Cover Image: Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me

Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

“But there were things you were wrong about, too.  I need to be clear...I’m just me, a sixteen-year-old girl.  And I won’t feel bad about that, Aubrey.  Or bad about anything I’m ready for.”

Reminiscent of Judy Blume in its exploration of the coming-of-age experience, Gae Polisner’s Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me introduces readers to JL, a 15-year-old girl who is approaching the end of her sophomore year, her sixteenth birthday, and the potential for her “first time” with her first real boyfriend.  However, despite all the coming-of-age excitement, JL feels alone, her father away on extended business, her best friend Aubrey estranged, and her mother suffering from a dissociative disorder.  Told in chapters that alternate between flashbacks and the present, JL writes to her former best friend, exploring the causes of their failing friendship. 

Polisner crafts several intensely relatable moments that will echo many YA readers’ experiences, such as when JL calls out to her former best friend while Aubrey pretends not to hear her or the deep, largely unrequited crush JL develops on Aubrey’s older brother. The tension between JL’s childhood and emerging adulthood is also beautifully symbolized by her butterflies, which often make appearances as she makes decisions about her relationships with her boyfriend, friends, and family. Despite the ending feeling a bit rushed, the overall story was a perfect representation of the loneliness that often accompanies growing up. 

School libraries should consider for purchase wherever realistic fiction is in demand. Thanks to Netgalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I loved this book! Hands down one of my favorite books of 2020 so far. Trigger warnings: mentions of underage sex, attempted coercive sex, mental illness, betrayals. I received this book courtesy of NetGalley as an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
This story about JL was hauntingly and heart-wrenchingly beautiful. It had the perfect amount of young adulthood drama mixed with the simplicity and naivety of raising butterflies which gave the story the much needed beauty.
Gae Polisner has written about the teenage problems so well. JL is 15, Max is 19, and even though their relationship is very much frowned upon as Max is known as the motorcycle-riding weirdo, I loved how he wasn’t made out to be the stereotypical bad guy. He was far from it with his quoting famous poets. His actions were a little predictable for me, hence the four out of five stars, but it didn’t make the story any less compelling.
I enjoyed how multi-layered all the characters were. Nothing was exactly how it seemed. Even though Aubrey had found new friends, there was more to it than met the eye. Shows how the influence or opinion of your peers can make you choose or do things you otherwise wouldn’t.
The parents of the two main characters were also far from perfect. JL with her mentally unstable and unhinged mother & absent father who kept promising to come back home after leaving for work, and Max’s no-good alcoholic father and mother who had left long ago and showed no interest in him. No wonder both of them wanted to leave for the summer to enjoy each others company.
All in all, this was a rather enjoyable and quick read despite the sad undertones. Due to the added sexual scenes, it might not be suitable for too young teens, but there wasn’t anything too explicit in it. Nothing the average 15yo hasn’t already experienced or heard about, I’m guessing.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Ok, so I've had a copy of this book for a few months now and I can't remember why I waited so long to read it. The synopsis really grabbed my attention when I first read it months ago and oh how I wish I had of read this sooner! This was such a raw, powerful and emotional read for me. Both the story and the characters were wonderfully written. JL was a perfect main character for this story. I absolutely adored her and my heart broke for her so many times. 

The story is mainly written in a letter to JL's best friend, Aubrey. Through this letter we get to know the girls as they were young friends and then watch them drift apart as they enter high school. JL gets a boyfriend, Aubrey gets new friends and all of a sudden they don't seem to fit into each others world anymore. I think this is something that a lot of people will relate to in the way that at least most of us have grown apart from a best friend and/or been betrayed by one. I thought their relationship was written so perfectly. It captured the essence of growing up in a very real way. There are other relationships addressed, such as with her mother, father, grandmother and boyfriend but I won't get into detail about those. All I'm going to say is they were all done fabulously as well.

Due to mature subject content and the type of issues presented in this book I'd recommend it to 14+. It was a good solid read for me.
Was this review helpful?
I’m a big fan of Game Polisner books, and this was a great read. Highly recommend for book lovers and fans of realistic fiction for the ya crowd.
Was this review helpful?
Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me by Gae Polisner is definitely an emotional tale. This novel is pretty raw. IT is telling about the struggles of JL's (Jean-Louise) life. JL's mom suffers from dissociation disorder so she is in a depressed fog constantly. There are days that she barely gets out of her bed. JL's dad is on a business trip. JL's best friend Aubrey has shunned her. JL has a boyfriend named Max that is a bit rough around the edges but he is really smart. Max wants to go to California after he graduates and he has invited JL to go with him. JL doesn't want to leave her mother alone.

