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Go Ask Alice Book Review Essay

Introduction

Go Ask Alice is a 1971 book about the life of a troubled teenage girl. The book continues its claim to be the actual diary of an anonymous teenage girl who became addicted to drugs. Beatrice Sparks is listed as the author of the book by the U.S. Copyright Office. The novel, whose title was taken from a line in the Grace Slick, penned Jefferson Airplane song “White Rabbit”, “go ask Alice/when she’s ten feet tall”, is presented as an anti-drug testimonial. The memoirist’s name is never given in the book. Revelations about the book’s origin have been a cause of doubt as to its authenticity and factual accounts, and the publishers have listed it as a work of fiction since at least the mid-late 1980s. Although it is still published under the byline “Anonymous”, it is largely or wholly the work of its purported editor, Beatrice Sparks. Some of the days and dates referenced in the book put the timeline from 1968 until 1970. Its major themes would be difficulty of communication and problems of adolescent identity. It is written a series of events in the form of multiple diary entries.

Summary of Content

September 18th- December 25th

Alice explains that she bought herself a diary in high spirits, after being asked out by a guy she liked. She believed she finally had beautiful thoughts to shear with herself through writing. Following the next day, he rejects her. Alice is miserably insecure and wonders why people always seem to hurt her feelings.

Days go by and her fifteenth passes, and her boredom with life is interrupted only by weight gain and her accompanying self-hatred. She later learns that her father has accepted a teaching position at a different college and the family has to move at the start of the New Year.

Over the time Alice’s mother has taken noticed of her irregular eating habits and forces her to eat. She then starts to reject her mother’s care and wonders if she could make herself throw up after eating. As time passes Alice writes that she is mostly herself with her dairy, and fears the loss of her identity trying to fit in with everyone else.

Throughout this time she displays a sharp sense of intelligence and awareness of her emotions and recalls many observations as a well as her feelings. She refers to her diary as a person, confiding in it and asking it to help her monitor her weight-loss plan as if it were a close friend. This indeed is one of the major themes in Go Ask Alice.

January 1st- July 14th

Alice writes about her excitement for the family’s big move, but confides to her diary her fears of not adjusting to life in a new place. After settling in, Alice changes her mind about the house which she first thought was unappealing, but now she sees it as beautiful. As time goes by the rest of the family has adapted well to their new surroundings, but Alice feels like an outsider. She wonders how, in a family of outgoing people, she always manages to feel distant from others. With the passing of time, Alice hasn’t made any friends and has gained weight again.

Throughout this time, her approached grows more and more unattractive and she feels like a social outcast and is frustrated with everyone and everything around her. She also talks about her new friend she meets named Greata; who she feels is just as unattractive and awkward as her. Along with Greta, she talks about Beth a Jewish girl who she meets that lives down the block. She finds that she can talk to Beth about anything; after expressing that she and her mother can no longer talk like they use to.

She continues to write as he summer has started and plans to spend the summer with her grandparents. While there she is invited to a party where she is introduced to a game which includes randomly dripping LSD in several soda bottles which she becomes the recipient of. After she became aware of the aftermath she happy for the experience but never wants to do drugs again. Throughout this time, she compares her voyage into the new world of drugs to Alice in Wonderland. Alice goes through a series of social changes in with in the first half of the year, and her instability helps explain her curiosity for drugs. She sought refuge in writing but drugs provide an easier access into her fantastic world, where she feels a relationship with people and the things around her.

July 20th- September 10th

She goes on a date with Bill and experiments with more drugs. She feels like a complete new person, better about herself and she loves going out. While at her grandparents her grandfather had a mini heart attack. She strays away from her friends in the efforts in assisting her grandmother with her grandfather. Later she subsumes to the pressure of her friends and goes out to a party at Bills house where she takes acid. She also loses her virginity to him while on acid; which she expressed it as being another brilliant, freaky way out, part of her drugged adventures.

Now, she looks for someone to talk to about drugs but she doesn’t know who to ask. Trying to sort out her many feelings she starts to take sleeping pills which she loves. Drugs makes Alice feel like the person she never was before. Under the influence of speed, she says, she feels like a member of a “different, improved, perfected species”. What Alice got from the drugs was a sense of being loved for who she really is, by others around her who is on drugs. September 12th-November 22nd

Alice in now back home where she meets a friend name Chris and is given a job working with her are a local grocery store. She continues to pop pills whenever she gets tired or hungry. She is then introduced to marijuana and is now using as well as selling it.

She then finds herself in what will turn out to be a heart breaking betrayal; when she finds out the truth about Richie’s secret affair with Ted. As time pass, Chris and Alice decides to flee San Francisco and vows to turn Richie in and stays sober with Chris. She gets to San Francisco where she and Chris both find jobs to support themselves. She also matures within this time frame, learning about her sexuality. However, she has not have sex sober yet. Beneath Alice’s psychedelic adventures is her continuing desire to find someone with home she can have the same open, loving relationship she once had with her family. Her shifting emotions concerning her family were the major cause for her departure, yet she longs for them in San Francisco.

November 23rd- End of Diary One

Alice has now passed through her by trail by fire, and she feels like an adult from the way others treat her as an individual. She declares “I am somebody: but her real maturation is not from how others respond to her, but from wise reflections on what it means to survivors the troubled times of adolescence.

She is not completely ready to accept her past, she wants to repent for her sins, but she also wishes she could push her nightmares in the back of her mind. Alice finally gains enough absolute experience and converse more honestly with other runaways in this section to understand better what has caused her decline. Alice diagnoses her real problem when, happy about her father’s love for her, she wishes she could only love herself. If she could do this, she would care less about rebelling or satisfying her parents and instead focus on her own, separate desires. Throughout this section she develops a belief of Christian redemption on her own when it occurs to her that suffering may have been worthwhile, as she can now understand and be more understanding of people. Her decisions to h help others has deep religious reasons, and she ends the first diary.

