Cover Image: Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me

Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me

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Member Reviews

Great YA contemporary story about a 15 year old girl and her struggle to find her direction in life while dealing with her mother’s mental illness, the loss of a best friend, and having a boyfriend for the first time. The characters are all portrayed with kindness and compassion.

I recommend this extremely compelling story to ages 14+ due to some sexual content.

*Many thanks to NetGalley and publishers for the advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for my honest review .
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This book! Gae Polisner's voice is incredible in this story. I made the mistake of starting it right before bed and was incredibly tired the next day because I couldn't put it down. Totally worth it, though. The story is dark and the feelings are intense, but it's the kind of story I live for.
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A contemporary YA with some strong elements, and some which were less so. I appreciated the portrayal of a relationship that wasn't entirely healthy or coequal without being clearly abusive - I think these more subtly troubling relationships are something valuable to continue to add to the YA canon. The book seemed fairly deft in its treatment of a household that seems successful by certain measures and has an outside sheen of everything being in order, but which is actually falling apart within. I liked the running theme/imagery of butterflies, and I think her love for them set JL apart as an MC. I found myself liking JL as a character, despite my general preference for more straightforward protagonists; YA lit often has a tendency to go for main characters more like Aubrey, as many readers are Aubreys - smart and quieter with similar preferences in their friends friends - and I appreciated the ways the book turned away from a smart/slutty dichotomy.

I do have to say, however, that I found the timeline jumps extremely rapid and abrupt, something which made it hard to connect with the story, and sometimes to entirely situate myself in the sequence of events. There's so much jumping around that it was only afterward that I realized that not much actually happens in the book. I also was not overly impressed by the book's conclusion, particularly in wrapping up the theme/various storylines regarding the unreliability of adults. I thought that the Max storyline ended in a somewhat empowering way - despite the twist with JL's mother - but the narrative seemed to really gloss over recognition for the ways JL's father and grandmother let her down. There's a brief mention of her mother getting better help than her current therapist, but seemingly little understanding for how the rest of the family is going to improve moving forward or even mention of apology between them. This seems particularly apparent when thinking about how much the three members of the family waiting at home - JL, her mother, and grandmother - seem to rely on her father's return/permanent reentrance into their lives as a cure-all, without taking into account the ways he has let them down during his time away or requiring that he face up to that. Finally, I wonder if the use of Kerouac was done strongly enough, and in a way which would be entirely effective for the intended audience.

All in all, a perfectly fine addition, though not necessarily one which is rocketing to the top of my favorites list.
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In the early 60’s, JL’s grandmother, who was then a young teen, herself, was having dinner with her parents at a restaurant in the town where they lived in Rhode Island. She met Jack Kerouac on her way to the restroom, and received a kiss from the famous author. Since then, her mother and grandmother have been obsessed with this moment, so when JL was born, she was named Jean Louise for Jack Kerouac – Jean-Louis Kerouac, and although her mother has never confirmed this, JL is sure it is true, even though she doesn’t share their fascination with the man.

The main part of this story takes place during JL’s sophomore year of high school; her father is working in California, a temporary situation that is prolonged again and again. The longer it is prolonged, the more her mother slips into her depression, which worsens as each promise of I’ll be home in x number of days fails to come true. As more time passes, her mother’s mental state deteriorates even more. Her long-time best friend seems to distance herself, just as a new boyfriend, 19-year-old Max, enters the picture. The only thing that seems to bring JL any sense of purpose or peace, if occasional heartbreaking moments, are the tropical butterflies she raises, the most recent bunch coming from a kit her grandmother-whose-once-young-lips-touched-Kerouac’s-lips bought for her.

There is some exploration of the sexual tensions between Max and JL as time passes, at fifteen she doesn’t feel that she’s ready for sex – she’s waiting for her sixteenth birthday - and at nineteen he is somewhat impatient for it.

I wanted to read this since I’d really loved Gae Polisner’s The Memory of Things, one of the first stories I’d read about 9-11. While I enjoyed this, and loved the moments when the focus was on the butterflies, moments when it felt that she was focused only on them, their beauty, what they represented to her, and the way her focus on their well being offered respite from her mother’s deteriorating state of mind as time passed. The butterfly premise also coinciding with JL’s sense of self as a young woman trying to determine how to deal with her emerging, if somewhat conflicted, feelings about sex.


