Sunflowers in February by Phyllida Shrimpton – Book Review
Lily wakes up one crisp Sunday morning on the side of the road. She has no idea how she got there. It is only when a police car arrives, and she sees her own body, that she realises she is in fact …dead.
But nobody can see or hear her, however hard she tries. So what is she supposed to do next? Then Lily is given a once-in-a-deathtime opportunity. Will she take it?
Phyllida Shrimpton is a full-time mother of a teenage daughter and currently lives in Essex with her husband, their rescued Newfoundland and a small badly behaved Jack Russell.
She achieved a postgraduate degree in Human Resource Management, but soon jumped ship to work with teenagers, including students with Asperger’s syndrome, on an Essex-based agricultural college farm before eventually moving to live temporarily in the Netherlands. She is also an artist. Sunflowers in February is her first novel.
What I Thought
Crikey. Those opening scenes were pretty hard to read but Lily’s confusion and growing realisation of what has happened was so tangible.
In the early part of the book Lily is bounced around from person to person when they are thinking of her. She lacks agency – not surprisingly – and again it was difficult to read about the grief of those whose lives she is now absent from. There are a few different characters’ perspectives explored including the person who is responsible for Lily’s hit-and-run death. Someone a lot closer to home than you’d think.
I had total Ghost (the Patrick Swayze film) flashbacks at points throughout this story especially with the medium character, although One Shoe Sue actually is more credible.
The scenes where Lily first wake up in a boy’s body reminded me a little of Every Day by David Levithan and the Changers series. I have to admit to being frustrated with her taking over the other person’s life but then again it’s also understandable. She died at 15, her life is simply unfinished – she wants more time. Who wouldn’t.
I loved the exploration of the familial relationships most of all with Lily’s parents and brother being the most prominent of the other characters included. Teendom is a time when family relations can be quite fraught and this reminder to be kind to and make time for each other is important. Actually a useful reminder generally in this fast paced world.
I thought the book did very well to not go too much down the religious track when exploring the concept of life after death because I do think sadly that might have put me off a little. There was definitely some take away messages that were emotive but not overly schmaltzy.
One slight criticism I have is that I felt the concept of drink driving was perhaps not considered as negatively as it should be and in one case accepted as kind of inevitable.
I did get a little confused towards the end about when the book was actually going to end but that may have been because I was reading through tears and had to put the book down a number of times to make sure I could see! 😭 I definitely got over my frustration with Lily and she did develop to the extent that I was left hoping for a ridiculous and unobtainable proper happy ending although the ending itself was satisfying. As I said afterwards – I’m not crying. You’re crying! I dare you not to.
Let’s Talk Funerals and Bucket Lists in YA
What are some of the most emotional funeral scenes in YA Books that you’ve read?
Personally I think John Green pulls a corker in The Fault in Our Stars. I think the concept of actually being there to hear your own eulogy is so emotive. Phyllida also captures this here.
A bit morbid but reading this has actually got me thinking about how I’d like my funeral to be. Might make some plans. Gosh turning 40 is such a downer 😂😂 Have you ever thought about what you would like to happen at your funeral?
I have had a bucket list page on my blog for a while – must update it actually – and think it’s important that we take time to tick things off and stop putting things off. What would be on yours?
Thanks to Hot Key Books for the copy I received for the purpose of this honest review.