Sunday 8 May 2011

Happy Birthday To Me: Brian Rowe

Happy_Birthday_to_meYoung adult fantasy fiction at the moment seems to be dominated by a particular type of novel: various mythical humanoid creatures in a high school, causing chaos and risking the end of life as we know it, but all this as a backdrop for a romance between a teenage girl and the ultimate bad boy. Happy Birthday To Me is an original take on the genre, plot-driven with the romance just a part of the story, rather than the main focus. Most of the recent YA books I’ve read were written by women, so it’s great to get a male perspective.

Cameron Martin seems to have the perfect life. He’s the sort of lad who is admired and envied, sometimes hated: star sportsman with a beautiful actress girlfriend and hopes of studying at Yale. Cameron is basically decent, but a rather arrogant troublemaker. But to those around him, he’s not quite good enough. His father, a cosmetic surgeon, “just” wants Cameron to be the perfect son. Sports give him more prestige than Cameron’s favourite topic, architecture; Cameron needs to be handsome, popular, cool and his father will be proud of him. Meanwhile, Cameron’s girlfriend Charisma (great name and completely inappropriate for this fickle, self-obsessed drama queen) torments him about not being “a man,” to wit: he is unable to grow a beard.

Then, after a cheeky prank upsets the wrong person, all this changes.  First comes the beard, then he puts on weight in a matter of days. Soon it is clear that this is no ordinary adolescent growth spurt: Cameron’s body is aging by a year every day. The doctors have never seen anything like it, and Cameron’s perfectionist father is mortified. Without a cure for his mysterious condition, Cameron can have only a few weeks to live.

Happy Birthday To Me is an excellent read: a unique concept, well-written with a mixture of humour and pathos. I sped through the book, just wanting to read “one more chapter” to find out what would happen next. I laughed out loud, cringed in horror at a couple of the awkward situations Cameron found himself in, and even shed a tear or two in places. There is a fairy-tale quality to the book and a satisfactory conclusion, although there are due to be two sequels, which I would be very keen to read. I highly recommend this book.

Happy Birthday To Me was sent to me for review by the author, Brian Rowe.

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