Pub Date: 07 APR 2020

Many thanks for the ARC provided by St. Martin’s Press
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JL is a teenager going through life’s changes.A boy friend trouble with old friends family issues.A really thoughtful read that is very entertaining.So many wonderfully written characters..#netgalley#st.martinsbooks
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JL Markham is going through a lot. Her dad left for California for business, and seems to not care about the mess that has been left behind in his absence. Her mom suffers from dissociative disorder and isn't really a person JL can rely on, and her Nana, despite her trying, just plasters on a smile, pretending all is ok. It's no wonder 15 year old JL feels lost and confused and ultimately finds herself dating Max Gordon, a 19 year old senior who refers to her as Jailbait. As the story goes on, we learn more about JL and her friendship with Aubrey (who may not be her friend anymore), her conflicted feelings, and all the pressures that she is dealing with. The book is written in a non-linear timeline, so we get glimpses of what JL's friendship with Aubrey was like, and her relationship with her parents, before everything seemed to come tumbling down around her. This book was dark and raw and dealt with a lot of topics, and ultimately kind of breaks your heart.
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JL Markham is a 15-year-old girl who is out of sorts with her world around her. She lives with her mentally-ill mother, has lost her best friend to a group of other girls and her dad is on a business trip that keeps getting extended. She decides to write a long-flowing letter to her friend Aubrey, letting her know what has happened since the two girls had parted ways. She is hopelessly trying to cling to things from her old life even if those things are leading her down a path of self-destruction. 
Additionally, JL is also madly in puppy love with a senior named Max who is rough on the outside, but also shows her that one the inside he has the soul of a poet. Their age difference causes problems in that Max is ready to pack up and get the heck out of town once senior year ends, but what about JL? At only 15, she’s stuck between staying and disobeying her parents to run away with Max.
Gae Polisner’s Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me is a story of coming of age and the frailty of female friendships during that pivotal time in young women’s lives. JL is stuck between who she is going to become and who she is going to have let go of. It is never an easy time or decision to begin living in your future instead of your past. This is Polisner’s fifth young adult novel and she shines with it. The voice of JL is poignantly 15-years-old and not overly dramatic or overly subtle like some writers go when writing younger characters. Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me is a believable story of a young girl trying to find herself on the other side of adolescence while not completely losing who and what she was before. I would recommend this book for adults as well as middle-grade readers who are looking for something a little more in-depth.
While a 15-year-old’s love story might not be something most adults would pick up, I think you will find that Polisner has written this so well that it brings you back to your own time as a young girl in love for the first time, trying to navigate your relationships, your friendships and your own dreams. The darkness and the tragedies that befall JL show the strength of youth in times of adversity and how even though we may be young when we face them, we very much feel them every step of our journey through them. When you pick this one up, get ready for an authentic and emotionally raw journey through adolescence and your first love.
Book Information
Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me by Gae Polisner is scheduled to be released on April 7, 2020 from Wednesday Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press with ISBN 9781250312235. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review. All thoughts are entirely my own and I have not received any compensation for this review.
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I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.     Thank you NetGalley!

I honestly wasn't sure that I would enjoy this book based on the summary...    I mean, I was fairly certain a 15 year old's love life and friendships wouldn't be all that interesting to me.   I was sorely mistaken.       This book is not only written beautifully, it was easily relatable.       I got through this book so fast, because I was so enthralled with the story.
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Emotional and nostalgic.  Wonderful read and enjoyed it a lot.  Would recommend to a fellow reader looking for something relatable, though the time jumps were a bit hard to follow.
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I love love loved this book!! I don’t know exactly how to put it into words. The darkness, the characters, the story...just sooo right. I loved the grittiness and the reality. I just couldn’t put it down. It is a book that left me thinking about each choice that the characters made. Life isn’t easy, especially when the ones who are supposed to love you most are the ones that make it complicated. A must read as far as I’m concerned.
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Two best friends explore their feelings of love. Jl's life is unraveling. Her mother is suffering from mental illness and her father has run away.
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This is a tough one for me. Now, first of all, this is a Young Adult book - so I'm not the intended audience. Second - my review seems to be the opposite of what most people think. So there you go! continue reading if you're curious.

This book is about J.L. She's fifteen and dating a 19-year-old. Her father has taken a job in another city and has been gone for an extremely long time (and apparently doesn't even come home for visits). Once JL's father left... her mother sank into a depression and is dealing with a dissociative disorder. Her best friend Aubrey seems to have moved on to greener pastures... and JL is left trying to figure out what she wants to do.

The good thing... is that this book is well-written. I enjoyed the fact that the POV changed from the present to the past. Some things about JL and Aubrey's friendship were revealed through the flashbacks.

Things began to fall apart for me about the middle of the book. I'm afraid it just wasn't believable for me. I mean, what father goes away to work for a year plus and never comes home to visit? Doesn't ever concern himself with what's happening to his daughter? None of the adults in this book behave ... normally. (And I'm not talking about the mental illness.) JL's grandmother just says, "things will be better when your father comes home." It's revealed late in the book that Aubrey's parents have discouraged her from spending time with JL because of her mother's behavior/illness. 

The relationship between JL and Max was basically filtered down to: will they or won't they have sex. There was very little characterization of Max and it was difficult to understand what was going on between the two of them. For me, there were pieces of the puzzle missing in the middle of the story. Why exactly did Max and JL get together? It seemed as though people were judging JL based on the fact that she was spending time with a fellow who was held back a grade ... and was different.

