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Burro Hills

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In a town like Burro Hills, you either figure out who you are or die trying.

Seventeen-year-old Jack has lived in the troubled California town his entire life. He hides the truth about his sexuality from everyone, including his best friend Jess and his childhood rival and drug dealing partner, Toby. Keeping your head down, Jack knows, is the best way to survive.

But when Connor, a fearless new arrival, enrolls at school, he sees right through Jack’s façade. Jack finds himself falling for Connor, and the feeling is mutual―but their relationship will set into a motion a series of events with lasting consequences. After a falling out with Jess, Jack is worried to see her growing close to the manipulative Toby. To make matters worse, Jack is becoming increasingly paranoid that Toby will expose his relationship with Connor.

As tensions rise and more secrets come to a head, Jack cuts off ties with Toby. Hungry for revenge, Toby comes after Jack, jeopardizing his budding romance with Connor and the life he’s tried so hard to salvage in Burro Hills.

240 pages, Paperback

First published March 20, 2018

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About the author

Julia Lynn Rubin

3 books175 followers
Julia Lynn Rubin lives the writer's life in Brooklyn. She earned an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults at The New School in 2017, and for three years, served as a writing mentor for Girls Write Now, New York City's premiere writing program for high school girls.

Julia 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 writes for a variety of online publications, including BuzzFeed, Penguin Random House (GetUnderlined.com), and Road2College.com, among others.

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. She loves indie films, drag shows, and spending as much time as possible at the beach.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 46 reviews
Profile Image for ~Mindy Lynn~.
1,396 reviews584 followers
May 4, 2018
3.5 Stars!

Once again I find myself reviewing a book in the YA genre that I requested without paying much attention to the blurb. I got distracted by the pretty cover art and decided that's why I should read it. I know there are a few of you out there who have one clicked or requested a book by doing the same.

Thankfully the story was interesting and Jack and Connor were really sweet together.

This is for sure one of those stories that tugs at the heartstrings. Jack has a hard life that isn't made any easier by his alcoholic father and his unstable mother. His friends aren't that great either. He uses drugs as an escape. He goes through so much in this story that I constantly was thinking, "Damn! Enough already! Give this boy a break!". But Jack foolishly makes many bad decisions that had me frustrated. There was just too much teen angst and that is why I try to stay away from YA because I just don't have the patience for it much anymore.

No doubt this is an intriguing story that deals with young people dealing with bleak futures, family drama, drugs, sexual orientation, crappy friends, and love. I just didn't really feel a connection with the story, but I am sure there will be plenty of readers who will enjoy it.

Happy reading dolls! XX

Profile Image for Tan Markovic.
338 reviews137 followers
March 4, 2018
4/5 stars!

This is a book about love, friendship, troubled families, drugs, mental illness, high school bullshit and coming out in an environment which won’t necessarily be the most accepting when you do.

This book and the relationship in the book totally stole my heart. After reading some questionable and cringey romances in YA recently I was not expecting a lot from this, but the author did a fantastic job of making the relationship between Jack and Connor hot, realistic and one you ship wholeheartedly. I loved the moments that where they shared stories from their past and how those events have shaped who they are today. The romance was intense and cute, but done in such a way that didn’t make you want to cringe and slam the book down.

My heart ached whilst reading this book; Jacks family dynamic had me nearly in tears at certain points throughout. The author did a great job in making this family and the characters authentic and their issues and hardships realistic.

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who loves YA/YA romance/LGBT romance – such a cute yet deep story that you’ll fly through and thoroughly enjoy.

I received an ARC copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank them, the publisher Diversion Books and the author Julia Lynn Rubin for this opportunity.

Profile Image for Sabrina.
476 reviews245 followers
January 19, 2018

"Show-off. That was the first thing I thought about Connor Orellana. Fucking show-off."

The writing is awesome, the story is captivating and never loses its focus.
The book is basically a boy finding out who he is and how to be okay it, but with drugs, challenges and shit happening all around him, his friends and family.
I absolutely loved the romance, it was so sweet and real. CONNOR AND JACK are just perfect for with other.
I love ( almost ) every character and friendship in this book.
The friendships get tested and everyone makes a stupid mistake but in the end, all works out for the best.

“That was so fucking brave, Jack.”
I shrugged. “I just made out with someone in front of the entire student body and administration. I’d call that more exhibitionist than brave.” “Fair point.”

One of my favourite quotes:

"He’s new and kind of rough around the edges and maybe a little weird, an artefact in the museum that’s actually a piece of art. Something you can’t quite wrap your mind around."

* Thank You to the publisher and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.
Profile Image for True Loveislovereview.
2,241 reviews1 follower
March 25, 2018
Jack and Connor

A heartbreaking story about young adult, living life, friendships, going to high school, a hard life... because circumstances are not for all well. Growing up in broken families. Experimenting with pills, drugs, sex and life.
The highs and lows of growing up. It isn't perfect but when there is love involved there is hope and light and sparkle.

When Jack sees Connor he feels something special and knows he can't ever tell his friends he has feelings for Connor and that he is gay.
The feelings between Jack and Connor is special only Jack wants to hide it. Until it can't be hide anymore. The other kids at school give him an awful time.

