Review: Happy Birthday to Me by Brian Rowe

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Book: Happy Birthday to Me
Author: Brian Rowe
Publisher: CreateSpace/Self-published
Release date: April 5, 2011
Source: Free ebook from author for review
Series: Birthday Trilogy #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) Seventeen-year-old Cameron Martin has a huge problem: heâ??s aging a whole year of his life with each passing day!

High school is hard enough; imagine rapidly aging from seventeen to seventy in a matter of weeks, with no logical explanation, and with prom, graduation, and the state championship basketball game all on the horizon. Thatâ??s what happens to Cameron, a popular pretty boy who’s never had to face a day looking anything but perfect.

All Cameron wants to do is go back to normal, but no one, not even the best doctors, can diagnose his condition. When he finds love with a mysterious young woman, however, he realizes his only hope for survival might be with the one person who started his condition in the first place.

First impressions: Cameron is really engaging with a powerful voice. I felt like I knew him right away. The book opens with Cameron on death’s door, rapidly aging on the outside despite being only 17 on the inside. I just had to know more!

Lasting impressions: Not enough conflict for my tastes and the supporting characters seemed not to serve much purpose. But I loved Cameron’s voice and I thought the prose was well written.

Conflicting impressions: I wanted there to be some kind of external conflict. This book was all about Cameron’s struggle with this aging process, and for too long we don’t have any idea how he can overcome it. I ended up just assuming he couldn’t, so there wasn’t a whole lot driving me through the pages. We don’t find out what’s going on until the very end of the book, which ultimately left me feeling unsatisfied.

Overall impressions: The beginning and end of this book really pulled me in. Cameron is a cocky athlete with a pretty girlfriend who doesn’t seem to care about him all that much. His best friend, Wesley, is a wannabe film auteur – he reminded me of a hippie grunge Dawson, but in a good way. Cameron is a basketball star, and the son of a successful plastic surgeon. He’s got pretty much everything going for him.

Then Cameron starts to age rapidly, and the stage is set for this ticking time bomb of a deadline. Cameron is aging one whole year per day, and soon his time will be up. As he gets older, his friends and family go through various stages of shock, and life gets pretty lonely. His mom is weepy, his dad is horrified and distant, his sister keeps bugging him to come to her music recital, and his friend Wesley wants to make a film about him. His girlfriend flakes, the weird girl from the pizza parlor keeps showing up, and the librarian incessantly harasses him. Oh, and the basketball team wants him to quit pretending his aging body can keep up.

Somewhere in the jumble of all of these extraneous characters, the story got lost for me. I didn’t know what Cameron was supposed to be learning. Cameron has no idea what’s happening, there’s no medical explanation, and so ultimately he just keeps living his life, one miserable day after another. I was dying for him to figure out who was holding all of the secrets, and wished that had happened way before it did. My focus was too scattered between the relationship with his dad, the upcoming state basketball championship, the film Wesley is directing, the girlfriend who leaves him, and the librarian who ends up in the most bizarre scenario with him that really left me confused.

I think the main reason I didn’t enjoy this as much as I could have is that the motivations of the characters seemed off somehow, and the story didn’t seem to go anywhere for long chunks of time. Still, I have to say again that Cameron has a really great voice and it’s fun to be in his head. The story is unique and interesting, and I think Brian Rowe is a gifted writer. I found this book to be a breath of fresh air in a market flooded with paranormal romances; I just wish it had kept my interest a little better.

Rating: 2/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Are you looking for something to read for the All Male Review Challenge? This is a book with both a male protagonist and a male author! Score!

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7 thoughts on “Review: Happy Birthday to Me by Brian Rowe

  1. I'm tempted on reading this but I don't usually go for books that don't seem realistic. Vampires and Demons I'm fine with but I just can't see someone ageing more every day and I think I wouldn't enjoy it as much because of that. I might look out for some more reviews, if more positives than negatives turn up then I'll get it!ComaCalm's Corner

  2. Question for you, Logan: Do you think your background in theatre drives you to concentrate on action? I've read other reviews where you comment on lack of action, or on "slow" parts. Made me wonder.

  3. @ComaCalm – I think you're on to something there. The book implies there's a spell or some kind of supernatural force that explains why this is happening, but if the magic had been more explicit it may have been more enjoyable to see him fight against the aging process. I have seen lots of positive reviews on Goodreads for it, so you should check those out! I seem to be in the minority.@DebraZ – I think I have always preferred action driven stories as opposed to character studies, both in fiction and in drama. There are always exceptions, and I can think of a few plays/movies/books where I really identified with the character so much that I didn't care what they did in the world. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld was so well-developed and interesting that I didn't care what the characters did action-wise, but it was a nice bonus that they did have lots to do.I think I definitely analyze material more than the average reader because I'm so used to parsing meaning from words from my theatre days. For me, character motivation is just as important as the action itself. A well paced plot that really grabs me is almost always the result of a character being motivated to act in response to a conflict (take The Hunger Games, for instance – she has TONS of motivation to join the games, fight in them, and to win). In this book, Cameron just didn't seem to be internally motivated enough to figure out how to stop what was happening, so the action slowed and I lost interest in what the result would be. The ticking clock wasn't enough to drive the story (again, for me anyway) and I wanted more reaction/motivation from Cameron to try and solve the problem.Really good question! Way to get my brain going this morning. 🙂

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