Cover Image: Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me

Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me

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Member Reviews

Aching is a word that comes to mind when I think of this book. Messy and conflicting in a way that reflects what J.L. is feeling and dealing with, I binge-read it in a day and a half. Absolutely stunning and heart wrenching.
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"Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me" should have an alternate title, as suggested by my boyfriend: "The Plot is Dead to Me". The plot is non-existent and shouldn't masquerade as one. The only good thing I have to say about the book is the portrayal of sexual content, which is done in a mature and responsible manner (and also reads nicely). However, I don't want to recommend a book based solely on sexual content. The purpose of "Jack Kerouac" is not to make someone desire sexual intercourse, but rather to tell a story about a fifteen year old girl and her journey to happiness and I feel that this book failed in that objective.
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I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher via NetGalley. This in no way impacted on my view.

In Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me, we follow 15 year old JL, who is juggling her absent father, her bipolar and dissociating mother, her lost friendship with Aubrey, and her new relationship with 19 year old Max. She can't wait for her dad to come home, after working away for so long, and for her mother to hopefully become more there, and not as absent as she is. She thought her friendship with Aubrey would weather anything, but now that she's with Max, who has his own reputation, Aubrey acts as if she's a Jezebel, just the name of her new butterflies. As real life seems to get too much for her, she plans to leave after Max graduates, and the two of them heading off to California, riding off into the sunset on his restored bike. What possibly could go wrong?

Quite honestly, this book was one of the worst I have ever read, if not the worst. The only reason why I forced myself to read it, and I powered through it in one day, was because I'm part of the blog tour, and I couldn't DNF it in good conscious. JL is an awful main character, and I was sick to death of her by the end. She complains about her mother constantly, but if anyone else says anything, she clams up. She's only 15, and knows that when she turns 16, she's going to sleep with her 19 year old boyfriend, who regularly calls her Jailbait - it's disgusting. And to make matters worse, right at the end of the book, it seems as if Max actually slept with her mother after prom, when JL was too drunk on the absinthe he gave her.

The book jumps around all the time, too, from the past to the present, and that was just the final straw really. I didn't want to have to spend so long getting my head around where we were in the story, especially not when I wasn't even invested in it. I've been scrolling through Goodreads, reading some of the glowing reviews, and I'm actually astounded by how many positive reviews there are, because I can't comprehend how or why anyone would like this. Really, the 6 hours or so I spent on it were a complete waste of time, and I wish I could take it back. Definitely a book I won't be recommending!
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This is book is about a lot of things- adolescence, friendship, relationships. Primarily, though, it is about being a person and the weight that comes with this.

I was originally drawn to this book because of Jack Kerouac's name being featured in the title. I am a fan of the Beat generation and cannot resist gravitating towards any mention of them. I went into this book knowing little, which I believe was the right choice.

Jack Kerouac Is Dead to Me follows 15-year-old Jean-Louise (JL), a sophomore in high-school who has a lot on her plate; raising butterflies (which was so interesting and new to read about), an ex(?) best friend, an unstable mother and absent father, and a new relationship with a 19-year-old boy (which was icky to read about, but never romanticized by the author). There is no fast-paced action plot to be found within its pages, yet I was hooked as soon as I read the first sentence. The beautiful and realistic writing drew me right in and I am ever-so-glad that I read this. I have been reminded why I adore contemporaries so much.

Author Gae Polisner deals with many different topics within this book including mental illness, sexual relationships, feelings of loneliness, and the question of what it means to be present in a world that seems hellbent on causing you pain. Everything is handled with the upmost care and, save for a few spelling/grammatical errors which will surely be fixed in the final version, I have no complaints. I am inspired to read more of Polisner's work, as they have a way of writing realistic stories that stick with you even after you have read the final page.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC via Netgalley!
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I really enjoyed this book!  I found JL to be lovable- she was the kind of character who not only made your heart swell but made your heart break.  The story was very much relatable and there was a strong lesson that was taught.  I found that nothing that was presented in this book to be weird or unbelievable. Definitely worth the read!
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Adolescence years can be hard on most teenagers, and can be even more challenging when there is no one to guide a young mind throughout these confusing years. JL is a 15-year-old that is struggling not only with staying on track with school and her social life but she is also dealing with her mom’s mental illness. Her father is absent, working away across the country, her best friend abandoned her when she needed her the most, and her first and older boyfriend is having his own troubles that quickly start to affect JL’s way of thinking and dealing with daily challenges.