A hurtful story, my heart cracked many times. Life is hard on them... both have their baggage life given them... there are really heavy parts
Steady written story it didn't get weak at any point. Captivating and intriguing as hell.
Told from the lovely mind of Jack's. I loved it how Connor stood in their relationship, strong and confident and when Jack knows he has to come out, together they could face the world... The rawness of reality was hard but there was also the sweetness of undeniable love.
The way this story was told kept my in its spell from the first till the last page.

Kindly received an arc from the publisher through NetGalley.
Profile Image for Suze.
1,878 reviews1,310 followers
May 12, 2018
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.
Profile Image for MJ.
89 reviews2 followers
April 19, 2021
You know that feeling when you pick up a book described as “gritty?” Bonus points for other words like realistic, raw, or honest. Because everything about this book is trying so hard to be all those words. Literally everything.
My expectations for it weren’t super high thanks to that, and I think they were pretty much fulfilled. It wasn’t really terrible, but I also wouldn’t describe Burro Hills as a good book.

It’s a fairly short book and a quick read, and yet it tries to do approximately 63584 things at once. Everything that could possibly suck in your life sucks in this book. There’s alcoholic parents and mentally ill parents, homophobia, violence, excessive drug use and drug trafficking, rape and sexual assault, poverty, child abuse, and misogyny. Oh my God, so much misogyny. I don’t know if I’m imagining things, but it seems to me that a lot of YA authors try to make their portrayal of teenage boys realistic by constantly having them disrespect and mistreat girls, and it’s tiring. Maybe I need to grow up and accept that my mostly male friend group when I was a teenager was the exception to the rule, or that my friends just held their tongues around me or something (which feels unlikely to me considering we were together pretty much 24/7 for literal years), but it definitely felt over the top here. And while it was sort of acknowledged as messed up in some ways, it was completely glossed over in others and yeah. That wasn’t it and it made me really uneasy at times. A fair share of homophobic slurs are thrown around as well.

I’m also fairly sure that the main character, Jack (or any other important character besides Jess, for that matter), is not once sober in this entire book. Not strictly criticism because that part I didn’t find super unrealistic for their environment, but it was also not really reflected in any kind of meaningful way.

All the negativity and the terrible things happening just started to feel really over the top to me. Every time something new happened, I groaned and said “oh lord, not again” or just straight up cringed, which is probably not a great sign in terms of emotional response. Honestly, it was just too much for me and it did not feel realistic or gritty or raw and certainly not honest, just excessive.

The writing wasn’t spectacular, but it got the job done and it did manage to create a very vivid atmosphere. A depressing atmosphere, but still. The plot… I’m honestly not one hundred percent sure what the plot was outside of the romance and the terrible things happening. But that brings me to something I did enjoy about this book, and that’s the romance. The chemistry between Jack and Connor comes across really well, especially in the beginning. It could have done without Connor putting pressure on Jack to come out when he clearly wasn’t comfortable, but I’ve seen that handled worse and it didn’t bother me that much. The progression of their relationship made sense to me, and there was no weird obsession with the sex or infantalization of the characters or any of the unfortunate things that sometimes pop up with women who write mlm romance.

And then there’s the ending. It was wrapped up a little too neatly for my usual tastes. Pretty much every conflict has an at least semi-favorable resolution for Jack. However, in this book I didn’t mind it. I think after all the doom and gloom of the middle part, it was actually kind of necessary. It wasn’t perfect, but I’m not leaving this book with the overwhelming feeling of “oh God, when will this all stop?” I got during the middle. I don’t think the situation with Jack’s parents was very well-handled, but I didn’t mind the outcome itself, it just came a little too quickly with little to no build-up.

I’m giving this book 2.5 Stars because I didn’t hate it, but there really weren't a whole lot of good things about it. Rounding down because compared to the book I gave 3 stars, it does fall short.
Profile Image for Laxmama .
582 reviews
January 29, 2018
ARC REVIEW for NETGALLEY 3.75 STARS enjoyable story about a teen growing up in difficult circumstances. Difficult home life, not fully aware of the underlying problems at home... having no real home life. A tough bunch of friends, and uncertain about his future. Teen angst, friend issues etc.
Profile Image for The Novel Approach.
3,075 reviews134 followers
April 21, 2018
Burro Hills, Julia Lynn Rubin’s fantastic debut, is raw, emotional, gripping, and angsty, yet also beautiful and romantic. The small California town of Burro Hills is a place where, seemingly, dreams go to die. Yet, Jack Burns is still somewhat of a dreamer, forever imagining a different, better life for himself and his best friend, Jess. Jack is sensitive and kind, a gentle soul who seems, in many ways, not cut out for the harsh realities of the world he lives in. A world filled with poverty and drugs; a world where his dad is a drunk and his mom is unreliable and inconsistent; a world where he’s wrapped up in his friend’s family drug dealing business, and he basically feels devoid of hope. But, his life changes drastically when Connor Orellana walks into it.

Connor shows up at school amidst rumors of fighting, drug use, and promiscuity; he’s all anyone can talk about. And Jack is immediately taken with him. I loved Jack’s initial reactions to Connor, and how we see him slowly start to realize what those reactions and thoughts mean.
Only a few months had gone by, and already it seemed like his name was on everyone’s lips, or at least, the people that ran in my circle. Connor Orellana, his imagined deeds ingrained into Burro Hills High School lore. The rest of them either whispered about him in the hallway or blew him off as another loser, a junkie or a deadbeat’s son like the rest of us. I was hopelessly intrigued.

