Morgan and Eric were born on the same day, which bonded them for life. Their families became close for a while and they spent every birthday together. Then, Morgan’s mother died of cancer. As the pair get older, they recognize differences in themselves. Eric tries to fit in and survive his domineering father, and Morgan realizes who she truly is. But Morgan and Eric live in a small town in Tennessee where being different is hard and being transgender is almost unheard of and Morgan has not one person to talk to about it.
Morgan’s father is the high school football coach in a town where a football scholarship is the only way out. Morgan played for a time, but football is not what Morgan wants. What Morgan does want is confusing and scary to her, leading to Morgan becoming depressed and volatile. But with Eric’s friendship, Morgan may be able to find the courage to be true to herself.
I really liked the format of this book as we check in with Morgan and Eric on the same day every year, their shared birthday, from the ages of 13-18. A lot happens during those years, but Morgan has an incredible amount to deal with. After Morgan’s mother’s death, Morgan’s father sort of tries, but he is grieving and busy at work and isn’t tuned into what Morgan needs emotionally. Morgan is also questioning why she feels the way she does and without any information or anyone to talk to, Morgan wonders whether she should have been born a girl and both Morgan and Eric, at one point, question if they are gay due to their attraction to each other. From one year to the next, we walk with both of them as Morgan tries to figure out her life, but the bullying only increases the self loathing and she spins wildly out of control.
Eric’s life doesn’t feel a whole lot easier. Life in a small Tennessee town is difficult. The book is not present day as Netflix is just starting out and attitudes are narrow. Eric wants to be a musician, but football is his way out and the only thing his domineering father will allow. Eric’s father and two older brothers are verbally abusive as Eric tries to navigate life in high school and dating. Morgan is the most important person to him, but he doesn’t know how to help as he doesn’t know what is wrong.
With the first-person point of view for both characters, the author tunes into the turmoil and devastation both Morgan and Eric go through. The tension and anxiety are constant throughout the entire book and the author does a great job of keeping the emotions high. It’s a book that was difficult to put down as I was really engaged with what was going to happen next and how Morgan and Eric were going to move forward. This is a YA book, but the themes are adult and intense and the tags should be considered to reach the appropriate reader.
One of the best compliments that I can give this book is that I would love to be able to check back in with Morgan and Eric at a later date in their lives. Birthday touches on many things and is an intense and up close look inside the minds of two teens that have too much to deal with. It is also the story of enduring friendship and finding the one person that fits you for a lifetime.
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