Cover Image: Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me

Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me

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Member Reviews

FOUR shining stars for the love of young but strong, mature, smart, relatable character JL and her amazing, captivating, attention catcher narration pushed me give more STARS!

I enjoyed JL’s story who is only 15, traumatized by her mother’s mental health issues and father’s working outside of California, hits puberty and deals with the other adaptation problems in school, drifting apart from her best friend and dating 19 years old Max who wasn’t being approved by her close friends. 

Now she decides to take a road trip with Max to leave her past behind for starting something fresh but Max’s inconvenient attitudes around her and his pushy manners irritated the hell of me. 

Thankfully we don’t have decisive, lost, stupid or doormat kind of heroine. She might be so young and she had her own flaws, mistakes and bad decisions but she is still capable to find her own strength to form her own path.
I liked the writing, characterization, development of the story. It was Kerouac-y beautiful self-discovery, growing up, finding yourself kind of journey which made me read more of the author’s other books.

Special thanks to Netgalley and Wednesday Books to share this fantastic ARC COPY with me in exchange my honest review. I really enjoyed this one!
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I could spend literally every minute between now and its release date---April 7---trying to write this review, and I still wouldn't be able to do this book justice.

First, you should know that this book isn't for everyone. It's dark and deals with hard topics and it will break your heart. It's more Cameron Crowe than John Hughes, and when I say that, I mean great Cameron Crowe (Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Say Anything Cameron Crowe, not Aloha Cameron Crowe). 

I love everything about this book. I love that JL is trying so hard to hold her life together with basically zero help from anyone (her dad's gone, her mom's useless and her grandmother is pretending so hard that everything's normal that she can't see how awful things really are). Max is great but that's its own complication (he is causing problems with JL's best friend and also he wants to have sex and she's not ready). And the person she's most used to counting on, her best friend Aubrey, is becoming a total jerk. It's all the worst for her.

Ellen Hopkins once wrote a YA novel that featured one character and then an adult novel that featured that character's mother. I mention that because I would really like an adult novel about Nana. (You probably thought I'd say JL's mom, right? Nope. I want historical fiction about Nana.) And I would like a sequel so I know what happens with JL. I hope it's amazing and she ends up finding her people. (I think she does.)

When I first met Gae, I was reading The Pull of Gravity (her first novel) and basically live Tweeting my reactions to her. That's how we became friends. This reading experience was very different. I didn't put the book down until toward the end and even then, it was only for two seconds. I loved TPOG but this is a whole different experience. I didn't want to leave the story, even only long enough to tell her how much I loved it.

This story is such an amazing gift, I can't even tell you. I don't read perfect novels very often but this is one. Highly recommended.
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I would like to thank NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy.

The cover of this book is beautiful and I was drawn in by the description, but I never quite connected to the story or the characters as much as I expected I would. I believe, for me, it was the time jumps that occur chapter to chapter. I enjoy backstory/flashbacks, but it took me away from JL's present and it wasn't until more than halfway through the book that I truly felt sympathy for JL. She has a lot going on and in terms of telling a story, it sometimes felt like too much because there was no solid focus on one situation or relationship. But really, can you think of anything more true to life? Especially in high school. It's a lot of things and feelings happening at once and sometimes all those things really suck. Remembering what that was like is what kept me invested in JL's story. 

The plot itself is strong and heartbreaking: JL's father is on a long term business trip, leaving her home with her mother who is suffering from dissociative disorder. At the same time, JL is losing her best friend Aubrey and finds herself left only with the comfort of the butterflies she raises and her older badboy boyfriend, Max Gordon. 

I hated Max Gordon, who calls JL "jailbait" and is every badboy stereotype, right down to the motorcycle. He isn't a fun-to-hate character, but he is familiar and very gross. Max Gordon paired with the lack of explanation or exploration of JL's mother's "dissociative disorder" might be the reason I did not enjoy this book as much as I hoped I would. I was so intrigued by the inclusion of this mental illness, but there is no explicit diagnosis or solid focus on it. This was very disappointing.

Gae Pilsner's writing is wonderful, but this book ultimately fell flat for me.
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I really liked this book.  JL, the main character is a 15yo sophomore in high school who is dating a 19 year old senior, Max.  JL's life is a bit of a mess with her dad working out in California and her mom falling off the deep edge in loneliness with a little bit crazy too.  JL used to be best friends with Aubrey but they have drifted apart since she started seeing Max, who nobody really approves of except JL's mom, strangely enough.  JL is slowly learning about growing up, love, family, deceipt, friendship and solving your problems not by running away but by facing them. Max wants to go to California and JL is all in because her life is in a pretty bad state right now and she wants to leave it all behind.  Max seems like he loves her but is always pushing her and many things he does are cause for concern.  JL eventually realizes what she needs to do--she is a strong chrachter who is confused.  The story could have used a little more as far as plot but in general was really good because the characters were strong and well-written.  A favorite author of mine!  Thanks to NG for the ARC!!
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***Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a complimentary copy of JACK KEROUAC IS DEAD TO ME by Gae Polisner in exchange for my honest review.***

With JL’s father working across country and her mother lost to mental illness, her friendship with Aubrey grounds JL. Puberty and high school and boys draw a wedge between the girls. Now Max has replaced Aubrey as JL’s go-to person.  Max is graduating and taking the road for LA, and JL wants in.

JACK KERAOUSC IS DEAD TO ME is my first, but certainly not my last Gae Polisner. She gave JL such a gorgeous, heartbreaking voice I found myself tearing up at the young teen’s narration. Polisner subtly illustrates how lack of grounding in family can lead trend toward the attentions of unhealthy relationships. Broken people, like JL look for validation wherever they can find it.

Max, nineteen to JL’s fifteen, isn’t overtly bad news. Sure, he’s way too old for JL, occasionally drinks and smokes and calls her Jailbait, which were not the red flags they should have been. While Max technically respects JL’s decision to wait for sex, he does push her leading into caution territory of consent. “Not yet” should not mean keep asking every time I see you. I’m glad Polisner made JL strong enough not to be pushed.

JL’s mother was said to have dissociative disorder, which was never defined  , though behavior can be wide ranging and ambiguous. I don’t think readers will glean any insight into the disorder and I wondered why Polisner chose that mental illness.

JACK KEROUAC IS DEAD TO ME seemed to be a different book than the blurb suggested. The friendship between JL and Aubrey seemed to fall apart for ambiguous reasons. Miscommunication? Growing apart? JL was the heart of this character driven story that lacked a strong plot. Fortunately, JL was a multidimensional, strong, flawed young woman.

Polisner’s writing is enough reason to read JACK KEROUAC IS DEAD TO ME.
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