I was also hopelessly intrigued with Connor. Rubin wrote him with the perfect balance of mystery and realness. He felt down-to-earth yet was also super impulsive and sort of a loose cannon. He kept me on my toes. And I loved how much he obviously adored Jack. Connor is unapologetic about who he is. He couldn’t give two shits about what anyone thinks of him, and as the story progresses, it becomes clear that he wishes Jack could be as fearless. But, Jack is scared. He’s scared to confront his friends and family about his quickly growing feelings for Connor.

I mentioned that the story was raw and angsty, and it truly is. With a definite Outsiders vibe, the book has this tinge of desperation permeating the pages. Jack’s relationship with his friend Toby is constantly on the verge of imploding, his home life is certainly far from ideal—yet he yearns for it to be the home he dreams of—and the fallout with his friend Jess is heart wrenching. Jack deals with his problems with alcohol and drugs, as do most of the characters in the story. This bit really stuck with me:
“Well, look who’s finally up,” Dad said. He spun in his chair to face me, and we locked eyes for a moment. Father and Son, two hungover, useless bastards. If someone had wanted to paint a portrait of our family lineage, this would’ve been a good place to start.

One thing in the book that definitely might have more sensitive readers clutching their pearls is the frequent and pervasive drug use. There is LOTS of drug use. But, unfortunately drugs are an even bigger part of reality for kids in high school now than they were when I was a kid, and I knew kids in high school who did a lot of drugs. Rubin pulls no punches in her storytelling, making for a very vivid picture of the world these teens inhabit.

As angsty as this story was, though, as I said earlier there were many beautiful moments, and the romance between Connor and Jack was incredibly sweet. I also loooved Jess, and her and Jack’s friendship. And, there were a few scenes between Jack and each of his parents, individually, that were so heartfelt and genuine.

Check this one out, guys. I was sucked in from the first page. And, that cover, amirite?!? Gorgeous. Definitely recommend this worthy debut.

Reviewed by Jules for The Novel Approach
Profile Image for meep.
624 reviews16 followers
February 9, 2018
Okay so i started reading this book and could not finish it. it was not my thing... I found myself lost and the chemistry between characters seemed somewhat forced in my opinion. Maybe this book would have appealed to me more if i was younger but i really liked the writing style..
Profile Image for Is.
597 reviews
February 9, 2018
I feel like any time I do review these days, it's because I thoroughly enjoy a novel I'm reading (or I absolutely hate it and just need to share my thoughts lol).

Burro Hills completely took me by surprise. From the beginning, I almost didn't read it. First, because this has been in my anticipating title list for so long, that when I saw it on the Netgalley site, I thought it was another book and that they had stolen the graphic design, especially the font. Only for me to realize that it was the book in my mind I was comparing it to. And then, I got into this slump.

Yes, that dreaded slump.

I didn't feel like much of anything, but I decided to go with Burro Hills. Now that I think about it, maybe it was calling to me, and I'm glad I picked up that call.

Burro Hills is where Jack lives, a town full of drugs, disappointment, and dead-ends. This is a novel about a guy finding himself in the midst of so much wrongness and toxicity; from the school to the parents to his friends.

And then there's Connor.

"Show-off. That was the first thing I thought about Connor Orellana. Fucking show-off."

The thing with Burro Hills is that it's dark and gritty. It's raw and honest. It flays you open at times, that you almost can't see how great it is because it honestly is great in all of its wrongness. 

I felt for Jack so many times. His dad is an alcoholic, his mom is really there. His friends suck, especially the toxic masculinity they display 24/7. The number of times I had to read the F-slur was way too many, most of them coming from Toby and Max, two of Jack's closest friend.

I also want to point out trigger warning for sexual assault. Then, Jack touches his best friend inappropriately, but I want it noted that this is called out by his best friend, Jess, near the end. He knows immediately that he's done something despicable, especially since it happened to him, but I love that Jess calls it out exactly for what it was. I don't want to spoil that scene, but she doesn't leave any rock untouched when it comes to what he did and how wrong it was.

The thing that really drives this novel, although everything works wonderfully to create a substance novel that makes the reader think and feel, is the relationship and friendship between Jack and Connor. I love how unapologetic Connor is, and how he came into Jack's life for the better. This two definitely don't have a perfect life, but they're trying their best. They both have their flaws and faults, but together they make each other better. I honestly don't want to spoil anything—plot, characters, events. But, these two are so raw and real. I could see them, I connected with them, I felt for them, I cheered for them. I loved their quiet moments and the quiet way Connor came into Jack's life and dug a hole in his heart.

Like, my dude, you were looking at Connor way too intently. I loved how Jack's eyes followed Connor everywhere, how the same things made him happy even in the before. 

And I can't believe I got the ending I always wanted as a teen. I always wanted an ending that didn't wrap things in a tightly and neatly bow. Life isn't the ending page where everyone and everything is forgiven. Where everything is out in the open and all is perfect. Leaving things unfinished, unresolved is realistic. Somethings can be left to breathe.

