Quiet contemplation reigns when recent high school graduate Paul uses a road-trip search for Jack Kerouac as a possible escape from the pressures of 1964 suburbia.
Paul is increasingly disillusioned with his night shift at the mill and his girlfriend’s belief that their engagement is imminent. Breaking free from the yoke of expectations is difficult, especially in the wake of his mother’s recent death. Paul’s admiration for Kerouac’s On the Road sparks an unexpected friendship with fellow overnight-shift employee Duke, whose adventurous nature contrasts with Paul’s reluctance to rock the boat. Indeed, it’s Duke’s idea to run away to Florida to find Kerouac. Readers expecting a wild adventure story will find themselves disappointed. Paul’s cautious approach to travel helps the pair avoid excitement, and his reserved narrative style strips even a romantic interlude with a Weeki Wachee mermaid impersonator of any salaciousness. The pair’s experiences in Florida seem to further emphasize the dangers of impulsivity, as both Duke and Kerouac are revealed to have unstable lives that largely revolve around alcohol-fueled binges. But while Paul lacks a certain vivaciousness, his growing understanding of his role in the world is revealed through moments of self-awareness that are almost painfully unvarnished and at times also starkly beautiful.
Ultimately though, a book whose title references Kerouac but lacks outrageous escapades may have difficulty finding its audience. (Historical fiction. 14-18)