Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me by Gae Polisner

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/125031223X/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2&linkCode=ll1&tag=doyoudogear-20&linkId=9054d9b4eae1786e14c1bcfc50060dc4&language=en_USSynopsis (via 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?


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I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me was incredibly depressing, and left every single issue unresolved at the end. Why??? It didn't make me feel hopeful, or think that things might finally be okay for JL. I'm angry, frustrated, and wish that something more significant had happened for the main character. Basically, she's dismissed and taken advantage of over and over again, and by the people who are supposed to care about her the most.

JL's dad was absent. He left his family for work and money (his contract was repeatedly extended), and I never fully understood why he left them behind to begin with. When my husband deployed last year, we didn't have the option of going with him. JL and her mother could have moved to California with her dad until he was finished with his contractual obligations, but they chose not to. Instead, JL's father leaves his daughter with his disassociating wife, and just assumes everything is okay despite being told otherwise.

JL's grandmother has her head in the sand, and refuses to admit things are actually as bad as they seem, so there's no one on JL's side helping her through this. She's stuck at home dealing with her mother, who is often not firmly in this reality. No child should have to deal with that.

On top of everything, JL's boyfriend is constantly pressuring her to have sex, and to just be more sexual in general. She's clearly stated that she's not ready, but he still tries to talk her into it. She thinks it's sweet that he wants her so much, and I hated that she couldn't see how pushy he was being. It was like he was trying to make her feel guilty about not doing it, and she wanted to make him happy. Additionally, he's 19 and she's 15, so I had issues with that as well. I know it happens, but a 15-year old is not on the same physical, mental, or emotional level as a 19-year old. Max also uses JL for money, and eventually betrays her in the worst possible way. Something she doesn't even admit to herself until long after it occurs. I was disgusted by his behavior, and that he constantly took advantage of his "Jailbait". Yep. His nickname for JL was Jailbait. Cute, right?

JL's former best friend is equally as bad, and don't even get me started on her parents. They knew JL, and they knew what kind of living situation she was in, but they never offered to help. They didn't even ask how she was doing, or question if there was something they could be doing for her. The people in this book sucked. They sucked big hairy balls! Aubrey (the former best friend) chose to make new friends instead, and simply cut JL out. Why? Her parents thought JL's living situation would be a bad influence on their daughter, like her mother's mental illness was contagious. Fucking morons.

Even the motherfucking mailman knew something was wrong with JL's mom, yet he did nothing. Every single person in this book failed JL in one way or another, and I hate that she had to live like that. She was such a caring person, especially with her butterflies, but there was no one in her corner. She finally does something drastic, which also blows up in her face, but at least it gets her dad's attention. Skip forward a few months, and... nothing. Nothing has changed. There's zero resolution. Why did JL suffer through all of that heartache? Is her mom finally going to get the help she needs? Did JL really mail that letter to who I think she did? If so, that makes zero sense. Especially since the book is written like she's explaining things to Aubrey.

Aargh! I'm feeling really down after reading this book, and I honestly have no idea what kind of point the author was trying to make. That people can be shitty? That you never know what someone else is dealing with? Don't judge others? I think JL deserves a lot better, and I'm very unhappy with where the author left things. (★★⋆☆☆)

21 comments:

  1. "His nickname for JL was Jailbait. Cute, right?"
    *facepalms*

    I guess you did finish this one because you cared for JL and wanted her to get a resolution of sorts? Now, I'm perfectly OK with open endings, but at least you have to set the path for something, even if you don't actually spell it out. Especially in contemporaries. Gah, I hear you about being frustrated. It sounds like she went through a whole ordeal for nothing.

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    1. She tries to explain the nickname, but I still hated it when he called her that. Especially since it drew my attention to her age, and the fact that he was 4 years older than her.

      Yes, I finished the book because I was concerned about JL, but I have no idea whether or not she's okay. The ending was super confusing and answered exactly zero questions. Open endings are fine, but I like to know the characters are going to be okay. I want there to be SOME resolution before the story concludes.

