Sunday, 12 January 2020

Review: Birthday by Meredith Russo

Publication Date: May 2019
Publisher: Usbourne Publishing
Source: Borrowed from library

[ Goodreads ]


Meet Morgan and Eric: born on the same day, at the same time and bonded for life. 

In this moving dual narrative, we meet them every birthday from the age of thirteen, as Eric figures out who he is, as Morgan decides to live as her true self, and as they realize they are inextricably part of each other.

 **I Just want to preface this review by saying that after I read the book, I discovered the article on the authors domestic abuse and abuse allegations. This has made me remove my purchase link to the novel and in the review I will be discussing the book as a piece of work and not the author.** 

*Trigger warnings in this book eating disorders, trans and lgbtq hate speech and bullying, self harm, body dysphoria, homophobia, violence, alcohol abuse, grief 

This book was one I had wanted to read last year but never got round to it. I've been in a great reading mood so far this year so found it at my local library and picked it up. This book very much gripped me from beginning to end and if I sum it up in a word: wow. 

The characters in the book completely make the book for me. The novel centers around Eric and Morgan, two "boys" who share a birthday and an amazingly strong friendship. Morgan is hiding a secret burden, she is a trans woman but is scared to let anyone know. Over the course of the novel we see Morgan struggle as she tries to oppress her gender, lashes out in violence, substance abuse before finally accepting that she is a woman and works towards self acceptance and approaching others . 

Eric also goes on a journey over the course of the novel. He has a very toxic and controlling home life. His father is the embodiment of toxic masculinity who controls everyone in their house, is abusive and constantly trying to put everyone else down to assert his own "manliness". Eric tries to both appease his father, run from him and try to understand him over the course of the novel. We also see the affect his home life has on his hobbies, friendship with Morgan and the way he acts in life. I found Eric to be a wonderful character whose journey was just as touching as Morgans and weaved perfectly around her central story. 

Another aspect of the novel I loved was Morgans mum. We don't actually see her, as she died when Morgan was young, but we hear from her as she wrote Morgan a letter for him to read each birthday before she died. These letters were so emotional and touching, in both good ways and bad. In the letters, as the mum had no idea that Morgan could be trans, she constantly peppers it with mis-pronouns like "I wish I could see the man you will one day be" or references to his future "wife" etc,. These were such heartbreaking moments that often sent Morgan spiraling. These scenes really broke my heart. 

I also loved Morgan's dad. He was grieving the passing of his wife so heavily and was pretty much alone in his grief as Morgan wanted to be on his own. He turns to alcohol abuse to try to cope. He tries to reach out to Morgan, to bond with him through what used to be their only shared hobby - football. Morgan has no interest in football anymore. These scenes made me so sad because Morgan was just constantly pushing away her dad's out-reached hand until finally at the end they become closer. 

I think that this novel was, in one word, emotional. The novel depicts the gradual growing up of a trans person, from youth to adulthood in a fresh format. I can't comment on how accurate the portrayal of this is, as I have no personal experience with this, but the novel is own voices as Russo is a trans woman so therefore I take it as quite accurate. The characters, the emotions, the lives are all so three dimensional and touching. A really fantastic novel. 

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