Cover Image: Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me

Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me

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Member Reviews

A good writing style and realistic characters. Some parts were kind of awkward to read. I definitely recommend for mature readers due to mature subject matter. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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‘Is it wrong to do stuff with a person you love?’

JL (Jean Louise) Markham is 15 years old, and she’s having a tough year.  Her father is on a business trip, which keeps getting extended, and her mother has retreated into her own world.  JL’s best friend Aubrey doesn’t seem to have much time for JL anymore: she has made new friends.  If it wasn’t for the tropical butterflies that JL raises (thanks to her grandmother) life would be bleak.  Except for Max.  

Max Gordon is JL’s 19-year-old boyfriend.  He’s about to graduate and then he intends to hit the road: leaving Long Island for California.  JL would like to go with him. Whatever life with Max holds in store, it is surely better than being left behind.  Her mother is unwell, and JL’s best friend has deserted her in favour of other friends. Aubrey does not like Max.  What can keep JL home?  

While much of this story is contained with a couple of months of JL’s sophomore year, what has happened earlier is also important. The story unfolds through a letter JL writes to Aubrey, a letter in which she tries to explain what happened.

‘What is it that makes us suddenly remember, Aubrey?  What makes us take notice of what is actually around us, rather than what we want to see?

I’m not going to write more about the actual story: each reader will take it at his or her own pace; each reader will have their own reaction.  I remember being 15 years old (almost half a century ago).  I remember having to try to work out which choices to make, and possible consequences.  I remember being overwhelmed.  Reading this novel takes me right back into that space, thankful I survived. And JL?  Which choices will she make?

This is Ms Polisner’s fifth YA novel, and the fourth I have read.  (Yes, ‘The Summer of Letting Go’ is still on my reading list.  I have bought a copy; I just need to schedule time to read it.)  Ms Polisner continues to create believable characters and places them in challenging (but realistic) situations.  Highly recommended both for young (and not so young) adults.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and St Martin’s Press for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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I really enjoyed this book.  The main character JL allows the reader to really feel what she is feeling at the time.  Her relationships with the other characters are told rather well and really show how JL grows throughout the story.  A great tale of a 15 year old dealing with growing up and expectations.
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JL and Aubrey used to be best friends. That is, they were until JL's dad left and she started dating Max Gordon. JL's mother has gone off the deep end after her father left to California for work and Aubrey doesn't approve of JL dating someone so much older and with a bit of a bad reputation. But JL is just trying to cling to things that make her happy, even if it seems a bit self destructive.


I really enjoyed the writing in this book. The prose was beautiful and drew me into the story in a way a book hasn't in quite some time. JL's struggles felt real. Even though I grew kind of annoyed with her actions at times, I never felt disconnected from the story. I also enjoyed JL's love of butterflies and how these creatures were woven into the story. 

One thing I will note is the amount of explicit sexual content (no actual sex, but some sexual acts) throughout the book. As someone who reads YA for potential classroom library books, this isn't a good fit for me. As someone who reads YA for myself, I loved the book.
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Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me is about a 15-year-old girl named JL, whose father works across the county, and her mother suffers from mental illness. JL is dating Max, a 19-year-old “bad boy.” The story follows JL as a sophomore in high school, who is dealing  with the growing apart of her and her best friend Aubrey, her older boyfriend who’s looking to leave for California after school, and her parents and their relationship. 
JL and the other characters in this book are very realistic, and I think that’s what really drew me to this book. They have real problems that are relatable for those in high school.  JL is just looking for something to make her happy and to help her deal with all of the problems she has in life, and she finds that in her butterflies that she nurtures. This story is one of hope revolving around a flawed young woman.
I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Thank you Netgalley for sending me this arc. I will be reviewing this book in the near future with an honest rating and review.
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JL is just a girl trying to find her way through life while she deals with an absent father, a mother struggling with mental health issues, friendship drama, boys, and other pressures that teens are faced with. JL is very relatable in many ways. I found myself thinking back to my middle/high school years and remembering the things that I dealt with in those days. Being a teenager is tough, always has been and always will be. I think this would be a great book for teens to read and relate to. Book are a great escape and I am a huge fan of books that are relatable that students can read to help them through a tough time.
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This novel is so dark, so raw, so real. Fifteen year old JL has to care for her mother when her father goes on a long term job assignment out of state. Her mother Charlotte suffers from am undisclosed mental illness. JL and her best friend Aubrey have gone their separate ways, and JL begins dating hs senior Max. Told in a non-linear timeline, the novel made me sad and anxious. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read an eARC.
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A unique set of characters interact and influence each other in this coming of age story. A father who works across the country, a mother who hides in the house, a free spirited grandmother, an older boyfriend about to graduate, an ex-best friend, and some newly hatched exotic butterflies all impact JL as she navigates this year of change and upheaval. An interesting story with a satisfying ending. I couldn't wait to see how it all turned out. Another great novel from an insightful writer.
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Growing up, I loved books by Judy Blume. This book had a similar vibe. The author has a great understanding of teens, particularly the thought processes, insecurities and confusion of teen girls. A family in turmoil and crisis, along with the dissolution of a long term childhood friendship provide plenty of this fodder for lead character JL. 
Another strong storyline is that of the relationship between JL and her 19 year old boyfriend Max. He calls her "Jailbait" and pressures her often to have sex and move their physical relationship along, even as he claims to be respectful of her boundaries and giving her time.  Due to the instability of other relationships in her life, JL perhaps bends a bit more than she would like at times. 

