PUBLISHER: Hot Key
GENRE: Young Adult Contemporary
Lily has died in a car accident. The trouble is, Lily’s really not at all sure she wants to ‘move on’ . . . This funny, heartbreaking novel is perfect if you loved John Green or The Lovely Bones. Lily wakes up one crisp Sunday morning on the side of the road. She has no idea how she got there. It is all very peaceful. And very beautiful. It is only when the police car, and then the ambulance, arrive and she sees her own body that she realises that she is in fact . . . dead. But what is she supposed do now? Lily has no option but to follow her body and she sees her family – her parents and her twin brother – start falling apart. And then her twin brother Ben gives her a once in a deathtime opportunity – to use his own body for a while. But will Lily give Ben his body back? She is beginning to have a rather good time . . . A moving, startlingly funny and yet achingly sad debut novel from a stunning new talent.
Sunflowers in February is a simply stunning debut; it tackles a topic not often found in YA in this capacity and is written from a unique perspective that’s surprisingly realistic. Lily is such an engaging character that you can’t help but want to keep turning each and every page to find out what’s going to happen next.
A key aspect of Sunflowers in February is the idea of moving past grief, and how, whilst this “missing piece really does ruin the overall picture of the puzzle”, life moves on and it’s important that people do move on and accept that they can get past their grief knowing that life won’t be quite the same. This is such an important message for everyone as, unfortunately, we will all experience grief at some point in our lives and it’s “how we move on that counts”. This is not to suggest that Shrimpton doesn’t show how utterly devastating death can be; she does, but she also shows the process of coming to terms with death.
All of this is not to say that Sunflowers in February makes for a depressing read; it really doesn’t! There were points where I laughed out loud, a key point being during Lily’s funeral where Ben comes out with some of the best lines in the book. I also learnt some scientific facts about hugging – did you know that a twenty second hug releases some kind of bonding hormone?
Ultimately, however, I think that Shrimpton has crafted a book that, whilst about death, is mainly about living. “If only I had the chance to die knowing that I had really lived. Maybe then it wouldn’t be so bad.” It’s about grasping opportunities and not just wasting your days away, about showing people how you truly feel, about how little decisions can have big effects. It’s about not taking things for granted, both big and small; “the irony of death is that you obviously don’t find out what you meant to people until it’s too late.”
This book is full of raw emotion, humour and warmth, with a wide array of characters who all cope with their grief in different ways and are suffering for different reasons. It also makes you realise the importance each and every person has even if they don’t think that they’re valued or needed. Whether or not you have experienced grief, there is something for everyone to take away from this book – we are all significant and we all have our own lives to live.
“Life wasn’t just about living and breathing.”