Diary 2 April 6th-May 21st

Alice matures deeply in this section, expanding her sensitivity. Her increasing desire to become a guidance counsel shows. She has now find an identity that will someday suite her, and while she is still in pain at times, she is already getting better at communicating with others and enjoying a life with soberness. She and her parents both now treat each other with respect and concern. Her grandfather dies and she is having a hard time dealing with the situation at this point. More frightening to Alice is her true helplessness inn her flash back episode and the resulting fear that she may lose her mind.

May 22nd Updated July

Alice writes in her undated diary from a hospital. She is unsure how she has ended up here and can only think of the worms she thinks are eating her alive. She has apparently been biting her fingers down to the bone; she relates this to the death of her grandfather. Alice reveals that an accidental dose of acid is the cause of her breakdown. Her mother and father believe that someone else “tripped” Alice without her knowing it. she finds out she is being sent to an insane asylum. Her father tells her that when her case was brought before a juvenile court, Jan and another girl testified that Alice had still been on drugs and was selling them. She registers at the State Mental Hospital. She is frightened by the ugly building and by the inmates, whom she feels are different from her. Despite the mental horrors Alice endures, her mind stays somewhat resilient and her diary becomes her true sanctuary. She is sent away to the asylum to get help.

July 27th Epilogue

Alice tries to pray but feels the words are false and meaningless. She yearns for death. She starts going to school at the Youth Center, which is a relief compared to her room. Life in the asylum is draining her in all ways, as it has already done for Babbie. She listens to other kids in a group therapy session, which she finds helpful. Alice’s mother and father visit. Another visit from Alice’s parents brings a long letter from Joel. Her father reports that Jan has retracted her statement, and they’re trying to get the other girl to do the same, in which case Alice will be let out soon. Alice returns home and is happy to be with her family.

At home, Alice is invited to go swimming by Fawn, a “straight” kid. Alice is insecure around Fawn and her friends, even though they seem to like her. She gives her father a sweater and a poem by her for his birthday. Joel surprises her by showing up and kisses her on the lips in front of her family. Alice is worried about starting school again but feels stronger with the support of her new friends and Joel. She comments that she no longer needs a diary, for she now has people in her life with whom she can communicate.

In the epilogue, we are told that Alice died three weeks later of an overdose—whether it was premeditated or accidental remains unclear—and that she was one of thousands of drug deaths that year.

Part II Memoir Review

Go Ask Alice was originally promoted as nonfiction and was published under the byline “Anonymous.” However, not long after its publication, Beatrice Sparks, a psychologist, began making media appearances presenting herself as the book’s editor. The memoirist’s name is never revealed in the book. Alice is not the protagonist’s name. A girl named Alice is mentioned briefly in one entry during the diarist’s stay in Coos Bay, Oregon; she is an addict whom the diarist briefly meets on the street. Commentators often refer to the diarist as “Alice” in error, or for the sake of convenience. In the ABC Movie of the Week film version of Go Ask Alice, broadcast 24 January 1973, the protagonist is named Alice.

Go Ask Alice is an honest portrayal of the life of a drug addict. Originally published in 1971, the book provides an empathetic description of one 15-year-old girl’s descent into a life of drugs that still resonates in today’s teen culture. The book’s strength lies in the breadth of the first-person account, from her early days as an innocent youth whose main worries were popularity and image to her life on the street, where the only thing she worried about was where she would get her next fix. It also details her difficult, uphill battle back to sobriety. Another strength of this novel is that it verbalizes feelings that most teens experience.

For example, Alice states, “I don’t need the sleep as much as I need the escape. The one weakness/caution for Go Ask Alice is that the book is graphic in detail. It includes descriptions of her sexual experiences and the sensations of each drug, and her off-balance ramblings while on different drugs. This is not appropriate for young readers. I would direct this book to teens and adults. I think it should be required reading in high schools. Since this is about a teen struggling with addiction and the social pressures of the drug world, it is a real eye-opener to anyone who is already struggling and for those who may be confronted with the option to use.

Conclusion

This book had many great reviews, and I would agree that this is an outstanding book. In fact, I believe it is one of the best young adult novels I have ever read. There is much speculation over whether the diaries are fictional or true; however, I didn’t feel that affected how I felt after reading it. The accounts in this diary seem so real and well written. Many would argue that a fifteen year old girl couldn’t muster such talented compositions. On the contrary, the late 60’s early 70’s were a very different time. Although parents appeared stricter in this time, it seemed laws and drugs were much freer. It is easy to imagine all of the runaway teens and preteens prostituting themselves, using drugs, and sleeping in parks and on curbs—and most of them didn’t care where they wound up!

This isn’t as common today, but it still happens, we just don’t hear as much about it. I think the author of the diary did a great job capturing the positive, beautiful feelings of her experiences with drugs. Similarly, the writer equally described the melancholy and loss of identity associated with drug use. This novel could change lives, if not simply relate to them. Overall, a frightening and well-written account of a young girls’ disheartening story from a regular teenager, to a popular free teenager, to a teenager that must be put back together. Future drug users must ask themself, “Should I try using?” Well, go ask Alice, and she’ll tell you how to stop from losing your identity as well as sanity.

Works Cited
“Go Ask Alice A Real Diary PB N (Paperback) By (author) Anonymous.” The Book Depository. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2013


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