Burro Hills is a must-read!

Profile Image for Danielle.
Author 2 books44 followers
November 8, 2018
Burro Hills was a pleasure to read, although might not be for everyone. If you're looking for a quirky, light-hearted YA novel, this might not the one you're looking for. But if you're interesting if something a little more raw and real, that touches on some hard subjects with enough thought to really get a point across, Burro Hills is up your alley.

Jack, our MC, has a very strong voice and Rubin does a fantastic job puncturing his narration with beautiful lines of description to give us a deep sense of the world that Jack lives in. A hot, stifling city where blood runs boiling a little too often, and boredom and stagnation leads to the tendency for the cities inhabitants to self-destruct.

Jack battles with this sense of inevitability for the whole novel, as he navigates the delicate balance of his friends and their own dramas, a budding relationship, and his own sexuality. He makes mistakes that he has to suffer for, but he learns from them and I think that's the best bases for a novel out there.

The characters are all very real and believable. None of them are panted as an enemy, even though some of them very well could have been. Jack's relationships are complicated and complex, and I think that's what makes all the character's motivations so believable. Even the characters who hurt and wronged Jack, their motivations are understandable and it's difficult to completely hate them when you know that Jack still cares for them.

Jess was definitely my favorite character. She was Jack's voice of reason, a direct reflection of the maturity that he lacked at times. I just, can't even put to words how much I loved her, and how much it hurt to see her get hurt.

I've seen some mentions of there being no stakes, or the stakes of the novel were not big enough for some reader's satisfaction. I can see where that criticism is coming from, but I would have to say that this didn't bother me. There are stakes, but the stakes are a little more vague than probably most YA readers are used to. A bit like real life, I'd say. If you're someone who needs a build up to a very dramatic climax, perhaps Burro Hills is not for you. Instead, it's a slow burn of unbearable tension. Of this sense of just watching everything slowly falling apart due to the character's own immaturity but not having the ability to stop. Leading to a violent and emotional climax, and then the inevitable putting the pieces back together ending. I think the most important thing is that Jack learns from the terrible things that happens, but at the same time, the novel leaves with the sense that Jack still has learning to do, growing to do, that his stories not over, and that's probably the most realistic thing about it. A bitter sweet ending, but one that's as real and raw as the rest of the novel.

Highly recommend. I am looking forward to Julia's future work!
Author 2 books171 followers
April 6, 2018
Burro Hills is a gritty but beautiful story about a young man coming to terms with his sexuality amidst the complications of his struggling family and group of friends. The pacing is quick and the book was compulsively readable. (I read it in one afternoon!) I loved the voice of the MC, Jack, because it was always so raw and unfiltered, and all the dialogue between Jack and his family, super-macho friends, and swoon-worthy love interest just snaps off the page and really pulls the reader in. This would be a great book to open up conversations about toxic masculinity, poverty, and drug and alcohol abuse.
Profile Image for ~.
69 reviews
February 5, 2018
to me this book was slow to pick up but when it did it was a great book.... Burro hills is a story about a17yr old boy from let me say a bad side of town.. town with violence and drug dealings.
Jack has no real goals for his future, bams all day with his friends and faces many challenges with his family and friends but in the end all is well. He has a hard time coming to times with his sexuality coz that was not considered cool in his school
Although i felt Jake's and Connor's love to be superficial like a high school crush or something it was sweet nonetheless.But i would have liked the book to concentrate on Jake's romance a little bit more much than on drug dealing.
i hated that the book made me think it was written in 1970 some of the slangs didn't just work out for me...Trigger warnings in this book there is mention of self harm and sexual assault
All in all i like this book fine and would recommend it...

*received a copy from net galley for a honest review
Profile Image for Sarah.
178 reviews14 followers
March 20, 2018

Thank you to Netgalley for allowing me to read this in exchange for an honest review!

Anything with LGBT characters, especially when it's of M/M variety, I'm a huge sucker for. Having this book settle in a little more than I did, I'm realizing a lot more about this book that I think I missed out on while reading.

Like the toxic masculinity that's prevalent in here. I missed it the first time because I wasn't looking for it, but the more I think about it, the more I see it, and the more I realize that the "too much going on" that I originally thought was happening, sure, it's there in some parts, but at the same time, they're also highly necessary to the story at hand, because they explain Jack's situations so completely.

As for Jack and Connor? I do love them, especially together, but at the same time, I wasn't really convinced of their chemistry or their love for one another. They may have opened up to each other about personal shit that they don't tell anyone, but their relationship seemed more . . . superficial. Just your run-of-the-mill high school infatuation phase.

I will say this, though: if I were to read this again (preferably a finished copy), I'm 200% positive that I'd pick up on something that missed the first time around, and that's a good thing. This is a book that will stick with you. There is a heavy use of vulgar language, but it didn't bother me any because I have a mouth like a sailor, and honestly, I feel like teens nowadays say way worse than what's in this book. If vulgarity isn't your thing, then I'd probably suggest that you skip this one.

I did very much enjoy the writing, though. It was well done, and made some of the more emotional moments stand out (and me tear up), but I will admit that, at times, the dialogue made me confused about what decade we were in, because I don't think a lot of teens say things like, "mad sick" or whatever. I know "sick" is used to describe things that are cool, but I don't think I've ever heard it used to describe how "hot" girls are. Then again, maybe I'm wrong.

