It’s the first day of school and things are different. Instead of a cheerleading outfit, DJ has a new haircut and also new pronouns. It’s not easy to blend in small town Alabama, and now all eyes are on DJ. His only plan is to survive senior year.
Sebastian had a crush on DJ last year and now that DJ has a new name a new look, that crush is still there and may be stronger than ever. Sebastian gives DJ a much needed life line and DJ feels a small sense of hope the more time he spends with Sebastian. Where DJ was terrified, Sebastian shows him only kindness and then love. Coming out and falling in love is what DJ and Sebastian would like for senior year, but when not everyone understands, school can be a dangerous place. DJ and Sebastian just want to be together, but making it to graduation will be their biggest challenge.
From the first page, it was easy to fall into the first-person point of view as DJ returns from summer break with his outside starting to match how he feels on the inside. Some may tell DJ it’s a brave and bold move, but DJ has no choice but to be his true self. But going from a cheerleader to changing his pronouns leaves him an easy target in a largely unsupportive, rural town. DJ was so caught up in his own head and his fear of coming out that he didn’t think he would have any support from his peers, and while he is mostly correct, he finds support where he needs it most.
Sebastian already had a crush on DJ and even though DJ looks different, Sebastian’s crush is still strong and maybe even stronger than before. Sebastian is seemingly the lone good guy who offers DJ support and friendship and love. Falling for DJ helps Sebastian learn about himself and Sebastian is presented as completely opposite from his peers around him. While we get point of view for both characters, it came off as more DJ’s story than Sebastian’s and there were additional things I would have liked to know about Sebastian as well.
This is a very contemporary story with heavy references to current memes where the characters discuss them, joke about them, and even act them out. If you are then not caught up with all of it, the scenes may be significantly less impactful. The characters also having a running joke of using malaprops and while some of them were cute and fun, after a while it felt like being in the middle of an inside joke without truly being a part of it. I also always enjoy dual POV and while the chapters were labeled by character, in some of the back and forth dialogue it was not always clear who was speaking.
There is enough tension to keep the story moving without becoming unbearable, especially for YA-aged readers, and the ending put DJ and Sebastian in a more comfortable place. While due to their age, this was only one chapter of their lives and they have more story to live, the ending was also a little abrupt for my tastes with the addition of a storyline for secondary characters that seemed added on at the end.
Burn That Bridge is a young adult novel that handles difficult themes in a sometimes hostile environment. While DJ and Sebastian do have parental support, it’s completely unfair that they had to struggle so much and Gray handles them with confidence and grace as they look to better days ahead.