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Jack Kerouac Is Dead to Me

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  53 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Fifteen-year-old JL Markham's life used to be filled with carnival nights and hot summer days spent giggling with her forever best friend Aubrey about their families and boys. Together, they were unstoppable. But they aren't the friends they once were.

With JL's father gone on long term business, and her mother suffering from dissociative disorder, JL takes solace in the in
Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: April 7th 2020 by Wednesday Books
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Average rating 4.15  · 
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Chelsea Humphrey
Oct 16, 2019 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Chelsea by: St. Martin's Press
Shelves: from-publisher
Dark YA contemporary novels are my new love language, y'all.


*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
Kelly Hager
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Liza Wiemer
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc
I was very fortunate to get my hands on an advanced reader copy.
And I couldn't put this book down.
It's gritty, raw, and deals with some important and tough issues like betrayal (friends/boyfriends/parents), mental illness, adulting/parenting - or the lack of - and finding the strength to face a crisis and make decisions that are empowering and "right" for you.
This may very well be Gae's best book. The writing is nuanced, emotional, and will leave you pondering the choices the characters' make
Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs
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
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Some may believe this is "make-believe", but Gae Polisner's new story, out next April, shows one girl's life in all its reality; all its hopes, some horribly dashed; yet, she keeps on, making choices that are "right" for her. Will you agree with every part? Perhaps not, but in the turmoil of this young teen whose father is away for work longer and longer, whose mother is drifting away in a heart-breaking mental disorder, and whose bestie Aubrey has drifted on to other girlfriends, readers will ...more
Sep 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps
***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
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book captures the things so many teens are grappling with. Friendship. Family. Belonging. Feeling things and not always understanding why. Processing change--because everything is changing. Your body, your thoughts, your friendships, your dreams. JL, at 15, is dealing with all of that and just like the butterflies she's passionate about: constantly evolving.

"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
Joe Godina
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
JL Markham, 15 years old, has her whole life in front of her. But these first 15 have not always been easy. Her once unbreakable friendship with Aubrey has fallen apart, her father has been in California for work for way longer than he was supposed to, and her mom is suffering from a sometimes debilitating mental illness in his absence. The bright spot in her life is Max Gordon, her nineteen-year-old boyfriend. A senior at 19, Max is often misjudged, but JL feels like she knows the real Max, a ...more
Emma's Things to Read
Oct 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
JL is 15 and her life seems to be falling apart. Her dad is working thousands of miles away in California, her mum is struggling to cope with her mental health and writing letters to Jack Kerouac, and her best friend Aubrey is barely speaking to each other. Her boyfriend Max is 19 has a bad reputation and calls her "Jailbait".
This is a real coming of age novel. JL makes some questionable decisions along the way and I found myself willing the adults in her life to notice what was going in and
Oct 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Oct 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great read-around with The Glass Menagerie or On the Road. And I loved the way the author manipulated time, especially as the book moved towards conclusion.
Sep 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya, 2019
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
Sep 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jennifer (JC-S)
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
‘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
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ng
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.
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-fun, e-reader, arcs
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
Isabelle | BookwyrmBites
Oct 09, 2019 marked it as priority-owned-tbr
Happiness is getting home after an exam and finding this on my desk! Thank you to Wednesday Books (St. Martin’s Press) for sending me an advance review copy.
(And thank you to my housemates for bringing in the mail, I guess.)
Elizabeth Taylor
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was amazing, as most of Gae Polisner's books talk about working through struggles to see the light this book follows the pattern. It is truly amazing and one of the best books you'll read. It talks about a lot of issues and doesn't make the charcter seem perfect. JL has flaws and quirks along with every other charcter. The letter writing throughout is beautifully placed and overall anyone who reads it will fall in love with JL and Max and the entire plot. Polisner's other books don't ...more
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Gae’s writing always has a way of reeling me in with characters I can’t get enough of and situations that make me turn the pages to see what happens next. JL’s story went straight to my heart. So beautifully written, her experiences brought me to tears as I felt connected to her struggles.

This book is one I already feel like I need to read again to fully appreciate all of it. This eARC from Netgalley scratched the itch to read the book, but I can’t wait to hold the printed book in hand and turn
Nov 01, 2019 rated it really liked it

I am a repeat Gae Polisner reader and I was lucky enough to get approved for an ebook ARC of her newest novel "Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me". I enjoy Polisner's way of capturing youth and all the uncertaintity that comes with it. Jean Louise (JL) Markham is on the brink of 16 and struggling with all the change that has taken place in her life. There is a lot going on in JL's life and I don't think she is fully capable of dealing with it.

The book alternates between her current time of 10th grade
Oct 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Gae Polisner's new novel, Jack Kerouac Is Dead to Me, is due in April 2020 from Wednesday Books, but you should pre-order this now.

JL Markham’s teen years seem typical, and yet this main character grabs the reader’s attention and holds on for dear life. In Jack Kerouac Is Dead to Me, JL’s stories surround her butterfly habitat, her family struggles, and her relationship with Max Gordon, who she hopes will take her away from all the high school drama when he graduates and moves to California. She
Oct 17, 2019 rated it liked it
This young adult book follows JL Markham through her sophomore year of high school as she struggles to cope with her mother's mental illness and her father's absence. These issues are compounded by JL's feelings for her best friend's brother and her sense that her best friend is slipping away. JL adores her bad-boy boyfriend Max, though he keeps pressuring her for a more physical relationship. But JL does manage to find some escape and solace in tropical butterflies--fragile but surprisingly ...more
Julie-Ann Johnson
Nov 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thank you Netgalley and publisher for the arc.

Just a forewarning: this is not a happy go lucky teen novel. Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me deals with heavy themes, but tackles them beautifully. It will make you hurt, but in an oh-so-good sort of way.

This novel follows 15-year-old JL (Jean Louise), who is hurting an awful lot. Due to her dad’s work and her mom’s mental illness, JL seldom receives the attention she desires. Not only that, but her best friend has become distant as well. In turn, JL
Ms. Warchol
NetGalley ARC

JL Markham is on the verge . . . Of turning 16. Of sleeping with her boyfriend (the poetic & swoonworthy Max Gordon). Of forever walking away from her already fractured friendship with Aubrey. Of losing her grip. And she can't bear to suffer one more loss. When Max makes her an offer to hit the road, what will JL be willing to risk?

JL's mom is on the edge. Because her husband has been living in California for work. Because she struggles with mental illness. Because while the
Jennifer Shanahan
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc-giveaways
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, ...more
Andria Sedig
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I liked the writing style and the way the author wrote the book as a letter to JL’s best friend. It was unique and different.

JK is Dead to Me was very realistic book. JL maintained a pretty level head with everything she had going on in her life. The drama of high school, a depressed parent, a missing parent and a “misfit” boyfriend. I’m not so sure I would have made it out quite as well as she did. I always have a soft heart for books where kids don’t always have
Tara Weiss
Oct 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Every English literature major thinks they know a thing or two about the great authors of the canon, and I think I have a grasp on Jack Kerouac. So, in reading Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me, I'm looking for all the things I know about the author. Often I'm reading too much into things. JL's parents are hippies . . . Kerouac didn't care for the hippies who came in the aftermath of the beat generation, so I'm just over here with the arms up in the air emoji thinking, "Huh?" The book has a lot going ...more
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Please note that, although I originally tried to assign star-ratings to my book reviews (and, thus, you will see some of my favorite books with stars), I have stopped doing so. A 3-star review, for example, can mean such different things to readers and reviewers, some rarely give more, so 3 means pretty great, to others 3 is