For someone who's in her 30's, this book is clearly not my demographic, so I can fault the author for that. I've been out of high school for over 10 years, lol.

All in all, I loved the story; Jack's struggle with not just his sexuality, but his lot in life and where he sees himself going (or not) was pretty realistic, but as someone who has no experience with that, I can't say for certain how accurate it was. However, I'm pretty confident in saying that it was accurate enough, especially since this isn't a story about two white boys in a middle-class neighborhood.

I highly recommend this book, if you're interested. Before I forget, if you need any trigger warnings, there's mention of self-harm and attempted rape (as well as a scene depicting sexual assault).
Profile Image for Katie.
133 reviews2 followers
March 17, 2018
Trigger warnings (hold onto your hat, there's a lot going on here):

Whew. This was a tough book. It really, really pulled no punches, and it hit on a lot of issues in a short time. But it did it all really really well, and although it was tough to read, I think that it handled everything very well. I believe that it was described as similar to The Outsiders, but with actual LGBTQ characters instead of just subtext, and I think that it more than delivered. It's been a while since I read The Outsiders, but I do think that this had a similar, gritty tone, but was actually much more enjoyable and compelling to me.

At its core, this is about Jack coming to terms with himself, his sexuality, his family situation, and his goals for the future. And it is certainly not easy for him, because none of this stuff is easy. You really feel for him, and get quite invested. I was happy when he was happy, upset when he was upset, and frustrated when he kept making bad decisions. He's a flawed character, and the book doesn't gloss over that. But in the end he goes through a lot of growth and ends up in a place where he's starting to be at peace with himself and his relationships, and that's really something that everyone wants.

There's a lot going on, so I'll just hit on a few things I liked:
-Jack and Connor's relationship is really built on communication and mutual respect for each other. They do have fights, but they actually talk about their issues and listen to each other to figure out where the other one's coming from, and to an extent, they give each other room to deal with their own issues while providing support.
-I really liked the trajectory of Jack's relationship with his friend Jess. I also really like that
-As someone who has been in a same-sex relationship and kept it a secret, parts of the book about Jack and Connor's relationship were incredibly relatable to me.
-The book did not gloss over how LGBTQ teens still face a lot of bullying and harassment. I was super tense throughout large portions of the book because it was terrifying to imagine people going through that kind of harassment and violence, from strangers and even friends. Even more chilling was knowing that this isn't an uncommon experience for LGBTQ teens. It was tough to read, but it's an important reality of a lot of LGBTQ teens' lives, unfortunately.
-The book didn't place a premium on coming out as the ultimate signifier of being comfortable with one's identity. It is a point of conflict between Jack and Connor, and Jack does , but although it is an important thing, it is not the entire culmination of Jack's growth as a character.
-There's nuance in the way that everything is treated. There's a lot of tough stuff here, but not much black-and-white morality in that this character is 100% good and this character is 100% bad. Which is cool, because that's how real life is.

Some stuff I liked a little less:
-The drug and alcohol use by Jack and his friends was just extremely over the top, and the risk of drug addiction was one of the only things that I think was slightly glossed over. The characters do a wide range of drugs, but their concern never goes past "Well, maybe I'll get lung cancer when I'm 30," and no effort is made to stop doing drugs (or even limit it to the less dangerous ones). I mean, it's not the job of a book to preach to the reader, but it made me a bit uncomfortable.
-There's a bit at the end where

Still, on the whole I really enjoyed this book, and would definitely recommend it for fans of LGBTQ YA that doesn't shy away from darker themes, but ultimately has a hopeful and uplifting conclusion.
Profile Image for Ian.
205 reviews5 followers
August 19, 2018
I mostly liked this book. It's well-written, with a good pacing, and I really liked Jack as a character. I also liked the fact that the author did not shy away from depicting teenage sex. Some YA novels are way too neutered in that regard for no valuable reason -- IMHO.

Now, about the things I did not like.

I'm usually not one to frown upon drugs being mentioned in YA novels -- and God knows that I did my fair share of them when I was a teenager myself -- but this book somehow managed to make me feel uncomfortable about that.

Also, while I think that the romance between Jack and Connor is one of the most enjoyable elements of the book, I did not like how Connor was constantly pressuring Jack into coming out without really trying to understand his circumstances. Of course, Jack doesn't really let Connor in on his fears and mostly keeps silent about how far the bullying he's suffered at the hands of (probably) Toby went, but that doesn't make Connor's behaviour acceptable. Now, I understand that they're just teenagers and that it may not always be easy to fully appreciate these things at that age, but it really bugged me.

Moreover, I think the parents' storyline was a bit botched. The way the real dynamics of their mariage and the mother's mental illness were revealed seemed really rushed and artificial to me. A lot more needed to be said on that -- or at least, what was said needed to be said way better than it was.

