Review: Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me

Review: Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me

Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me by Gae Polisner is a book that explores coming of age with a parent who has mental health issues. The main character is interesting, although not very likeable. It is a story that has some intriguing aspects, but falls short with its flip-flopping timeline.

Review: Jack Kerouac is Dead to MeTitle: Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me
Author: Gae Polisner
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult Fiction
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Rating: three-stars

Summary (from Goodreads):

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 the tropical butterflies she raises, and in her new, older boyfriend, Max Gordon. Max may be rough on the outside, but he has the soul of a poet (something Aubrey will never understand). Only, Max is about to graduate, and he's going to hit the road - with or without JL.

JL can't bear being left behind again. But what if devoting herself to Max not only means betraying her parents, but permanently losing the love of her best friend? What becomes of loyalty, when no one is loyal to you?

Amazon “iBooks”

❃ I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. ❃

Review: Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me

At first glance, Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me seems like a book that will be enlightening and engaging. Mental illness is an important issue to explore in YA novels, however, if not presented properly, it becomes problematic. JL’s mom suffers from dissociative disorder and the way it is dealt with in the book is very vague. Her mom goes to therapy sessions, but her behaviour becomes more and more concerning as the novel progresses. None of the adult characters are supportive or helpful, which is shocking in a YA novel. JL is on her own and essentially has no adult that she can turn to for help.

❀ Not an enjoyable main character

JL is a really hard character to enjoy. She has quite an interesting hobby of raising rare butterflies that provides an entertaining and educational side to the book. However, she makes a lot of poor decisions that she rarely feels the consequences of. For instance, JL is so desperate to escape her home life that she steals thousands of dollars in cash to give her boyfriend. There are never any repercussions for JL from this behaviour, and as I have indicated earlier, it is hard to swallow in a novel for young adults.

❀ Timeline is all over the place

Also, while I enjoyed parts of the story, such as the theme of metamorphosis and the frequent allusions to Jack Kerouac, the timeline is all over the place. There is a constant flip from past to present that makes it hard to follow the story. It would have made more sense to confine the timeline to specific time periods instead of being all over the map.

❀ Hit or Miss for many readers

Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me by Gae Polisner is a book that has a compelling concept, but doesn’t seem to hit the mark. The theme of mental health is not explored in depth, the main character is hard to enjoy, and the writing is all over the place. This is one story that appears to be hit or miss for many readers so far on Goodreads, so I think it will be helpful for readers to take a look at some other opinions as well before deciding to read this one.

About Gae Polisner

Gae Polisner

GAE POLISNER is the award-winning author of In Sight of Stars, The Memory of Things, The Summer of Letting Go, The Pull of Gravity, and Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me. She lives on Long Island with her husband, two sons, and a suspiciously-fictional looking dog.


About Lori

Avid reader. Contributor to The Candid Cover. Educator.

18 thoughts on “Review: Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me

  1. Selena S says:

    Hi, loved the review! It sounded interesting plot wise but after reading your review it doesn’t seem like something I would enjoy.

  2. Sam@wlabb says:

    I went slightly higher than you (3.5) on this one. It wasn’t a bad reading experience, it was odd. I was compelled to keep reading it, but when I was finished, I wasn’t sure what the author’s goal was. I found I empathized with JL, because her parents were so darn useless, so I didn’t hate her, and I was ok with the time jumps, because they actually seemed to be building towards something, but still not sure what the end game was there.
    Sam@wlabb recently posted…In a Nutshell Reviews: The Summer Throwback Edition

  3. Hannah Chase says:

    Thanks for the honest review! It’s definitely hard to sit through a book when you don’t enjoy the main character!

  4. Debra Branigan says:

    Thank you for the honest review. The story sounds very interesting, but if it didn’t deliver then that’s good to know. I don’t like alternating timelines for the most part so I would likely not choose this one anyway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.