible for it. 

I think what was best about this book was the portrayal of the toxic parts of the internet. These people who spew negative, hateful things into the world have solid fan bases, often young kids. Kat is one of the newest victims of a right-wing YouTuber who enables his fanbase to act violently, to hack into her website, her safe space, and completely violate her privacy.
Kat’s entire arc was the story for me. She’s created this online side of herself where she’s free to speak about anything she wants. She discusses fandom positivity and the beauty of the internet. And then it’s gone, and she had to work with Safa, a fellow faded person, to discover what to do next. Her chapters were more interesting to read. 

Welsey is a part of the boys who look up to these YouTubers, act on their behalf on these so-called man-hating feminists who want to get rid of them. He’s very much aware that what he’s doing is terrible, and what was irritating was how he never really owns up to what he’s done. He often blames his surroundings, his upbringing which caused him to find friendship in an alt-right fanbase. Kat seems to be the only person with sense and often calls him out, not outright because no one can interact with a faded person. The ending suggests Wesley works towards becoming a better person. But, personally, I found it difficult to forgive. 

The outright dismissal of online friendships was a downfall as well. Kat essentially fades because once her site is shut down, she has nothing, no other connection to people, therefore begins to fade. It comes across as seeing online relationships as less authentic and not real. And it’s quite dangerous in this book because it does show how real the internet can be, how anyone with a large enough following can have people do their terrible bidding. It’s not as nuanced as the book believes it is. 

All The Lonely People certainly is unique. The notion of fade to represent feeling invisible while discussing online culture in our current digital age is fascinating. It’s a shame I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to. 


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Best books I’ve read in 2018!

Best books I’ve read in 2018!

Today’s post is a recap for some of the books I had enjoyed this year. My top 18 reads of 2018!

I managed to read 102 books this year, and I’m very impressed with myself. I was ridiculously busy with university and work, this year, I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to complete the challenge I set for myself. I usually set my goal around 50 because it’s more attainable for me, and since last year, I had a really bad reading year, I wanted to do better.

I guess I did do better this year since I managed to read more, but I didn’t read differently this year. I want to read more than just Young Adult novels and I want to try going into Adult fiction and other areas of books that I otherwise wouldn’t have touched. But I was set back a lot by university which meant I just ended up reading what I requested on NetGalley or my backlist. But I do want to branch out for 2019 and read more differently and diversely.

So, without further ado, my top 18 reads of 2018! (In no particular order!)

  1. The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf

A music-loving teen with OCD does everything she can to find her way back to her mother during the historic race riots in 1969 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this heart-pounding literary debut.

All I can say for now is: Emotional and stunning. I’m part of the blog tour for this in February so catch my review and playlist for this book then!

  • A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

I know I said I didn’t have an exactly number one favourite this year, but Expanse is the one that hit the highest. I wasn’t exactly impressed by the Shatter Me series, at least, not until the latest release, but Expanse blew me away. For years, I hadn’t touched anything Tahereh Mafi wrote because I didn’t like Shatter Me when it first came out. But this book changed everything. I adore Tahereh on social media, but now I’m a huge fan of her work. | my review

  • Sadie by Courtney Summers

A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she’s left behind.

This book was pure greatness. It was so much fun to read, especially the audiobook, since it plays out like a podcast as well. Part mystery, part drama. All round pretty good read. | my review

  • Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility

Schwab has been on my to-read list for years. Even before I started this blog, and I finally managed to find time to read at least one of her books this year and I’m glad it was Vicious. It was such a surprise to read and so much fun. I never wanted to not stop reading a book as much as this one. | my review

Continue reading “Best books I’ve read in 2018!”