This book is about first love, broken bonds, and betrayal. Written in a beautiful style, a letter from JL to her best friend, Aubrey, with some very intriguing insight in the life of butterflies, which became JL’s escape from reality and quickly blend into JL’s own story of loss, love and new beginnings.

Thank you NetGalley, Wednesday Books, and the author for providing me with an ARC copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
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A contemporary coming-of-age story about fifteen year old JL as she struggles with her father’s absence, her mother’s mental illness, and losing her best friend, all in the time of budding first romances with the guy from the wrong side of the track. I’ve been trying to figure out what to say about this, but it only comes out as a list of my likes and dislikes:

A lot of these elements really spoke to me, but the story as a whole did not. I remember what it was like to be a teenager, to lose a best friend or want to be wanted by the guy that you like. I could relate to all that and the desire to run away to sunnier places. Yet, this story never came together for me.

I enjoyed the poetic line dropping and the endless mentions of Kerouac. I did feel for JL as she struggled with her mother’s health and enjoyed the focus of a not so healthy romantic relationship that wasn’t abusive but showed another side of what unhealthy can look like.

But I didn’t like how it flipped back and forth between past and present so quickly. I easily lost track of where I was and to be completely honest, about halfway through I sort of stopped caring about why any of this was happening.

The writing was fine, the story was fine, everything was just fine, but not really anything more.
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Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me was such an emotional read. It was raw and beautiful and for the life of me, I could not put this book down. The structure worked perfectly with Polisner's heart-breaking story and writing. The way the author illustrated the world of a 15-year-old girl was simply gripping. The coming-of-age experiences, mental illnesses, imperfect relationships. It's all a work of fiction but also, not. I truly cannot remember the last time a book has kept me up all night. Looking forward to more from Gae Polisner.
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Summary
JL Markham's life isn't looking so good. Her best friend Aubrey doesn't talk to her anymore, her mother struggles with a dissociative disorder, and her father works on the other side of the country. The only connection she feels is to her butterflies and her boyfriend, Max Gordon. But Max is four years older than her and plans to leave as soon as he graduates. JL has to decide where her loyalties lie.

Review
Jack Kerouac Is Dead to Me by Gae Polisner is a coming-of-age story about a girl learning to accept herself and grow through hardships. It's not a happy book by any means; the hard-hitting and sometimes sexual content makes the book more suitable for older teens.

The storyline focuses on mental illness and stereotypes about teenage girls, and while I appreciate the content, the story felt lacking in complexity. JL's relationship with Aubrey was the most interesting part of the book to me. I especially like how the entire book is written from JL to Aubrey as an explanation of how she's grown and changed. JL's voice is real and easy to empathize with.

I also like the motif of butterflies. JL's passion for butterflies keeps her grounded and tied to her family, and the butterflies are a fantastic representation of transformation. They are fragile yet resilient creatures, much like JL herself.

Jack Kerouac is an interesting feature of the story. JL hates him, and yet he has a significant effect on her life. She ends up acting like him without realizing it, which pushes her to realizes who she truly is and who she wants to be.

Overall, I found this book both enjoyable and tough to read. I wish the story was a bit more complex and nuanced, but it's still worth reading. I also wish the ending was more hopeful; Polisner ends the story on a light note, but there are still dark overtones lingering from the rest of the book. Although I like ambiguous endings, I wish this one was more concretely positive.

Rating: 3/5 stars
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"I liked how it felt to be out of control, a moth on a carnival ride, ready to be swept off by the wind, every tenuous hair, every fiber, every quivering speck of me, lit up, on end, and electrified."

This was a great story, it deals with real isssues.The book is written as a letter from Jean Louise (JL) to her childhood best friend Aubrey. Parts are written in the style of a letter,  and we have past and present which helps a lot to the story!

I have a lot of emotions with this one, the author did an amazing job!It touched me in so many ways.
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Classic Polisner. This book is an amazingly crafted work with strong characters, believable situations and raw emotion. Highly recommended.
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This is a contemporary YA novel that will appeal to YA readers. Fifteen year old Jean-Louise (JL) is struggling at home with her father away for work on the other side of the country for 18 months and her mother hardly present, suffering from a dissociative mental disorder. Her mother spends most of her time floating around in kimonos, drinking and writing letters to the dead author, Jack Kerouac. JL's grandmother keeps telling her it will be okay when her father gets home but that's no help to JL dealing with teenage issues like dating and sex, drinking at parties and falling out with Aubrey, her BFF since they were tiny. Her only solace is raising butterflies and her new boyfriend nineteen year old Max, who is a bit rough around the edges after being raised by his father, but is kind and sensitive.

