My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: May 21st, 2019
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Fiction, Transgenderism, Coming of Age, Friendship, Romance, High School, Family
Three years ago, I read Meredith Russo’s debut – If I Was Your Girl – and I enjoyed it, but I could not have predicted it becoming a bestseller and award-winning novel, because although I found it sweet and meaningful, it was not a page-turner for me. Birthday is very different from her debut, so different that I feel a switch was made in the author’s mind or she wanted to tell a heart-breaking story instead of a mainly heart-blossoming one.
There is a lot of love in this coming-of-age story—it is not hopeless—but there is also much destruction. It’s told from two alternative POVs: Morgan’s and Eric’s, who are best friends and ready to tackle everything in life together. But the older they get, and the more Morgan struggles with her identity, the more distance opens up between them. Until tragedy strikes and they need one another more than ever.
It is divided into six different parts—six different birthdays, starting at thirteen and ending at eighteen. I found that particularly original, having never encountered such a story structure before, and it was interesting to observe how the two characters’ lives and interactions with one another and the people around them progressed from birthday to birthday. Morgan’s character ARC is particularly emotionally-taxing, because she doesn’t know how to tell Eric and her dad that she is transgender, which is eating at her constantly.
I was very moved by this novel. In my opinion, Meredith Russo has outdone herself, and this time I actually expect (or strongly hope) that this story becomes a bestseller and wins many awards. It deserves it.
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