Go Ask Alice
by Beatrice Sparks
The book, Go Ask Alice, was published in 1971 with only a copyright date to its name; the novel had no known author or editor as the cover stated “anonymous.” It was then in the mid-1980’s that a supposed editor of the book was uncovered. Beatrice Sparks, teen psychologist and Mormon youth counselor was uncovered to have actually written the majority if not the entire novel. While the complete authenticity of the author is still a bit of a mystery, Sparks states that the “journal entry style” of the book is not the complete real diary of a troubled teen but a compilation of stories from the lives of multiple patients and well as fictional input. While the story does contain a character named “Alice” in a small paragraph, the name does not seem to connect or correlate to a specific person within the story or real life. The main character of the story and supposed “Alice” is a 15 year old middle class white girl who lives the life of a normal teen until she faces a difficult move when there family relocates and she is forced in to a new school and environment. It is then that “Alice” is invited to a party and tries LSD for the first time pretty much by accident. From there, the problem spirals out of control as “Alice” experiments with drugs like pot, acid, and speed. Fulfilling a bit of the “prodigal son” role, Alice goes on spells of sobriety and hard-core usage; she meets many people throughout her journey and runs away from home multiple times. After on and off drug usage, “Alice” swears off drugs and comes home for good, after a few bad experiences with her home-coming, as she is pressured and bullied by past friends and users due to
Her sobriety, she finally gets through it all and finds a good guy, “Joel” who she begins dating. As the book ends with a bit of a happy, fairy tale ending, “Alice” vows to stay clean and decides not to keep a diary any longer. As the last page is turned, the novel’s end is bittersweet as the epilogue states the subject of the novel dies a mere three weeks after she stops keeping a diary, with the death extremely vague and reasons unknown.
While this was my second time reading Go Ask Alice, my first time, at age 13 and second, at age 18, I found my thoughts and understanding of it to be extremely varied. After my current reading, I was left feeling uneasy about the ending and how terribly fate twists. I found it to be an extremely easy read as far as vocabulary and style of writing is concerned while it was difficult to just pick up and start reading do to its depressive story and dark issues that are covered. The book is written in the form of a diary making it more difficult not to become emotionally involved in the plot and story. The story, in all honesty is extremely dark and depressive and “Alice” never really gets better until the end, which plummets in the epilogue. I would highly recommend this story to teens, as it shows high schoolers the reality of drugs and does not have the parental lecturing which is usually associated.
Why is this book “dangerous?”:
Since it’s publishing in 1971, Go Ask Alice has become one of the most challenged and banned books of all time. Due to its frequent and strong references to sex, heavy drug usage, and teen pregnancy, libraries and schools across the country have banned the novel as it sits at number 23 on the American Library Association (ALA) “100 Most Frequently Challenged Books” from 1990-2001. While in no way do I agree with banning or restricting the ability to read a book, its reasons for being banned are legitimate within the guidelines as it displays extreme profanity and drug use. In Charleston, South Carolina, Dr.Chester Floyd, Berkeley County school district’s superintendent, pulled the novel off the shelves of all public schools within the district. This course of action occurred after an angry mother protested the book when her 8th grade daughter was forced to read excerpts out loud in one of her classes. The student’s mother did not want her child reading such profanity and sex references out loud. One of the most controversial lines of the story fall in the latter part of the book as “Alice” is quoted saying “Another day, another blowjob.” Which references her sexual favors, which she does in exchange for drugs. With this, in the last 5 years Go Ask Alice has entered the ALA’s “top ten most banned books” where it remains.