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  2. Polisner wrote the story beautifully, and the butterfly tie in was interesting, though depressing, but that matched the tone of the book. Anything hopeful or good was sort of blown up, but I couldn't stop reading, because I kept hoping for something. Then I was left bewildered by the ending, or rather, non-ending. I appreciated this story a bit more than you, but still, was left unsure about the story's objective.

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    1. I do think the story was written well, but I hated that JL had no one in her corner. She put all of her hope in Max, and we both know how that ended. You're right about everything good being blown up, and I hated that there wasn't something positive for her to cling to. Even her dad's inevitable return was an unknown. After going through all of that with JL, I wanted more resolution for her. Yeah, I have no idea what the story was trying to accomplish either. :/

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  3. Oof. This sounds like a real downer. To not have the threads resolved at the end would make me question the journey that precedes it for sure. On to the next one!

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    1. I definitely needed something more upbeat afterwards! I still catch myself thinking about the main character and worrying about whether or not she's okay, which is crazy, since she's fictional. The author made me care about JL, which is why I was so disappointed when there wasn't much of an ending.

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  4. I do wonder what the author was thinking when they wrote this because it just sounds like it would make me mad.

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    1. I was constantly angry on JL's behalf, but think she handled herself okay. She made some rash decisions, but that's to be expected when you're 15. I just wish she had an adult in her life that actually cared, or a friend that was genuine.

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  5. That sounds pretty frustrating :-( and it sounds like the end doesn't end up going anywhere which always leaves me depressed for characters like JL.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. Hard same. I feel so, so down after reading this book. She just kept taking hit after hit, and there was no one there for her. I guess as the reader you're "there" for her, but it wasn't the same. She needed a person in her life that cared about HER.

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  6. Oh gosh no, this sounds horrendous. There doesn't seem to be any learning curve here, just a bunch of asshole adults who failed a young woman and treated her like absolute shit. I know storytelling it subjective but I'd like to think books help us learn and grow, to share experiences and I'm not entirely sure what the point of this book is. All it would have taken is one person, just ONE. I'm sorry you were let down by this one Linds, it'll have to be a hard pass for me too unfortunately.

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    1. My husband was trying to say something similar, like how I should have still learned something from the story (how not to treat a child, or what a person shouldn't ignore), and I agree with that to an extent. However, when you're writing a book, I feel like there should be a solid ending to the story. Otherwise, your main character goes through hell and back for no reason. I need to know the characters are okay, or that there's hope for a better future. This book has a non-ending, and I hate that it didn't resolve anything. Like you said, it would have taken just ONE person showing an interest in JL's life, and really caring about what was best for her.

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  7. Obviously not my kind of book. They say authors should write about what they know; doesn't sound good for Gae Polisner. 😢
    I hope your next one is uplifting and/or lighthearted, Lindsi 💜

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    1. I hope that's not true for this author, and that's it's a truly fictional story not based on personal experiences.

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  8. Oh no! This is on my pile but I don't realy want to read a book like that right now. I'm putting this one off for later!!

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    1. It was really depressing! I kept waiting for things to get better for JL, for her dad to come home, or her mom to get the help she needed. However, things continue to spiral out of control, and she's left in limbo. Her situation hasn't changed, only her setting. I had to read several upbeat books afterwards to make myself feel better.

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    2. It wasn't a bad book, and it was very well-written, but I like for there to be some resolution at the end. I feel like nothing really happened, which made me feel even worse for the main character.

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  9. This a great review and I understand completely why you're so frustrated and disappointed... 15 years old and failed completely by those who should love, teach and protect her. :(
    I'll pass.

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    1. If I had known about the ending beforehand, I don't think I would have read this one. I've been avoiding sad/dark books for my own mental well-being. They just really drag me down, especially with where the world is right now. I need uplifting stories! Things that make me believe everything's going to be okay. Nothing was okay for JL, and I hated that she didn't have anyone around that supported her.

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  10. Thanks for the warning. Those things would frustrate me, too. 😐

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    1. I really wanted something GOOD to happen, you know? It was just bad piled on top of worse.

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“Stuff and nonsense. Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don't you know?”
― Marissa Meyer, Heartless