And then of course, there is Jess. Definitely my least favourite character. She ranks even lower in my book than the ultimate scum that was Toby -- and that says a lot. She comes across as very shallow and self-centered. Clearly, she had every right to be angry with Jack after THE INCIDENT had occured between them, but I think she was very quick to forget how Jack had loved her, cared for her, stood up for her for years. Her first move was indeed to run to the mean girls who had made her life hell in the first place for comfort, out of some sick and very transparent desire to be approved and validated by them. Had she not suffered some deep shit herself at the hands of Toby (that asshole again) and had she not been tossed aside yet again by the same mean girls, she probably never would have given Jack a second chance. She's just really messed up.

Good book overall. I'd recommend.
Profile Image for Jéssica.
Author 1 book65 followers
October 29, 2018
I haven't read many LGBT books, and it was something I really wanted to do so I could expand my knowledge of other books and different genres. This book sounded appealing to me. From the cover to the blurb, and the fact that it was an YA novel because I haven't read many books that are YA compared to other genres.

This book is about love, friendship, drugs, troubled families and high schools problems that don't help the overall situation of life. It's about a young men finding out who he really is and realizing that that's okay, is about his life dealing with all the challenges in his life, about how he copes with all the problems.

Jack has had a hard life and has I got to know more about him and his life, as well as his thoughts, dreams and wishes, I felt empathy and I wanted to be his friend. The way that the author wrote the characters made them seem real, they could be real, and that just touches my heart with sadness for everyone that has gone (or is still living) through this situations.

The characters interactions are a big part of this book. The characters and the plot could be amazing, but if the dynamics between characters were so well written the all storyline wouldn't feel the same. That been said, I loved those interactions, especially all the moments between Jack and Connor.

There is this sweet and cute love with Jack and Connor and I loved it. Like I said before, I loved all the moments between them. When they were sharing stories and opening themselves to each other, I felt like I could connect with them in a way, and I loved reading those scenes because I could see their relationship growing, and that's always something I love. I love when I get to see growth and development in the characters.

Overall, this novel was awesome. It was captivating, emotional and it made me think. It was a story that showed us young people dealing with every challenge in their lives and it felt real. It touched many subjects of our society, from family dynamics to drugs, from sexual orientation to friendships and love. And I loved reading this book and totally recommend it.

[I want to thank Julia for the eCopy of this book and for allowing me to read this book and in turn give my honest review of the book.]
Profile Image for Marsha.
Author 2 books33 followers
January 27, 2022
This novel leans a little too heavily into the stoner lifestyle. Almost all the teens are habitual drug users or casual (or otto casual) inebriates. The topic of sexual abuse rears its ugly head not just once but four times among three different people. This novel definitely should come with trigger warnings.

Excessive sexual abuse aside, we are dealing with people who have a lot of emotional damage and personal trauma in their lives. Dead parents, viciously arguing parents, incarcerated parents. Oh year, definitely merits trigger warnings.

Threading through this is the broken voice of Jack Burns, a boy struggling to come to terms with and admit his homosexuality. At first, he’s not even certain that he’s gay although he secretly admits to himself that the thought of screwing girls leaves him absolutely indifferent. Then Connor shows up and Jack’s world gradually opens to a new, shining possibility.

But the course of high school love ne’er ran smooth and Jack must deal with his own bone-deep terror of coming out, condemnation from his inner circle of friends (whom he admits that he doesn’t like very much) and the fear of setting a match to the dry tinder that is his own volatile family life.

The adolescent character “voice” is spot-on and never falters. You really get deep into Jack’s mind, even when his thoughts are submerged in the elusive euphoria of drug-filled hazes.

After violent episodes and brushes with the law, Jack comes to admit his sexuality as well as his feelings for Connor. There’s no guarantee his affections will last past high school (do they ever?) or that he’ll ever be more than a foolish stoner. But Jack gets the courage to fix a few aspects of his life and you finish the novel with a sense of satisfaction.

Jack isn’t a hero. But he manages to take steps in the right direction.
Profile Image for Jennifer Shanahan.
894 reviews12 followers
January 25, 2018
Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC. I loved this book. Jack, the main character is a 17yo high school junior in a dying town in California--lots of gangs and drugs, unhappy parents/sad home life and he knows that he is gay but he goes to great lengths to hide it because it is NOT cool. His friends are drug dealers and all they do it get high, drink and hang out pretty much. But they are all super-macho-alpha type males. Then he meets Conner. Conner is really good looking and extremely confident and Jack falls for him pretty quick. Their relationship is so sweet and they both end up caring about each other so much that it was totally adorable, very romantic. Jack, however, still doesn't want anyone to know he is is gay. He does everything he can to hide it, even shutting Conner out for awhile, but eventually people find out. His mom, Conner's Uncle, and his friends figure out and give him a hard time. I don't want to ruin the end of the book, but I loved how Jack finally figured everything out for himself, at least about his family, friends and Conner and accepted himself, and was proud. I loved all of the characters and the writing. Brutally honest, from JAck's point of view. He acted tough on the outside, but on the inside he had so many feelings about Connor and his friends etc--he knew what he wanted, he was just so afraid to go for it. Jack was a great character---his strength and love were amazing. Highly recommend this one!!! Emotional but so worth it!
Profile Image for Megan Jackson.
1 review1 follower
March 18, 2018
I struggled to get into this book, but once I did I really enjoyed the story, completely falling in love with Jack and Connor’s relationship.

