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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Burro Hills by Julia Lynn Rubin - Book Review, Guest Post & Giveaway

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Review by Suze

Jack isn't fond of his hometown. Burro Hills is suffocating him and he's afraid he'll never be able to get away. His father drinks and his mother spends most of her time in her bathrobe, smoking and dreaming about things that will never happen. Jack's friend Toby lives in a house where drugs are being fabricated and stored and Toby has enlisted the help of his friends dealing the products. Jack isn't particularly happy with this task. He's having difficulties being one of the guys and tries to keep up the pretence, but it makes him angry and confused. Fortunately he also has Jess, his best friend, who seems to understand him better. What can he do to break out of his destructive life?

Connor is new at Jack's school and is instantly popular. Jack admires Connor's ability to be himself and everyone seems to accept him for it. Jack tries to include Connor in his group of friends, but Toby is becoming a handful. He senses there's something more going on between Connor and Jack and doesn't approve. Jack has always managed to keep Jess away from the dangerous Toby, but by becoming closer to Connor, he loses his control on him completely. While the situation at home becomes worse and his friendships are unraveling Jack finds comfort in Connor's arms. Can Jack let the one person who brings him happiness in or is he too afraid to start a relationship with the boy he likes so much because he can't handle the consequences?

Burro Hills is an impressive captivating story. Jack has a difficult life. He comes from an unstable home and his parents are too busy with their own problems to spend any time looking after their son. Jack finds comfort in weed and booze, but numbing his out-of-control mind isn't the solution he seeks. My heart ached for the bright and kind boy who has so much to lose. I kept hoping Jack would find a way out of his daunting circumstances. He constantly makes terrible choices and needs love and support to put him back on track again. His story is profound, thought-provoking and sometimes shocking and I was gripped by it from beginning to end.

Julia Lynn Rubin makes the bleak town Burro Hills come to life in a fantastic way. I was intrigued by the setting, a town that doesn't offer many possibilities. Jack is afraid he'll have to stay there for ever, while he only wants to get out. I could feel his despair and loved the way Julia Lynn Rubin writes about his emotions. Her writing is raw and honest, she doesn't spare her main characters and she gives them plenty of flaws that aren't working in their favor. Jack's journey is a tough one, but once he starts it there's no way back. I loved the inevitability of major drama and this kept me on the edge of my seat. Burro Hills is a compelling poignant story that felt very real.


If you like impressive, emotional and sometimes shocking and raw YA, Burro Hills would be an excellent choice.

About Julia Lynn Rubin

Julia Lynn Rubin lives the writer's life in Brooklyn, where she has recently finished an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults at The New School. She received her BA in Anthropology & Film Studies from the University of Pittsburgh.

She currently serves as a writing mentor for Girls Write Now, New York City's premiere writing program for high school girls.

She has been writing books, poems, and stories since first grade, and loves reading about everything from film analysis to psychology. Her short stories have appeared in publications such as the North American Review, Sierra Nevada Review, and The Lascaux Review, and she has written for a variety of online publications, including The Content Strategist, Wetpaint Entertainment and

Julia is passionate about realism and diversity in teen literature. She hopes to one day own a French bulldog, pug, Boston terrier, or perhaps a mix of all three.


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Guest post by Julia Lynn Rubin

We desperately need more YA novels featuring bisexual boys.

Openly bi, out and proud, fully-realized bisexual boys. Boys who know that being bisexual is not a threat to their masculinity (or learn that over the course of the novel), that it doesn’t mean they’re “secretly gay,” or greedy, or weird, or confused, or any of the other ridiculous stereotypes we bisexuals so often are on the receiving end of. 

We also need books with boys who are questioning, boys who aren’t sure yet, and who come to know that that’s also totally valid and okay.

It’s part of why writing the character of Connor Orellana in Burro Hills was so important to me. He’s openly bisexual, out and proud, and he doesn’t want to hide it. He isn’t ashamed of who he is and how he feels, unlike Jack, my protagonist who is in deep denial that he is gay and falling head-over-heels in love with Connor. Jack is attracted to Connor in part because he is so free and open with himself, and while it terrifies him, it also ends up liberating him.

Growing up, I don’t think I ever read any books with openly bisexual characters. If I had, if I’d seen myself in at least one of them that I resonated strongly with, especially a female bi protagonist, I probably would’ve come out a lot sooner to the world…and to myself.

For a really long time, I thought I was straight. I assumed that my occasional, intense crushes on girls were merely borne out of sexual curiosity, or maybe they were just some kind of fluke. After all, a lot of the girls I liked presented as more traditionally masculine, so I assumed that my brain just couldn’t differentiate, and that maybe, to my brain at least, they were categorized as “boys?”

I was in deep denial. But I also had no representation in anything that I was watching or reading, no one to help me understand that not only was bisexual a thing, but that it was totally valid and different for every bisexual (as in, the 50/50 myth is totally still a problem and delayed my coming out process for years). No one ever really talked about bisexuality when I was younger, and when my best friend’s sister came out as bi, I remember that for some reason it scared me senseless. I had always been so accepting, so open, so adamant about equal rights for LGBTQ+ people…or so I thought, but when it came to myself, to facing my own identity, I was terrified.

I thought that getting butterflies from kissing girls at an all-girls summer camp was merely due to two to three long weeks away with no boys in sight. I know better now, but it took me until my mid-‘20s to finally, fully come out, and even at 28, I’m still learning to love myself, to not feel embarrassed when I say “I’m bisexual,” and to fully embrace my identity.

Kids need well-represented bisexual characters in their media. And honestly, we adults do as well. So, let’s keep writing them, and let’s keep pushing for publishing houses to support and promote these books.

As for my next few YA novels, I plan to focus more on girls who love girls, whether they’re bisexual, gay, or questioning. I’m excited to see where the road leads me next.


One very lucky reader of With Love for Books will receive a digital copy of Burro Hills by Julia Lynn Rubin.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. All of our giveaways are international.


  1. Great review and guest post! Thank you for sharing it.

  2. thanks for the review and interview, whetted my appetite x

  3. Burro Hills sounds like a raw, gripping take on toxic masculinity that delves into peer pressure, mental health, drugs, race, family issues/abuse and sexual orientation.

  4. Michelle FergusonMay 16, 2018 at 8:38 PM

    Looks like a really good book, fingers crossed

  5. What a wonderfully enlightening guest post. Being an alpha macho-type doesn't make one a man, no more than being 'fluffy' makes one a woman. Stereotypes really have no place in formative literature.

  6. An important topic discussed in this guest post. It's so important that children learn about these things without being frightened and scared by the mere thought.