Adolescence is a difficult enough time for any teen, but so much harder for these without parents engaged in guiding them through it and this is an honest look at a teen grappling with a lot of issues on her own. Apart from her mother's mental illness and her father's continued absence, the age difference between JL and Max means she feels pressured to have sex before she feels ready and to be in situations where older teens are encouraging her to join them in drinking and smoking pot.

For me there were some issues I didn't feel were properly resolved at the end of the book and could have been dealt with more realistically (particularly JL's mother's illness which seemed to magically disappear), but overall this was a well written YA novel.
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JL, for Jean Louise, is 15 years and facing uncertainty in her life due to her mother’s dissociative disorder, her father working long-term in California (she lives in Long Island, NY), her nana believing her mom will be fine when her dad gets home, and the loss of her best friend. Enter 19-year old Max, who JL believes will make everything all right. 

I was fascinated by the tropical butterflies that JL raised and found that to be the most compelling part of the story. I didn’t feel a real connection to JL like I had hoped. And the ending, was disappointing and very vague to the point where I’m not sure what even happened. 

If you haven’t read the author’s previous novel, In Sight of Stars, I highly recommend it. 

I received an advanced copy of this book; all opinions are my own.
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2.5 stars, rounded up.

I had extremely high hopes for "an absolutely real, raw, and emotional read", to me, this was not it. I was highly invested in the beginning when JL is flashing back to the beginnings of her friendship with Aubrey and how happy they were. We all felt that way with our best friend growing up, everything is butterflies and rainbows. It's everything that starts to unfold after this that makes me lose interest. 

JL is 15 years old. Her and her best friend aren't close anymore. She's dating a 19 year old who is about to graduate. Her grandmother once kissed Jack Kerouac. Her mother is bipolar and her father is off transitioning his company to the new buyers and is in California while the family remains in New York.

There were times when I felt bad for JL, but the interactions did not seem legitimate to me. JL's father is too complacent. If he knows that his wife is unwell, he wouldn't take a "hands off" approach if he's leaving the family for an indeterminate time. The grandmother can't be that much in denial about her daughter's mental state. Why is no one helping her? Yes, she's seeing a doctor, but clearly he's not helping. For Aubrey's mother, who was once like a surrogate to JL, to just tell Aubrey to stay away from JL because of her mother, rather than trying to help seems ridiculous to me. I also can't understand Aubrey and her new friends "slut shaming" JL. As evidenced by the flashbacks of Aubrey and JL, they were curious about sexual things. I feel as though Aubrey would be more curious about what JL and Max were doing rather than ostracizing her for everything. I will stop here, as to not give away any spoilers.

Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin's Press, and Gae Polisner for providing me with an ARC.
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This stuck with me for quite sometime after I finished. I have a few books by Gae Polisner, but this is the first one I got around to reading. It deals with the taboo relationship between a 15-year-old and a 19-year-old, which can be a pretty polarizing subject to readers, however think it was dealt with very well. The book was also formatted very nicely. Throughout the book, the reader is getting excerpts from a letter JL writes  to her best friend Aubrey. These sections, written in the second person, help JL explain what she had been forced to hide from Aubrey.  

JL has been forced to grow up very quickly with her father being gone and her mother mental health slowly declining. No one can see that her mother is slowly unraveling until it's almost too late.  Everyone tells her that Max is trouble, but JL must figure that out for herself, exposing her naiveté. She puts her trust in with the wrong people and it leaves defeated. I wanted to wrap JL into my arms and tell her everything was going to be okay.

This isn't a story for everyone, but I think it should be given a chance because it might surprise you. 

ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC. I am a huge fan of Gae Polisner’s books for teens and I was excited to have the opportunity to read this one. I am always on the lookout for books that my students will enjoy.

What I Liked:
The characters-JL and Max are both teens that students will connect with. They have their own issues and are dealing with absentee parents.

My struggles:
The back and forth between past and present. While it did help me understand the backstory and it helped bring depth to JL’s story, it was confusing at times and I had to really focus as I moved from chapter to chapter.