Burro Hills is about teenagers coming to terms with their sexuality and finding a place in society where they’ll be accepted. But in a town that is full of drug deals and dysfunctional families, it’s not easy. It is told in the point of view of seventeen-year-old Jack Burns who is captivated by the new boy Connor Orellana. Having their relationship hidden shows the steely exteriors being diminished, where we can be fully immersed in their romance.

We are introduced to a lot of complex characters throughout the novel, many of whom you feel for, but mostly I felt anger towards a lot of them because they spoke as if they were more superior to everyone around them. Toby especially, Jack’s drug dealer friend, made me uncomfortable. A realistic presentation of the ‘alpha males’ needing masculinity to be pinned down to a stereotypical representation.

I was worried Toby’s influence on Jack would ruin his relationship with Connor, because Jack so desperately wanted to fit in and be the ‘masculine’ figure that he was presenting to the outside world. But their romance was powerful and kept getting stronger. Both parties were all kinds of messed up, but they just accepted one another.

All in all, a fairly powerful representation of coming out and accepting yourself in the 21st century.
Profile Image for Lisa Cronkhite.
Author 9 books52 followers
February 7, 2018
I got a copy from Netgalley for an honest review. First of all, I have trouble reading (as most would know) I think that's all because of my mental illness. Sometimes it's way too hard to concentrate. I've been so stressed out and have been in a reading slump for months. It's been difficult. BUT Burro Hills changed all that for me. I was hooked on Jack from beginning to end. I thought his story was completely engrossing to read. Maybe I needed a change in genre or something, I don't know. This one did the trick just great.

I felt for Jack and could relate to a lot of his feelings. He was such a thoughtful character. Conner too. All of the characters were interesting. Toby was a jerk, but still enjoyed his character. Oh, wow, and Rubin's writing! It's so vivid and exciting. I could picture everything. And it wasn't overdone either. Just the right amount. A lot of things happen, big things and little things, and how the end was so uplifting when Jack finally felt comfortable in his own skin. It was very refreshing. Also how he got a lot of support too, which was just wonderful. It's how it should be.

I highly recommend this book because it's an important coming-of-age story to read about, done through amazing writing.
Profile Image for Book Smeller.
114 reviews7 followers
November 14, 2018
Burro Hills
Written by Julia Lynn Rubin
Genre – YA Romance
Rating – 4/5 Stars
Currently Available

“In Burro Hills, you figure out who you are….or die trying.”
Jack is stuck between a rock and a hard place. He comes from a troubled home, a life of poverty and is associated with a rough crowd. He feels there is no way out. Jack has his best friend, Jess, who manages to keep him sane through the high school BS. That is until Connor enters the picture.
Connor is new at school and begins to hang with Jacks crowd. He fits right in, as they all get stoned together and cause trouble. Connor and Jack begin to spend a lot of time together, apart from the group. They quickly find love in the most unexpected place. Jack feels uncomfortable sharing it with Burro Hills, as the folks around there haven’t been accepting of people different than them.
This book was beautiful! This book includes all the good stuff – a hot passionate romance between Connor and Jack, high school drama, parties, drugs, drug dealers, and a dysfunctional family. I enjoyed this book. I feel the author wrote with love and passion. I felt the ending was bold and made a statement. I would recommend this book to many. I hope you enjoy it!
Profile Image for Danielle.
284 reviews22 followers
January 31, 2018
This book was intense. It dealt with a lot of issues. Drug abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, alcohol abuse, homophobia, mental health, etc etc.

The author did a good job of handling these issues and spreading them through the book without it feeling overwhelming.

I have a lot of feelings about this book. My brain is king of jumbly after finishing. But in a good way. I really enjoyed it.

The main focus of the book I felt was overcoming fear of what everyone else thinks about you and being yourself. But in a more intense way.

Jack is struggling with his sexuality. He is terrified that if someone finds out it will be the end. But then he meets Connor, the cool, confident new kid.

Conner is bisexual and not ashamed. He wants more than friendship with Jack. And Jack wants it too, but he’s not ready to be out. The book follows Jack and Connor’s relationship as Jack struggles with his friends, family, and personal issues. I don’t want to give too much away, but I highly suggest this book!
Profile Image for Leighton Williams.
18 reviews8 followers
January 4, 2023
True Rating: 3.5/5

I was given an eARC of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This review will be spoiler-free.

I'd like to get this out in the open right away: I was disappointed with this book. Now, this may have been partially my fault. I think I went into it with high expectations, hoping it would be similar to one of my favorite novels, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Not that I wanted it to be the same plotline. Rather, I was just hoping it would hit me as hard as that novel had. I wanted this book to make me feel something, and it just didn't deliver.

Still, there were some great moments in this novel, which I'd like to point out before I go into the more negative aspects. The first great thing that I felt Rubin did exceptionally well was characterization. When it came to the main characters in this novel, they were all very unique from one another and easily recognizable. They all had personalities that made them feel incredibly realistic, and Rubin introduced them with some super quotable lines. A great example of this that happens close to the beginning of the novel is "She looked like a piece of candy, a bright, sunny popsicle." Another example that occurs a few lines later (about a different girl) is "Every time she spoke, it made me think of a wind-up toy, dizzy and spinning and squeaking." Most of the characterization in this novel is just as vivid as these two, and it gives you a great mental image of the characters and an understanding of their personalities in just a few short, beautifully worded lines.

