Book Review: ‘Burn That Bridge’ By J.R. Gray

Written on 05/22/2021
Kimmers' Erotic Book Banter


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Title: Burn That Bridge
Author: J.R. Gray
Published: April 29, 2021
Publisher: Gray Books/Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult; Contemporary Romance; Non-Explicit
Length: 284 Pages
Tags: Gay; M/M; Transgender; Angst; Coming of Age; Coming Out; First Time; Humor; Hurt/Comfort; Slow-Burn; Virgin; HEA; CW: Assault, Bullying, Hate Crime, Homophobia, Self-Harm, Transphobia, Violence

 

About Burn That Bridge

Turns out trading a spot on the cheerleading squad for a fresh fade and all-new pronouns was more of a recipe for disaster than happiness. Coming out as trans in rural Alabama, where football rules and cheer is life, might have been the worst way to start my senior year. 

There are no safety nets for people like me in places like this. 

But sometimes, hope shows itself in the most unexpected places. New friends help us survive —and maybe— thrive. But falling for Sebastian was not part of the plan.

Embracing my identity put my happiness at odds with my safety. I’m terrified. Terrified to be me. Terrified to be happy. Terrified to love him. 

Welcome to senior year.

Try to make it out alive.

REVIEW: 

As I read J.R. Gray’s Burn That Bridge, I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or bite my fingernails anxiously. But for a transgender guy in a conservative, trans/homophobic town, all three are appropriate. And to his credit, J.R. Gray pens typical teens with average feelings, never once exaggerating to elicit emotion. Despite his unique problems, protagonist DJ’s issues and coping strategies are identifiable.

When ex-cheerleader “Darcy” arrives at his Senior year as “DJ,” he loses his best friend, Kim, stirs up a ton of malicious gossip and gains a new friend, Sebastian. Sebastian had crushed on Darcy from afar, but finds DJ more approachable, and equally as intriguing. Then Sebastian’s best friend, Emery, also betrays him, befriending Kim, and the boys grow even closer, sometimes including Smith, Emery’s ex. This community of friends/frenemies personify the rapidly changing allegiances and miscommunications of adolescence to a “t.” (Excuse a bad pun.) Even their parents and teachers are gritty and human, but well-rounded and supportive.

I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or bite my fingernails anxiously. 

As it turns out, DJ and Sebastian fit well, though they approach intimacy with the appropriate hesitance for a complex relationship. For example, Sebastian had assumed he was straight. “Did I have to come out to my parents? Why should I have to come out? Couldn’t it just be accepted…? Why did it all of a sudden have to be a thing because I had feelings for someone?” Thus, it’s natural for both guys to have nerves, unable to ask whether the other is gay, and to fear that intimacy could cost them their carefully acquired friendship. I love the plot twist that reveals their desires and permits physical contact. Then, there are questions like whether it’s safer to hide their shift to boyfriends at school, with its increasingly tense atmosphere. And just how far will haters go in their intimidation? 

Humor: I learned a new term, “malaphor,” which occurs by mixing clichés. Here are a few of my favorites. “You’ll be beating them away with a dead horse.” “We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.” “Two wrongs don’t make a left.” Prepare to chuckle.

Wisdom: “We make choices every day, and some of those choices we can’t possibly predict the outcomes for, so we live on through the mistakes and consequences.” 

Ugliness: “I could kick myself for crying. I was a man. Men didn’t cry. I shoved my palms into my eyes, willing this to go away…. I’d already killed so many parts of myself pretending to be the girl everyone wanted me to be. I needed to save what was left.”

Beauty: “He was my rainbow. A prism projecting color into this dreary existence. The little bit of light shining through the rain.”

Adolescents’ current dilemmas, their hopes, dreams and possibilities are captured with all the grace and clumsiness of young adulthood, culminating in a thoroughly captivating, horrifying and hopeful novel.  

I’ve read trans books since the eighties. Meanwhile, society has moved forward… to some degree, in Burn That Bridge, each word rings clear and true for today, each thought and emotion is nuanced, bent to the special joys and pains of LGBTQ teens and their allies. Adolescents’ current dilemmas, their hopes, dreams and possibilities are captured with all the grace and clumsiness of young adulthood, culminating in a thoroughly captivating, horrifying and hopeful novel.  

A copy of Burn That Bridge was provided to Kimmers’ Erotic Book Banter, by Gay Romance Reviews, at no cost and with no expectations in return. We offer our fair and honest opinion on behalf of our readers.


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