My Reading Brain

The Birthday Girl

By:Melissa de la Cruz
Summary:From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Alex & Eliza comes a return to adult fiction, centered around a mysterious woman's birthday celebration—and what it reveals about her past.

Ellie de Florent-Stinson is celebrating her fortieth birthday with a grand celebration in her fabulous house in Palm Springs.

At forty, it appears Ellie has everything she ever wanted: a handsome husband; an accomplished, college-age stepdaughter; a beautiful ten-year-old girl; two adorable and rambunctious six-year-old twin boys; lush, well-appointed homes in Los Angeles, Park City, and Palm Springs; a thriving career as a well-known fashion designer of casual women's wear; and a glamorous circle of friends.

Except everything is not quite as perfect as it looks on the outside—Ellie is keeping many secrets. This isn’t the first of her birthday parties that hasn't gone as planned. Something happened on the night of her sweet sixteenth. Something she’s tried hard to forget.

But hiding the skeletons of her past comes at a cost, and all of Ellie’s secrets come to light on the night of her fabulous birthday party in the desert—where everyone who matters in her life shows up, invited or not. Old and new, friends and frenemies, stepdaughters and business partners, ex-wives and ex-husbands congregate, and the glittering facade of her life crumbles in one eventful night.

Beautifully paced and full of surprises, The Birthday Girl is an enthralling tale of a life lived in shadow, and its unavoidable consequences.

Review: The world is going wrong for Ellie Stinson as she turns 40. Everything seems to be going wrong for her - her business is failing, her husband won't talk to her, her step-daughter has returned with bad news, and her younger kids are causing chaos. Adding to the misery, someone from her past is showing up and threatening to ruin the rest of her life.

The Birthday Girl has a very bland premise, which only gets blander as you read. A woman with a mysterious past refuses to reveal any details that could change people's opinions of her. Particularly if her secrets are horrifying.

There’s a problem with this story: It does little to make it sound like a thriller.

While social scandals may not seem as scandalous as ones you’ve seen on TV or in social media, keep in mind that one secret can lead to someone’s demise. The Birthday Girl, however, cannot give us a proper thriller or scandal.

In some ways, this book was both short and long. It’s a fast read, but nothing happens, so it feels like a pointless story. In the first half, Ellie went on about one vapid friend after another that she didn’t really like. Nothing was at stake. She talked about her company failing without the deal, but her rich friend, Sanjay, offered to bail her out. Specifically, he said he would hand her $30 million if she asked. Since she has easy access to money, I don’t feel bad for her when she’s desperately trying to get a response from her backer.

One of the biggest disappointments was the secret surrounding Ellie. While I won’t spoil anything for you, keep in mind what I said earlier that this is not a thriller. The cover and premise of the book gives a creepy vibe off. Instead, the author throws away all of that and gives us a shallow plot and a secret. This is a story about a social scandal.

This is a shallow book with a plastic heroine and a plot that hides its intent as a social scandal or a thriller. There is no point in not reading it. Do I recommend it? Not at all.