You know the feeling when you just can’t put a book down and it’s making you all feverish and happy and scared that something bad will happen to the characters and laughing and crying at the same time? Birthday by Meredith Russo is that kind of book.
The topic of this book is heavy, dealing with things like the death of a parent, transgender, bullying and suicide, but Meredith Russo found a perfect balance between the hardship and struggles and still creating a hopeful story, heart-warming and oh so gripping story.
Birthday is about Morgan and Eric who are bonded for life after being born on the same day at the same time. We meet them once a year on their shared birthday as they grow and change: as Eric figures out who he is and how he fits into the world, and as Morgan makes the difficult choice to live as her true self. The story is told from both Morgan’s and Eric’s POV with snapshots of their birthdays from age 13 to 18. I really loved this concept of alternating POVs and how so much can be read into what has happened during the time between the birthdays. Over the years, they will drift apart, come together, fight, make up, and break up—and ultimately, when tragedy strikes, realizing that they need one another more than ever. While this novel hugely deals with Morgan being transgender, at its core this is definitely a love story. The relationship between the two is so beautiful and definitely one of my favorites ever.
I loved both of the main characters. My heart went out for Morgan already from the start, when he’s grieving his mother and having to go through all his problems without her to talk to. But I also really loved Eric too, he was such a genuinely good person and caring friend. It was so amazing how Eric supported Morgan, even before he understood what was going on with her. Meredith Russo did such a great job in describing how Eric subconsciously had feelings for Morgan as if she was a girl before she even knew if for certain herself. And then, when she came out to him, it was absolutely beautiful to see how Eric used immediately and completely natural used the she pronouns.
Meredith Russo has created a masterpiece in Birthday! I recommend it with all my heart. It’s such a realistic novel not avoiding any of the hardship (I cried so much!) but it’s also so full of hope and love and friendship, that it leaves you with this warm, happy feeling nevertheless.
I also loved, loved, loved Meredith Russo’s first book, If I Was Your Girl. It’s a story that has stayed with me since I read it, and which I will always remember. Both her books are such important eye-openers that they should be among required reading in school, but they are also such amazing, powerful, heart-wrenching and beautiful stories that deserves to be read on their own merits.
Find out more about the books and the author here: Meredith Russo
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo is a breathtakingly amazing book that I urge you to read! This book is such an important, eye-opener that it should be among required reading in school. But it’s also an amazing, powerful, heart-wrenching and beautiful story that deserves to be read on its own merits. This is a story that will stay with me forever. I loved this book to pieces and I recommend it with all my heart!
If I Was Your Girl is about Amanda Hardy, who is moving to a new school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda has a secret past; she used to be Andrew, and she has struggled growing up, being bullied, the whole gender identity issue of course and other hardship. But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past.
I loved this book! So much! It’s such a heart-breaking story. I was immediately drawn into it and read it basically cover to cover in one sitting.
It’s also a very important book, that normalizes trans experiences, and opens they eyes to what the life of a girl who has undergone the medical procedures is like. What I especially liked about the book was that it was not a coming-out book, but a book about the every day life of a transgender teenager, dealing with issues like finding acceptance amongst friends, how to start dating and being intimate with a boyfriend, how to work things out with the parents.
Amanda was such a lovable character. My heart really ached for her, and I so wished for her to get a happy life and be fully accepted for who she was. I liked that there were passages in the book that showed Amanda’s past, to give a feeling for the hardship and abuse she’d endured. It gave her so much depth and made me get even more attached to her. These passages were really emotional, both from Amanda’s perspective but they also gave some insights on the issue from her parents perspectives. I really loved Amanda’s mother in the book and how she handled the ‘losing-a-son-to- get-a-daughter-thing’, which was something I’d never thought about before.
In the book Amanda also made some good friends. I loved the friendship, and it really gave me hope for Amanda’s life onwards. Her friends were all amazing, especially towards the very end of the book. (Except for one, but talking about that one will be a spoiler alert.)
What I loved about the book was the overall positive feeling. Yes, Amanda has been through a lot of terrible things, and has struggled so hard (even trying to commit suicide) to come to terms with who she was, but when the book takes place, her life is good. Or at least starting to be good. She has become the girl she’s always been and is about to start a new chapter in her life. I think that is a really important aspect and a wonderful message to take with you from the book.
Also, do not miss the author's note at the end of the book. It really gives you an extra dimension to the book after reading it.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Meredith Russo