Well written book by Gae Polisner.  Thank you to the publisher for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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This is a book I would have loved as a teen. Raw, realistic fiction based on teenage angst. JL is on the cusp of adulthood with her looming 16th birthday. Her hippy parents have always raised her different from her friends, but she has always had her best friend Aubrey by her side. Her father cleans up his act and his new job sends him to far-off California, with a promise that he will be home in 6 months, and then another, and still another. JL's mother is not handling the separation well, and wanders around the house beautiful, but lost without her husband. JL is left fending for herself, with the partial support of her grandmother who refuses to see the seriousness of JL's mother's condition, but who also supports her granddaughter in her quest and love of butterflies. 

JL has always been dependent on the love and support of her best-friend Aubrey. Aubrey's family is loving and supportive, yet JL finds herself and Aubrey not such great friends in high school years, especially because JL's family is falling apart and JL has too little adult supervision. JL falls in love with bad-boy Max, and she tries to cope with her growing love for him, the loss of her best friend, the loss of her father and her mother's worsening condition. 

This is the story of hope, of growing up, facing changed friendships, falling in love, and experiencing glimpses of who we are meant to be along the way. It's beautifully written, full of both hope and despair, and also of the joys and sorrows the world can provide.
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I received this book courtesy of NetGalley as an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All quotes come from that ARC and not a published book. At the time I'm writing this, the book has not been released.

Trigger warnings: mentions of underage sex, attempted coercive sex, mental illness, butterfly deaths.

I always debate whether to give a book I rate 4.5/5 stars four or five stars on here. I'm erring towards 5, because I really loved it and the more I thought about all the elements of it, the more I decided it's closer to 5 than 4 stars. 

When I finished this book, the first thing I thought was that I had, well, a lot of thoughts on this book. There's so much to untangle here. 

Here's the thing about this book that really ripped my heart out: the predictable ending would have been bad enough. It would have been sad enough. It would have probably made you cry. But the way Gae ends this? If I'd had a physical book I would have been torn between throwing it across the room and sighing in relief that JL didn't do what I thought she was inevitably headed towards. 

JL is whip-smart, but she's very much still a child, and the parts that were hardest to read, were the way she was failed, again and again, by people she should have been able to trust. Which, in turn, is the precise reason she doesn't talk to her friends or family about her older, inappropriate, manipulative boyfriend. 

In case it's not clear, I don't approve of JL's boyfriend. Under no circumstances should a 19-year-old be dating a 15-year-old. He calls her "Jailbait" (supposedly ironically, if I remember correctly, but still), even. 

But because of the way society is, sexism and misogyny being what it is, I felt it really resonated how most of JL's friends blamed the relationship on JL. Because the girl had to be the Jezebel--which was what made the butterflies so perfect, obviously. The butterflies. I can't get over the butterflies. 

JL raises butterflies, a fact we are introduced to very early on in the story. Her grandmother purchases them for her, as an early sixteenth birthday present, because she insists that "a girl should have something truly special and beautiful when she turns sixteen." Early on, she did this with her friend, Aubrey, and her boyfriend, Max. But as the story goes on, Aubrey shows up less and less, and Max more and more. It's as if she's replacing one confidant for another, one great love for the next. 

Aubrey hates Max, and eventually, as a consequence, becomes a shadow character, simultaneously JL's conscious and someone JL desperately wants back, but can't stand on many levels. Honestly, there's a lot of sapphic sub-text. One line, in particular, caught my eye: "We are giddy with summer, with each other." I mean, come on--that's gay.

Something that isn't a huge key plot point but that I appreciated--JL is Jewish. Her grandmother mentions it in a story while talking about an argument with her mother about not marrying someone Jewish. I don't think it's mentioned again, but it's just really nice to have representation even if it's not a big part of the story. 

The title of the book isn't a play on words or an obscure reference that comes up once--it's a key theme. All the women in her family were, at one point, in love with Jack Kerouac in one manner or another. Even Max is in love with him, in love with the romance of the road, while JL just wants to escape things that aren't okay in her life. She's not really in love with the road. She could care less about Kerouac. Hence the title. At some point, JL kills the last remnants of his presence in her family, which you'll see in the book, which I've hopefully convinced you to read.
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I didn't realize this book was told in a fluctuating timeline. I have trouble following books like that because the stir up my anxiety. It doesn't help that the emotions are so raw they are palpable as you read. I felt like I was trapped back in my dark days. 

It was good, but too much back and forth. 

I had issues with the age gap...and the fact that I'd been on JL's side of it myself. I had issues with the self deprecating way the main voice spoke about herself, and her former friend Aubrey. These are the reasons I marked it so low.

