Melissa De La Cruz’s The Birthday Girl is a perfect summer read – fast-paced and easy-to-read with short chapters and plenty of unexpected revelations. Readers who have experienced any of the vast number of books in the De La Cruz oeuvre know to expect a pop-culture heavy narrative that is equal parts fun and surprising.
Structurally, The Birthday Girl unspools over the course of two days, twenty-four years apart – the date of Ellie’s birthday, October 19. In the present day setting, readers watch as Ellie plans her elaborate birthday soiree that features a star-studded guest list, over-the-top decorations, delicious fare, and no shortage of alcohol. The events in the past recount the day of Ellie’s sweet sixteen as she skips school, hangs with friends, crashes parties, and sneaks into a nightclub.
Needless to say, the past looms large over the current celebration. It is clear very early on that something dramatic happened all those years ago and fans of this type of novel will expect the reckoning to occur during the present-day party.
Little tidbits about Ellie’s life are dropped into the conversations and scenes as they unfold. It would have been easy for Melissa De La Cruz to go overboard with monumental secrets and unrealistic coincidences, but this is an author who knows when to keep things simple. Certainly, there are quite a few surprises, but they always feel believable and organic to the story.
Melissa De La Cruz saves her biggest twist for the final moments of the novel causing readers to wonder why they didn’t see it coming. Just know that all the clues are there from the get-go, but the real pleasure here is in watching as all the various clues converge into a final picture.
The Birthday Girl is not one of those books focused on lyrical prose or deep characterization, but that was never its intention. This is escapist entertainment all the way. Pour yourself a glass of your favorite beverage, grab some decedent chocolates, and settle in for an afternoon of indulgence. With The Birthday Girl, Melissa De La Cruz provides a wonderful distraction from current events and daily news.
Disclaimer: A digital galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher and a print version was obtained at ALA. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.