Which leads me to the next thing Rubin did really well. It wasn't just the moments of characterization that were beautifully written. This was definitely a literary novel, filled with amazing, quotable writing that carried me through the story. Moments of imagery and world building were written in the same style as the characterization, and when those moments came about I was able to picture everything very clearly.

The third and final thing that I really enjoyed in this novel was the romance. I'm a sucker for a love story, and the moments that focused in on Jack (the main character) and Connor were my favorites. Although I wouldn't say their relationship was always the healthiest, it was very relatable and realistic, and added some great drama and tension to the story.

Unfortunately, a sense of overarching tension was definitely missing from this novel. While there were tense moments during each of the different plotlines that were going on throughout the book, there was never the sense of anything really being at stake. And I think this is a result of there not really being a story. Instead, it was a mishmash of different plotlines that didn't have much overlap, and none of the plotlines were focused on enough to develop them properly. Just as we were getting somewhere in the story about Jack and his friend Jess, the chapter ended and then we were focusing on Jack and Connor. But whenever things started to feel tense with them we jumped to the plotline focused on Jack and his relationship with his parents. If everything had pulled together in the end and related in some way, I might have forgiven this, but it really didn't. I got the sense that Rubin tried to make it all related, but she just didn't pull through, and the climax was very underwhelming for me because I didn't really care about any of the characters.

Other than that, the one big thing that sort of ruined the book for me was a scene that included sexual assault. There were actually a couple of scenes that included sexual assault, and one mention of attempted rape, so I'd also like to throw out that trigger warning for any potential readers. But the moment I'm talking about occurred in a flashback, between Jack when he was thirteen and a girl--no, a woman--who was in college at the time. Normally I don't have a problem with an author including sensitive subjects in their novels, so long as they have a purpose, but that was my exact issue with this instance. Not only was it sexual assault, but it was also statutory rape and could even be considered pedophilia on the woman's part, and the only purpose it seemed to serve was to show how gay Jack was because he didn't want to have sex with this hot college girl who was throwing herself at him. Maybe that wasn't Rubin's intention when she wrote the scene, but since the incident never came up again in the story or played any major roll in any plotline, I have to assume that was its intention, which is wrong on so many levels. It implies that a thirteen-year-old boy would have to be gay to not want to have sex with someone like that, and that's just not the case. It made me really uncomfortable, but thankfully it happened early in the novel and I was able to enjoy the rest of the book without letting it mar my reading experience too much.

All-in-all, there were some parts of this book that I really enjoyed, and others that weren't my cup of tea. I was actually considering giving it 3 stars instead of 3.5, but the romance was what made me give it that extra half of a star. Though I wish Rubin had given it the page time it deserved and spent more time developing it, what was there was fun to read and kept me pushing through the not-so-good parts of this book.

Though I wouldn't necessarily recommend this novel to anyone (because there's similar, better stories out there), I think it would appeal most to fans of Benjamin Alire Sáenz's books. However, anyone who is bothered or triggered by sexual assault/rape, slurs about sexuality, and/or detailed drug use might want to consider passing this book up.
Profile Image for Lisa Super.
Author 1 book67 followers
June 1, 2018
“Burro Hills” is a gritty and gripping portrait of self-discovery and first love. Jack’s struggles, both internal with his sexuality and external with substance abuse, are compelling as everything he’s known about his family, his friends, and himself crumbles around him. Like the hazy California sky surrounding Jack, there are no clear answers. There is no clean “other side” for him to emerge, which adds to the potency of the narrative. Julia Lynn Rubin’s writing style is distinct and electric. Every sentence packs a punch, and the chemistry between Jack and Connor sizzles. Highly recommend this one, and I can’t wait to read Rubin’s next book. I’m posting this is in June and “Burro Hills” would be a perfect read for Pride Month!
March 14, 2018
**Thank you NetGalley and Diversion Books for the opportunity to read an eARC of Burro Hills! Don’t punch me too hard, kay?**


This one is RIDDLED with a potty mouth and teen angst.

For me, it distracts and lessens the quality of the story. It doesn’t matter what the story is about. I can’t get comfortable or settled into the story when I’m bombarded like that. So unfortunately, I can’t give too much of an opinion because I haven’t been able to form one.

I'm sorry; I can't go on...

Until next time!
Profile Image for Mel Sparks.
445 reviews24 followers
March 20, 2018
Burro Hills delves into the lives of high schoolers struggling to cope with crappy circumstances, peer pressure, family instability and sexual orientation. The plot makes easy transitions as the story unfolds through the eyes of Jack.
We're taken on the tumultuous journey to his self acceptance and we slowly fall in love with the charismatic Connor as the two struggle to deal with the challenges of high school life, all while fending off personal demons.

Character development was solid and relatable, each character had their personal struggles to overcome One such individual was Jess who (in my opinion) was the epitome of insecure vulnerability.

The POV was written in first person and it worked well for this story, the setting switches between high school and the unsavory parts of a big city. The author captures the details of hood life as poignant descriptions relates the poverty and hopelessness of aspects of Jack's life.

Overall it was a good read that I would recommend!
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