Ten Birthdays isn’t quite the book I thought it would be, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. A charming summer read.
About Ten Birthdays
Paperback: 226 pages
Published: April 2017 by Bookouture
Goodreads Description: “There are going to be so many things I wish I could’ve told you in person, Poppy. I won’t get the chance to do that, so perhaps this is my only way…”
It’s Poppy Kinsey’s birthday. She should be blowing out candles and opening presents – but hers falls on the type of heart-wrenching, agonising anniversary she would far rather forget. The worst day of them all. The day her mother died.
But this year is special because the person she misses most in the world has left her a set of letters, one for each of her next ten birthdays. As Poppy opens them year by year, she discovers that no matter how tough life gets, her mum will always be by her side, guiding her along the way.
I picked up Ten Birthdays expecting to read a sappy story about a girl and her mom. I had the tissues ready and felt like I was emotionally prepared for a John Green-style roller coaster. Turned out I didn’t need any of that. Ten Birthdays isn’t a tear-jerker. Honestly, it’s not even all that emotional.
We meet Poppy on her 16th birthday. She’s doing her best to ignore it, since her birthday also happens to be the one-year anniversary of her mother’s death. Poppy and her friends go shopping, and Poppy realizes something’s up about the same time she walks into a room full of people throwing her a surprise party. Oops. Once she calms down, Poppy’s dad hands her a letter from her mom, written before her death. The letter is a way for her mom to stay in her daughter’s life, and share things with her. The remaining chapters of the book tell us what happens on Poppy’s birthdays, ending with her 25th.
I liked the premise of Ten Birthdays, because it kinda reminded me of P.S., I Love You. The two books are nothing alike, however. Poppy’s letters serve as backdrops for the events, and I admired the way Wilkinson fit them together. Her mom’s letters are relatively short, and strike a fine balance between amusing and “mom wisdom.” I appreciated the lightness of them, but in a way, they often felt unneccessary.
And I think that’s my biggest complaint with the book. The letters from Poppy’s mom simply didn’t add anything to the story. I think I’d have gotten just as much out of the book if it’d been billed as a “day in time” style, similar to David Nicholls’ One Day. I didn’t hate the birthday letters, but they lacked any real emotional connection to the story.
Despite that, or maybe because of it, I did enjoy Ten Birthdays quite a bit. It was a light, cute read, somewhat predictable, but with a well-crafted ending. This would be a good beach read, honestly.
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