So a few weeks (months? I can’t remember!) Hot Key Books put out a blogger call for their mailing list, and having signed up like a shot, a blogger call out email duly arrived, for Sunflowers in February, the debut book by Phyllida Shrimpton. Obviously I was not going to pass up this opportunity, especially because the book sounds fascinating – Lily wakes up at the side of the road, only to realise she’s dead. It maybe didn’t quite live up to its potential for me, for reasons I shall go into shortly, but it was still a highly enjoyable book.
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 see 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 yet achingly sad debut novel from a stunning new talent.
First things first, you can’t really tell in that picture, but the cover is gorgeous. The blue petals are foiled and it’s a lovely, shiny and bright cover. I love the effort publishers are putting in to their covers recently.
As to what I thought of the content, well, like I said above, I did enjoy it. The relationships, particularly between Lily and Ben, really came through, and I liked the little snippets we got from other people’s points of view. I also liked how we saw that grief affects different people in different ways, particularly in the way Lily’s parents each reacted to her death. I did think we found out a bit too soon who was responsible for Lily’s death, and I’m not sure we ever got real closure on that aspect, but that was never the main point of the book (in my opinion anyway).
My biggest problem was that sometimes the writing was a bit childish and simple. It felt like it hadn’t quite worked out which demographic it was aiming at, and I think older teenagers would be disappointed in the writing style if they picked it up. Also, Lily could be incredibly annoying, even taking into account the trauma she’s just been through. I mean, she knows Ben has to come back eventually, but she continues to make him look ridiculous, instead of just staying out of the way. Of course, the book couldn’t exist if she just stayed out of the way, but she could have been a little more aware of the effect she was having on his life! My last negative is that the epilogue just didn’t work for me. I do think there needed to be something there, I’m just not sure that epilogue was it, but I don’t want to say more because of spoilers.
All in all, Sunflowers in February is a good book, but not a great one. It has some great ideas and a very realistic depiction of a sibling relationship, but it loses its way a little bit in the middle, which is a real shame. It is a debut though, and I’m definitely happy to give Phyllida Shrimpton’s next book a go!
ARC received from the publisher, Hot Key Books, in exchange for an honest review.