Sal Paradise is a writer just like Kerouac who decides to 'see America'. He hitches rides, washes dishes, works on farms, sleeps on floors and under the stars, experiencing new flavors of life and meeting different kinds of people he never thought existed. It is a kaleidoscopic journey across this country, not some plastic trip on flying tin cans, staying in gaudy hotels, hobnobbing with phony people and walking through tourist traps in line with the flock. He meets other writers just like himself coming and going 'On The Road' who convey their own experiences and enrich Sal's ever more in the process.
The conflict comes in the figure of Dean Moriarty, a hustler and con man who the beatniks first embrace as one of their own, but eventually identify for what he is after patterns begin to emerge in his relationships with his peers. Sal at first sees Dean as a hero, a role model, but slowly grows disillusioned with broken promises, threadbare lies, irresponsible behavior, and eventual deceit and betrayal. The whole story is focused on Sal and Dean, and just as the two go off on a tangent down into Mexico and on into Central America, it seems analogous as to how Sal's vision become blurred and misdirected in following an agenda he mistakenly believes to be his own.
This is probably the best book written on the Beat Generation, capturing the essence of the times and the spirit that established what became the underground culture of America. Teens and young adults having trouble articulating their deepest feelings may find that Kerouac did it for them almost a half century ago. Don't miss it! Along with this great novel, I'd also like to recommend, "THE LOSERS' CLUB: Complete Restored Edition" by Richard Perez, a book I can't stop thinking about since I picked up a "used" copy off Amazon.