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Sunflowers in February by Phyllida Shrimpton – Book Review

Synopsis

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?

Author

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.

Making the Invisible Visible – Mental Health in Comic Form – Book Reviews 


Today I want to talk about three cartoon/graphic books that each explore the experience of mental health. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh, It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot and Night Shift by Debi Gliori. 

The first two books don’t only share bright yellow covers but have a similar style with rather unusual looking characters. The images in Hyperbole and a Half are in colour whereas It’s All Absolutely Fine contains line drawings in black on white. 

I’m pretty sure you will have seen Allie Brian’s images shared as memes on social media. Two chapters within the book focus explicitly on Depression although other topics such as Dogs are also covered. This is a funny book with a good balance between the images and textual story linking them. 


It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot (RubyETC) I only know about because of YALC this year and I picked up a signed copy. Every now and then there is some prose discussing the images in that section with the images then left to their own devices. This is much more ‘individual comic image’ style. I found her prose particularly insightful though. 


Night Shift is different to the other two being more poetic in nature. It’s a beautiful midnight blue clothbound hardback and the images inside are muted greyscale with the very occasional flash of colour. 


It is a story of depressive episodes that uses the metaphor of a dragon as a formidable opponent. Debi both wrote and illustrated the book and in one picture even talks about the difficulty of using words to describe the experience. Her combined use of words and images are a powerful exploration of thoughts and feelings as well as reminder of how episodes might start. 


I’m sure I’ve mentioned my own experiences with depression before. These three books each spoke to my experience. Not perhaps all of it because we are each different but aspects definitely helped me to feel less alone and that there are others that get it. 

Each book also includes little hints at hope and recovery/living with.

Two are more comic comics, one is more melancholic but beautifully illustrated and perhaps slightly more real. But also maybe one to read when you are feeling stronger and ready to fight your dragons. 

Please note I was provided with a copy of Night Shift from the publisher Hot Key but all opinions are my own. 

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