As the reader you see JL struggle with what is going on in her life. She doesn't know what to do. She is having to be the caretaker of the family when it should be one of her parents. JL feels pressure from Max especially with their age difference because he is ready to have sex and she isn't. Then she is also being put into situations that she is uncomfortable with. I just feel like this book had some really odd mature content in it. The fact that it eludes to the fact that Max sleeps with JL's mother. Like Why? Did that really need to be in a young adult book? Was that added for shock factor? I found that this wasn't my favorite story to read. It had some moments that I just didn't understand.
Was this review helpful?
Wow. Books like this should be made to let everyone know how hard it is to explore and discover yourself, survive your struggles, deal with mental illness, losing someone important and falling in love for the first time. It might sound normal but I keep telling people to read this book. It speaks about life and how teens see the world. 

So much love for this book! ❤️
Was this review helpful?
Jean Louise, or JL as she likes to be called, is having a difficult sophomore year. Her father is living at the other end of the country, in California, temporarily for his job. JL and her mother stayed home in Long Island. Her boyfriend Max is two years older and has a bit of a reputation at school. But that’s just the beginning of her struggles. 

Her best friend Aubrey is spending her time with other classmates. JL doesn’t know if it’s because of something she did or not, but she spends her time thinking of the years they spent as best friends and misses Aubrey terribly. Although JL has Max, it’s not the same as having your lifelong best friend by your side through tenth grade. 

And on top of all that, her mother is not adjusting well to her father being so far away. She is seeing a mental health professional, but no one besides JL knows just how bad her mother has gotten. Between her strong meds and her grief, she leaves JL to her own much of the time. 

To help JL feel better about her father leaving, her Nana got her some butterflies to raise. Instead of more Monarch butterflies like JL had raised and released last time, she and her Nana chose some tropicals for JL to raise in her bedroom. The fragility of the Glasswings and the Jezebels give JL a sense of beauty and wonder as they emerge from their chrysalis and learn to fly, growing into breathtaking butterflies in the tank in her bedroom. But they also bring out her feelings of vulnerability, as she knows that their lives are so short. 

JL spends her days trying to survive high school, trying to figure out what it is that she wants, and hoping that her family doesn’t disintegrate in front of her eyes. But she also knows that caterpillars have to come completely apart in the chrysalis in order to become one of those beautiful butterflies she loves so much. 

Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me is a poignant coming-of-age story of an isolated teenager who needs to find her wings. Beautifully written and achingly honest, it is a powerful story that brings back the vulnerability of being in high school. Author Gae Polisner tells this story with all the intensity of those first love feelings and the insecurity of sitting alone at the cafeteria at lunch. 

Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me is a beautiful, heart-wrenching reminder of how difficult being a teenager can be, but JL’s transformation from a confused kid to a self-directed young adult is a beautiful journey, and despite having dropped a tear or two along the way, I’m so glad I went on this trip. It’s a truly lovely YA story of strength, beauty, and personal growth. 

Galleys for Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me were provided to me from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley, with many thanks.
Was this review helpful?
At 15, JL Markham's life once surrounded her best friend Aubrey. The pair did everything together. High school is changing them. Aubrey's spending time with a crowd that mocks JL. JL's becoming hooked on a senior, Max, who has the bad boy persona, which doesn't matter to JL, but it seems others are dead set on branding her a "Jezebel" like the butterflies she raises. 

Butterflies are the only things bringing her a sense of calm at the moment. Her mother's mental health issues and her father's extended business trip are tearing the family apart. JL's had enough, and Max's news that as soon as school's over, he's hitting the road just as Jack Kerouac did. It's up to JL to decide if she's staying or joining him.

I have mixed feelings on this book. Part of me loved it. JL is endearing. Her coming-of-age story is told between past and present. It's easy to see just how much her lack of truly responsible parents weigh on her. Having the influence of a boyfriend adding to the mix seemed genuine, and I liked him. He may be a bad boy and make some stupid mistakes along the way, but he's also shaped by his family dynamics. I was rooting for those two from the start.

