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Review: Emily Barr’s The One Memory of Flora Banks, Melanie J. Fishbane’s Maud and Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland’s Spill Zone

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The One Memory of Flora Banks

By Emily Barr

Penguin Teen, 304 pages, $21.99

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Flora Banks was diagnosed with a brain tumour when she was 10 years old. After it was removed, she developed anterograde amnesia, a condition that makes her memory "reset" every few hours. The only memories she can hold onto are from childhood, and Flora normally has to rely on extensive notes, phone photos and Post-its to remind herself of who she is. That is until, when she's 17 years old, Drake kisses her on the beach – a moment she can remember with crystal clarity. Yes, there's a kiss, but this is really not a love story – it's deeper, darker and much more complex. Even though Flora's memory constantly resets, the plot is totally immersive and British author Emily Barr throws in some breathtaking twists. Although she seems like the ultimate unreliable narrator, Flora ends up being the most honest and trustworthy character in the entire story.

Maud: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery

By Melanie J. Fishbane

Penguin Teen, 400 pages, $22.99

It's hard not to search for Anne Shirley nuggets in this historical novel about the teenage years of Canadian literary treasure L.M. Montgomery. While Anne exists because of Montgomery, we likely wouldn't know Montgomery's name in 2017 if not for Anne. The parallels between the two are certainly there, but this is not Green Gables. Toronto author Melanie J. Fishbane meticulously researched Montgomery's life for this novel and while the author's note explicitly says, "This is not biography," its slower pace and emphasis on details make it read just like one. There's a wide cast of characters – almost 60 names to remember – which works for an epic fantasy, but bogs down historical fiction about a free-spirited Canadian teenager. This isn't a deal breaker, but don't expect any Anne-level high jinks.

Spill Zone

By Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland

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First Second, 224 pages, $32.99

Scott Westerfeld wrote the bestselling Uglies series that helped kick off the dystopia trend more than a decade ago. Now, he's teamed up with Dreamworks animator Alex Puvilland for his first graphic novel. Spill Zone tells the story of a mysterious, cataclysmic disaster that wipes out most of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. It's unclear what exactly the disaster is: aliens? Radioactivity? Physics gone wrong? Objects hover in mid-air, mutant beasts run rampant and zombie-like former humans (or "meat puppets") hang everywhere. Puvilland's art is a trippy, hallucinatory nightmare, as if Alice in Wonderland is marinated in LSD. Readers see it all through the eyes of Addison, a brave orphan heroine who sneaks into the quarantined city to take photographs to sell the collectors. This is the first instalment in a new series worthy of following to the end.

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