I thank NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.
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JL lives at home with her parents, only her father has been mia for a while working in California. The fact that his job keeps extending his stay out there is taking its toll on her mother, who is drinking a lot. In addition to her drinking, she's writing letters to Kerouac when she's lucid enough to do so. JL's grandmother had a very brief encounter with the author when he was alive and so JL's mother has a bit of an obsession with him. That obsession is resulting in multiple letters being sent to him a week.

It's all too much for JL and so she escapes into a world with her friends and her boyfriend Max. Though her friendship with Aubrey has gone south too as she doesn't much care for him, the age gap, or his drinking and smoking pot. He's a bit of a bad boy, a 19 year-old bad boy to JL's 15. And because she doesn't have Aubrey to lean on, JL unhealthily latches onto Max as she has no one to hang out with.

There aren't a ton of reviews out as I'm writing my own but I'm a bit surprised that no one else is writing about the age gap. Max calls her jailbait which is disrespectful, and he gets her to smoke pot. Despite him saying he's willing to wait for her to be ready to have sex, he isn't really willing as he brings it up *a lot*. A girl at 15 is going through vastly different things than a guy at 19, and it's a shame that there is no one in JL's life outside of Aubrey who is expressing concern about her relationship. (and I get people will defend this and say they're just two kids, age doesn't matter, etc), but not only can I not get on board with it, I feel sad that JL didn't have more support (especially seeing her mother liked Max without really knowing him).

Aside from the age problem, I think this was very well-written. JL has a lot of great insight regarding her life. Polisner touched on a lot of topics including teen dating, sex, mental illness, being quasi-raised by a single parent, and alcohol. I thought the way she posed the book as JL writing a journal length letter to Aubrey about everything that has happened since the two stopped being friends was a unique way to write the book.
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Having been a fan of Gae Polisner since The Pull of Gravity, I was thrilled when NetGalley offered me a chance to read an advance copy of Jack Kerouac Is Dead to Me. This is an elegantly written coming-of-age story, with nuanced characters and a plot that can't be wrapped up in a neat little package and tied in a bow. Plus, there are butterflies. One of my favorite reads of the year.
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I definitely enjoyed the book and will recommend it to others to read. Although, I am not certain it will be my students that I recommend it to. I'm not sure it really "felt" like a YA book. Yes, it was about a 15 year old girl and her 20 year old boyfriend so it puts it in about the right age category. The occurrence of mental illness and its progression through the story is just a little too realistic and unresolved to feel comfortable about offering up the book to young teens as something positive and hopeful Teens are sometimes so fragile. One thing I especially liked was that the protagonist was not surrounded by a group of die-hard supporters like you find in so many YA books but you don't find in real life. That is just one more thing about this book that makes it more realistic than many YA books you will find these days.
       Regardless, I did really enjoy the book and will likely look for more books by this author and will continue to recommend this one as well.
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Fifteen-year-old JL Markham isn't having the best year: her father has been on an extended business trip for nearly a year, her mother's mental health is in a steady decline, and her best friend, Aubrey, has found a new clique of friends that excludes her. There are only two good things in her life: the butterflies she raises and her boyfriend, Max. When Max reveals his plans to leave Long Island for California, JL's life is thrown into a whirlwind. 

Framed as a letter to Aubrey, this YA novel follows two month's of JL's sophomore year of high school and explores the events preceding the book. I thought JL was a very relatable character; I'm nearly a decade older than her, but this book made me think back on the trials and tribulations of my high school friendships and relationships. I thought the framed narrative-esque format worked well for this book (even though I felt like it sometimes lost sight of that objective). It made sense that, even though they'd been fighting, all JL wanted to do was confide in Aubrey about her family troubles, the fate of the butterflies, her thoughts about having sex with Max, and, most of all, what happened to their friendship.

In the end, I liked this book a lot. I definitely recommend it to fans of YA literature for an emotional, nostalgic read.
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Flipping back and forth in time, we come to understand JL’s rebellious attachment to bad-boy Max on the rebound from losing closeness with he BFF and that friend’s brother. Lots of frank description of sexual arousal and satisfaction, though JL retains her virginity...barely. And much of her behavior is linked to her mother’s mental illness and her father’s absence. It’s a lot to take on.
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This is a dark coming of age novel and it definitely isn’t for everyone and that’s okay. This is a story about independence and strength which I admire but I also feel awful for. Nobody this young should have to grow up this fast. I also completely relate to it which is why I love this book so much. 
I honestly don’t want to give away too much and I’m still processing way too much but this was phenomenal. The writing is gorgeous, the plot is brilliant. I’m looking forward to more from this author.

Thank you very much to Netgalley and the Publisher. All opinions are my own.
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This reminded me of the Judy Blume books I read as a kid--the author perfectly captures the feelings of being confused, left out, and pressured that many teenagers experience. The story could have been a little longer--the end started to feel rushed--but perhaps we'll get a sequel to JL's story.
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