The exotic butterflies play an important role in this book. They're what keeps JL grounded. As a result, there can be quite a bit of butterfly info tossed in. I found it pulled me out of the story. I'm also not as fascinated with butterflies as JL was in the story. That aspect ended up feeling like a science lesson to me. 

I found myself quickly skipping past the butterfly chapters to get back to the family dynamics. I needed to know what JL would decide and why.
Was this review helpful?
I was super interested in this but then I picked it up and only got about 11% which is about 30 pages into Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me and I lost interest. I couldn't get into it. Every time I went to read it again I dreaded it and would only read a paragraph at a time.
Was this review helpful?
I received Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me by Gae Polisner as an ARC from NetGalley.  J.L Markham is 15 and raises tropical butterflies to do with the chaos in her life.  Her mom suffers from mental illness and her dad is on an extended business trip.  The only friend that J.L has right now is her boyfriend who will be graduating this year.  She has lost her best friend, Aubrey.  The story is interspersed with letters that J.L. is writing to Aubrey to what is going on with her.  It shows the reality of what life is like when you are 15.  I found the book very well written and the characters memorable.  Even though it was a YA love story and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I plan on reading Gae Polisner previous books.
Was this review helpful?
Great for YA readers and I think will resonate and connect with true YA’ers ages 15 to 17! Didn’t hit me as hard and adult but I’m not the target audience!
Was this review helpful?
Honestly, this book wasn't a favorite of mine. I think it may have been a little too YA for me. I found JL very whiney and immature (she's a 15 year old kid though, so it's pretty realistic). She had a lot going on though; her mom's mental illness, dad basically dropped his family for work, best friend is no longer around, and her boyfriend/only source of social interactions is planning on leaving town. However, when someone did extend an olive branch she found a way to push back. I appreciated the author bringing light to mental health illnesses and the difficulties of living with someone who is not adequately treated. I will always applaud authors who do this. She also shed light on the pressures teenagers get to start becoming sexually active. I think this book had a really great story, however it just wasn't for me.
Was this review helpful?
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley, in exchange I’m providing an honest review. 

I am not entirely sure how to review this book without giving away spoilers. So the story is about a 15/16 year old girl writing a letter to her lifelong best friend who she has had a falling out with to apologize and tell her story. 

Most of the book is actually about the main character’s romantic relationship with a  rough-around-the-edgers 19 year old boy. And you may be thinking, developmentally, that’s a pretty big gap. Also he drinks and smokes weed, comes from a messed up family. But our main character, she grew up with parents who drank and smoked weed, and her family is a mess. So it makes sense? Then you find out early on that this boy’s pet name for his rather young girlfriend is “Jailbait” (but it’s ok, it’s not a red flag—just a cute inside joke, right?). But stick with the story, it does come together at the end. Because honestly, I almost put this book down because I was really not okay with some of the things happening. But just finish the book, trust me.
Was this review helpful?
Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me by Gae Polisner is a beautiful and emotional coming-of-age story about two childhood friends who have grown apart over the years. Both JL and Aubrey are each attempting to overcome their circumstances in order to feel some kind of semblance to happiness. JL's struggles with her absentee parents while trying to maintain a connection with her grandmother, the giver of JL's beloved butterflies, and Max,  

This book is beautifully written and brings back distant feelings that one can really only experience as a young teenager. The reader feels the ups and downs of growing up right along with JL - especially the estrangement she feels in regards to Aubrey. Polisner portrays the emotions of those emerging years in such a beautiful and tragic way.
Was this review helpful?
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me was incredibly depressing, and left every single issue unresolved at the end. Why??? It didn't make me feel hopeful, or think that things might finally be okay for JL. I'm angry, frustrated, and wish that something more significant had happened for the main character. Basically, she's dismissed and taken advantage of over and over again, and by the people who are supposed to care about her the most.

JL's dad was absent. He left his family for work and money (his contract was repeatedly extended), and I never fully understood why he left them behind to begin with. When my husband deployed last year, we didn't have the option of going with him. JL and her mother could have moved to California with her dad until he was finished with his contractual obligations, but they chose not to. Instead, JL's father leaves his daughter with his disassociating wife, and just assumes everything is okay despite being told otherwise.

