Meet Eric and Morgan.
Born on the same day, at the same time, in the same place. They’ve always shared this one day together, but as they grow up they begin to grow apart.
Everyone expects Eric to get a football scholarship, but no one knows he’s having second thoughts.
Former quarterback Morgan feels utterly alone, as she wrestles with the difficult choice to live as her true self.
Both of them are struggling to be the person they know they are. Who better to help than your best friend?
Told on one day every year, over six years, this is a story about how change pulls people apart… and how love brings them back together.
Birthday was chosen as the October “bookstagram supports mental health book club” which I run over on my instagram page “theanxiousbookworm_”. This book had held a lot of hype in the bookstagram community so I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t anxious about finally picking this book up. However, I was also very excited.
Birthday was such a heart warming but also heart wrenching read. If you are looking for an easy read this its not the book for you. Birthday looks into very deep topics that are important but maybe avoided within society including sexuality and mental health. Trigger warnings mainly for suicide attempts.
I feel that Birthday really does discuss some important topics that are true within society today. Including the exclusion of those that do not perform to societal norms. Morgan wants to be a female, she feels that she is a female but this is not what society is expecting from her and therefore she keeps this to herself. She suffers pretty much in silence. This has a clear impact on her mental health. She gets called things like “sissy” because she does not act as “manly” as she is expected. With such a barrier in society how is Morgan able to accept who she really is and live her life the way that she wants to.
Birthday highlights the importance of friendship and how even in the darkest of times good friends will always be there for you. Morgan believes that because everybody else doesn’t accept who she is, his friends won’t either. Eric is her best friend, will she not accept Morgan for who she is either? Morgan distances himself from Eric because of this. She pushes her best friend away. Little does she know, Eric will always be there for his best friend no matter who Morgan wants to be. We all need a friend like Eric.
One thing that really had me puzzled is the videos and letters that Morgans mother writes to her. Very early on we learn that Morgan lost her mother suddenly and this has always had an impact on her and his father. Her life has not been the same since. Each birthday her mother either leaves her a video to watch or a letter to read. At first as the reader putting myself in Morgan’s shoes I thought that this was a wonderful gesture. However as the story continued and her mother started to touch upon Morgan’s future with a wife and children I began to believe that this was not the positive gesture that I once thought that it was. I think that her mother meant no harm by it, how was she to know what path her sons life was going to take. She didn’t. However I feel that this had a detrimental effect on her mental health and really put a barrier up in relation to admitting who she really is and who she wants to be.
Coping mechanisms were discussed at great length in this. I always wonder why people use such methods to get on in life. However I haven’t been through anything like this so how am I to understand. We explore the use of alcohol to cope. How this has an impact on the way somebody feels and does it help them to forget what they are going through? Does it make things better? Maybe for a short period of time, maybe it gives that person the respite from their bad thoughts. But it doesn’t erase problems and they will still be there when the alcohol wears off. The use of helplines at the back of the book is so important and it was really good to see once you had finished this book. Birthday is deep, it explores topics that may effect people in different ways, the reminder of helpline being available to people was a welcome addition to this book.
The last thing that I wanted to explore is whether peoples opinions can really change? We see Peyton at the beginning of the book calling Morgan a sissy and questioning his brother Erics friendship with her. Almost trying to persuade him that they should not be friends and he should distance himself away from her. Luckily, Eric does not listen to this and actually distances his way from his brother. We see Eric and Peyton come together at the end of this book, after Eric’s awful breakdown of relationship with his abusive father. Peyton mentions that he should apologise too Morgan and he doesn’t feel that he was fair to her when he last came into contact with him. I believe that Peyton’s attitude was down to environmental factors when living with his father due to how abusive he was.
I later found (after finishing this book) that Meredith Russo is transgender herself. This added to my love for this book as I believe Birthday comes straight from the heart. I hate to think that Meredith has suffered these struggles through her life. I do feel that maybe there could have been more in depth trigger warnings as at times this can get dark and some of the reading group did feel triggered and felt more detail was needed so that they could make an informed decision on whether this book was going to have a negative effect on them.
All in all, it was decided that this book had a positive representation to mental health and I would definitely recommend that you pick it up. I will be looking at more books by Meredith Russo.
And remember …
“My body is a machine and I am in control.”