The class book review: Sunflowers in February

An unflinchingly realistic out-of-body experience

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Sunflowers in February
Phyllida Shrimpton
Hot Key Books
384 pages, £7.99, paperback
ISBN: 9781471406881


Lily stands at the side of a country road, looking down at her own dead body, the victim of a hit and run accident while she walked home in the dark.

What follows is an unflinchingly realistic portrayal of how Lily’s death affects her loved ones – and also the guilt felt by those left behind, particularly for the driver who inadvertently killed her.

Lily, an undetectable presence, helplessly witnesses their suffering and becomes agonisingly aware of all the small delights and pleasures of the life she previously took for granted. When her close bond with her twin brother, Ben, allows her to take over his body, she gets a second chance at life. But will she ever be prepared to give it up?

Sunflowers in February is a multi-tissue read, but it is not a grim or depressing story. It is often very funny – especially when the very feminine Lily tries to function in her brother’s body, with cringe-inducing results.

The characters are believable and likeable. There are no heroes or villains here, just human beings who do their best but sometimes fall short. The pain of loss is tangible, but there is an even stronger sense of the wonder of every day, the resilience of the human spirit and the hope that death is not the end of everything.

This is a bittersweet, sparkling and life-affirming book.

Jackie Murrell is librarian at Bromley High School in Kent. She tweets @LibraryGeek12


Pupil reviews

A reminder to life live to the fullest

‘Shows what it is like to lose someone you love’

I really enjoyed reading Sunflowers in February. I found it very emotional and was crying after a dozen pages. The book really shows the emotions that the characters are feeling.

I think that the book portrays what it is like to lose someone you love – and the guilt of taking somebody away from their family.

I found all of the characters very interesting and I also liked that they all grieved in different ways, because it makes the book feel more real.

Emmanuelle, age 15


‘It speaks of the liberty to be alive’

Sunflowers in February was something I did not quite expect, yet I could not put it down. From beginning to end, it had me hooked because of the emotion I felt for Lily and the deeply moving ending.

I loved reading this book because it speaks of the truth and the liberty to be alive.

The story is about a 16-year-old girl, Lily Richardson, killed in a terrible accident. Or was it really an accident? Lily finds herself waking up to something very unfamiliar. She realises she is dead and her life is over.

The book is about a young girl putting all her jigsaw puzzles together and then having the confidence to tear them apart to save others.

I strongly recommend Sunflowers in February to other teens like me. It made me realise that everyone has only one life in this world and that we have to cherish it – and live it to the fullest.

Thank you, Phyllida Shrimpton, for dedicating yourself to creating Sunflowers in February. This book is a delight.

Maria, age 13


‘Moving and upsetting – with funny moments’

This was not the type of book I would normally read, but I became engrossed in the story and the lives of the characters.

I ended up enjoying it a lot, although it was difficult to read about how drastically Lily’s death affected the lives of her family, friends and killer – and how Lily struggled to live in a body that was not her own, while being unable to cope with the thought of being dead.

The book was moving and upsetting, because it was about something that could happen to anybody. But there were some funny moments that made it easier to read.

Daisy, age 13


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