JL's grandmother has her head in the sand, and refuses to admit things are actually as bad as they seem, so there's no one on JL's side helping her through this. She's stuck at home dealing with her mother, who is often not firmly in this reality. No child should have to deal with that.

On top of everything, JL's boyfriend is constantly pressuring her to have sex, and to just be more sexual in general. She's clearly stated that she's not ready, but he still tries to talk her into it. She thinks it's sweet that he wants her so much, and I hated that she couldn't see how pushy he was being. It was like he was trying to make her feel guilty about not doing it, and she wanted to make him happy. Additionally, he's 19 and she's 15, so I had issues with that as well. I know it happens, but a 15-year old is not on the same physical, mental, or emotional level as a 19-year old. Max also uses JL for money, and eventually betrays her in the worst possible way. Something she doesn't even admit to herself until long after it occurs. I was disgusted by his behavior, and that he constantly took advantage of his "Jailbait". Yep. His nickname for JL was Jailbait. Cute, right?

JL's former best friend is equally as bad, and don't even get me started on her parents. They knew JL, and they knew what kind of living situation she was in, but they never offered to help. They didn't even ask how she was doing, or question if there was something they could be doing for her. The people in this book sucked. They sucked big hairy balls! Aubrey (the former best friend) chose to make new friends instead, and simply cut JL out. Why? Her parents thought JL's living situation would be a bad influence on their daughter, like her mother's mental illness was contagious. Fucking morons.

Even the motherfucking mailman knew something was wrong with JL's mom, yet he did nothing. Every single person in this book failed JL in one way or another, and I hate that she had to live like that. She was such a caring person, especially with her butterflies, but there was no one in her corner. She finally does something drastic, which also blows up in her face, but at least it gets her dad's attention. Skip forward a few months, and... nothing. Nothing has changed. There's zero resolution. Why did JL suffer through all of that heartache? Is her mom finally going to get the help she needs? Did JL really mail that letter to who I think she did? If so, that makes zero sense. Especially since the book is written like she's explaining things to Aubrey.

Aargh! I'm feeling really down after reading this book, and I honestly have no idea what kind of point the author was trying to make. That people can be shitty? That you never know what someone else is dealing with? Don't judge others? I think JL deserves a lot better, and I'm very unhappy with where the author left things. (★★⋆☆☆)
Was this review helpful?
Another winner from Polisner! JL grabbed my heart and attention from the very beginning. High school is never easy but add in a dad who’s always away from home for work and a mom that writes letters to Jack Kerouac. The alternating dates in each chapter made me want to read more and more each time. Another great YA from Gae Polisner!
Was this review helpful?
Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me follows Jean Louise Markham, J.L., a fifteen-year-old girl who is obsessed with butterflies and just trying to figure out her life. Currently her father is on an extended business trip in California, and her mother is suffering with a dissociative disorder. Her best friend Aubrey has two new best friends and is pulling away from her. The only one seemingly on her side is her boyfriend Max, a senior who plans to drive across the country to California on his motorcycle when he graduates. As they get closer to the end of the school year, J.L. decides to join Max on his cross-country, throwing caution to the wind, and risking everything.

Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me is told entirely in the first person from J.L.'s perspective. I really liked her character. She is such a dynamic character. I especially enjoyed listening to her talk about the different types of butterflies she is raising, their lifecycles more or less corresponding to her life.

I liked Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me, but I didn't love it. I enjoyed how it handled the themes of loneliness and abandonment and I really liked the main character, J.L.. However, I found the plot a bit confusing. It didn't really seem to be going in any particular direction and felt rather scattered.

Thank you to Netgalley and Wednesday Books for my review copy! All opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
I didn't like this novel.  I felt like there were way too many issues left unresolved or poorly resolved.  There are so many YA Contemporaries out there that deal with heavy topics in a realistic way.  This one just didn't do it for me.
Was this review helpful?
You know when you read a book and it leaves you feeling a little unsettled but not in a bad way? That’s what this book did to me. I added this book to my TBR back in 2018 because I was into On The Road by Jack Kerouac. It’s a very raw and emotional book about mothers and daughters, friendships and falling in love for the first time.

Admittedly, I was not a fan of the romantic relationship in this book from the word go but I think that was the author’s intention. JL is fifteen and dating a nineteen-year-old bad boy. Her mother is struggling with a mental illness, her father is away on business and she’s drifting apart from her best friend.
Was this review helpful?