Sunday, April 21, 2019

Book Review: "Birthday" by Meredith Russo

Meredith Russo, this book absolutely blew me away.

Eric and Morgan have known each other since birth. That's not hyperbole—they were born on the same day in the same hospital, and there was a snowstorm, so both families were snowed in. Their families were close, at least until Morgan's mother died of cancer. But the boys have been best friends their entire lives.

As their 13th birthday approaches, Morgan knows things are changing. What Morgan knows more than anything is that he isn't whom he's supposed to be. He's a football coach's son in a small, rural Tennessee town, and he's trapped in the wrong body. More than that: he's a girl trapped in a boy's body, and he doesn't know what to do.

When you realize a fundamental truth about yourself, you want to share it with those you care about. But how can he share this truth? He's already bullied in school, so that doesn't worry him, at least not as much as the reactions of those he loves. Can he withstand losing his father? Or worse, can he survive losing Eric?

Eric knows that something is wrong with Morgan. Something is different. There's more of a distance between them. He knows the insults that his father and his brothers say about Morgan when he is not around, but he is not giving up on their lifelong friendship. Morgan is more important to him than perhaps anything else.

Told in glimpses spanning six birthdays, Birthday is a powerfully poignant, eye-opening story about self-acceptance, family, friendship, love, and grief, and all of the obstacles that stand in the way of trying to come to terms with who we are and the life we deserve to live. I read this entire book in a few hours, and it will undoubtedly be one that sticks with me for long afterward.

Meredith Russo's prose is so beautiful and evocative, and the emotions it generated made my heart hurt. I'll admit there were times that I found myself reading while trying to cover my eyes at the same time because I was so worried for these characters and what might happen to them, wondered how close to real life Russo might take the plot. This is one of those books that I'd love to see a sequel for because I already miss the characters and want to know where their 19th, 20th, and subsequent birthdays will find them.

I've commented many times before that I am so happy that YA books today deal with so many important issues. Birthday never feels manipulative or sensationalized, it feels utterly authentic and it touched my heart. I hope this book finds its way into the hands of those who need it most, and those who can learn from the journeys taken by the characters.

Flatiron Books provided me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making it available!

The book will be published May 21, 2019.


  1. This one has been on my radar for several reasons. The story structure has me intrigued, I love the concept, and Russo is known to write some really powerful and amazing books. I am ecstatic to hear this was a hit.