I don't know, maybe I was looking for too much from this story. Many of the other reviews I read said that people really loved it, felt it was very authentic and raw. I didn't get that feeling... but again - not the target audience. I read a lot of YA books and I really make an effort to not review as if I'm the intended audience. I focus on the content. The content in this story just didn't live up to what I would expect in a story about a young woman coming of age.

For me, the final nail in the coffin was the implication that JL's mother slept with her 19-year-old boyfriend, and then in the epilogue, the family was back together again. I literally stopped reading and thought, "did I miss something?"

Don't get me wrong, I know that people can be really rotten to one another and that they can make very poor decisions for a wide variety of reasons, but really... there was far too much of that going on in this novel for me.
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I read this book in two days and I was very sad when it ended. At first the format was a little confusing, but  once I was about a third of the way through the story and used to the  flashbacks, I think  the way Gae Polisner used time and sequencing to tell the story was absolutely brilliant.
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15-year-old Jean-Louise (JL) is named after Jean-Louis (Jack) Kerouac, whom her grandmother once kissed in a pub. JL's mom is enamored of Jack, too, especially when her husband/JL's dad is working away from home for an extended period. JL's mom is kind of losing it, actually, and JL is struggling. She's no longer besties with her best friend, and she's dating a guy who is four years older than she and really wants to get into her pants.

The dad-away and mom-losing-it storyline wasn't super believable to me. How could the dad not know/believe? The story is okay. Weird title.
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If I am still thinking about a book when I read the final sentence, I always find that to be a sign that I was touched by the book in some way. I found myself very concerned for JL through a lot of this book because I have a 12 year old daughter and my mom brain kept thinking of her as a daughter, but I know when I was 15 I was full of big feelings and I didn't have as much turmoil going on in my life, but it was definitely a trying time. I would have loved to read this book and would have sympathized with JL. I feel like she is a lone with without many people to turn to, but what I kept thinking about through much of this is if her mom has so many mental health issues, her dad saw fit to abandon them for a job, and her grandmother is in denial, why isn't she in some kind of therapy? She needs a functional adult to talk to because no one in her family seems to be one. I thought this was a good depiction of a girl dealing with a lot of issues in those tough mid-teen years.
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I did not enjoy it. It bounced around from year to year and back again but didn't spend enough time in any one time period for me to get a handle on the story. The relationship between Max and JL is cringe-worthy - it seemed to revolve around  "will they or won't they" have sex. She has no friends because her mother is seriously mentally ill and scares her once best friend??? Is that why they aren't friends anymore? Her father is MIA and doesn't seem to care that his daughter can't cope. But by the end, that's resolved?

I just didn't get it.
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A special thanks to Wednesday Books, Netgalley, Meghan Harrington, and Gae Polishner (the author) for giving me the opportunity to read Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me before its release. All opinions are my own.

I tried to like this book, I really did. The cover is beautiful and I loved the idea of a coming of age story about a main character whose mother struggles with mental health as my own did growing up. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations and I had to really push myself to finish it when I should have probably made it my first DNF because it made me kind of mad. The timeline was all over the place and in moments when I felt like I could have grown invested, it switched to something I didn’t care about and by the time I was back to where I wanted to be in it, I didn’t care as much. The love interest was a piece of shit, I couldn’t stand all the girl hate and the slut shaming, the only times JL spoke to an adult she was either getting judged or ignored essentially so she didn’t really have anyone to turn to, and there was so much I wanted resolved and it just did not happen - at least not in any type of way I would have liked. Based on other reviews I’ve seen online already, my opinion is more on the unpopular side so if you wish to add this to your tbr, the release is set for April 7, 2020.
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This book is definitely like nothing I have read before. It takes you through the life of JL  as she writes an open letter to her used to be best friend Aubrey. I think the thing that I liked the most about this book is that it is very real and raw. It explores mental illness, which is something that a lot of authors struggle to write about, but I believe that Polisner approaches it flawlessly, Another aspect of the book that I think Polisner tackled well is friendship, the strength that they once had and how broken they can become over time. If you are looking for a book that tackles real world problems, with a flawed, but relatable character like JL, then this is the book for you. I enjoyed it and thought that it was a good read!
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I have loved Polisner's writing for a while and this one is just as good!! I love her stories. The Memory of Things was amazing and so was this one. Go into this knowing that there is a good sized age gap with these characters one is 15 and one is 19.  There is drinking, drug use, and more.  It is a wonderful story that is an eye opener to say the least.  It's one I won't soon forget. The pacing and story are one of a kind.
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The main character JL who is only 15 years old is feeling abandoned at home and starts a relationship with Max, an older boy who has a bad boy reputation. He's actually 19 years old which is quite an age difference! Her best friend is not ok with this relationship and that is a strain on their friendship. The book is entertaining and very well written, the characters develop well. I'd recommend this novel!
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