The sexual relationship pressure with Max being older and JL being a sophomore. It is very realistic, but I don’t love books that constantly put young woman in situations where it seems that the male has all the power. Why can’t there be a story where the male respects the female and there is no pressure to have sex?
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Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me is a contemporary young adult novel that shares the struggles of a 15-year-old girl dealing with adult issues. A story of love and loss that is sure to pull you in and leave you wanting more.
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Characters are what make a book: authentic characters you believe in, characters you care for, characters you worry and cry over. If, like me, you are an older reader, characters you want to take home and look after.

JL Markham is one of these.

This beautifully written novel addresses numerous issues: friendship found and lost, first love, teen sex, abandonment, and mental illness. There’s betrayal and poisonous gossip.

JL’s mother and father have always been free spirited. When her father sells his business, he signs an agreement to support the company during the transition. They are suddenly wealthy, but while he is away for longer and longer periods of time, JL’s mother spirals into mental illness. There is no one to help out. Even her grandmother asserts that everything is fine. It’s not.

Aside from her absent father, two young men play significant roles in her life. Neither of them come across as winners since they both take advantage of her. The only difference between them is that one of them was raised in a prestigious family and the other by an abusive, alcoholic father. I wouldn’t want a daughter of mine involved with either of them and would be ashamed to have raised young men of their ilk.

Told from JL’s perspective, the story alternates between present tense and scenes from the past. It’s written as a letter to her former best friend, Aubrey. It takes a while to figure out how their relationship unravelled, and like most things in life, it’s complicated, but stems from an incident with Ethan, Aubrey’s older brother, who JL had a crush on. 

JL’s first real love is Max Gordon. He is a stereotypical bad boy with a lousy reputation, but JL, loves the romantic, kind soul she sees inside him. I liked that this book dealt with sexuality, but to be honest, was uncomfortable by the fact that Max is nineteen to JL’s fifteen. While he might assert that he is prepared to wait for her to be ready for sex, Max pushes the boundaries regularly. I might have forgiven him for this except for the final incident with JL’s mother. I can’t help but wonder, If everything else in her life had been more stable, would JL have been so susceptible?

I’ve been pondering the Jack Kerouac connection here and am not sure I get it. Is Jack Kerouac to JL’s grandmother and mother what Max Gordon is to JL? The problem is that whereas Grandma had supportive parents to keep her grounded and safe, JL is foundering with no one except Max to catch her. He can’t even catch himself.

I was fascinated by JL raising butterflies. I especially appreciated the connection between her and their seeming fragility. In the end, just as she manages to save one of them, she realizes her own strength and manages to rescue herself. Whether or not her friendship with Aubrey can be salvaged, is another thing.
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The writing is excellent and I recognize the metamorphosis symbolism throughout, but I am struggling to write a review-- I am not sure if it is because I emotionally hate the ending and how JL has been betrayed by literally everyone in her life; or if I am frustrated that I don't have a satisfying ending of how/if JL forgives and where that leaves her... 
I like the reality of the adjustments and changes in fluid relationships in her life and the honesty of coming into and experiencing her sexuality. I predict that this book will be passed from friend to friend among teen readers. If nothing else, this title will inspire teens to google Jack Kerouac.
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Rating: 3.5 Stars

When her father sold his business, things were supposed to get better, not worse. But, when his contract took him to California for an extended period of time, JL's mother began to slip deeper and deeper into her depression. Not only did JL have to deal with her dissociative mother, she was also losing her best friend, and being judged harshly for her mother's behavior and for dating an older boy. Though her boyfriend was often her quiet in the storm, he was also a source of stress as she dealt with her sexual awakening at her own speed, not his.

I actually had to give JL credit for some of the decisions she made. Her family might have been sort of falling apart, but she was growing stronger due to all the challenges she was experiencing. There were quite a few times, where JL stood up for herself, and made some tough and painful choices, and she did so with very little support.

I was furious with the people in her life. Her mother was mentally ill, her father was absent, her grandmother was in denial, her best friend was worried more about what people were saying, then about her friend, and her boyfriend, UGHHHH! He really disappointed me in the end.

JL's story really gives meaning to the saying, "you always hurt the ones you love," because all her loved ones betrayed her in some way during this book. But, she made it through, and I was proud of her. I think she was proud of herself too.
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