Presumably the diary of a teenage drug addict, GO ASK ALICE was first published when I was in junior highschool. It was widely distributed at my school, and the faculty urged the students to read it for an accurate portrait of the horrors of drug use--and read it I did. At the time I was very, very impressed by the book. But that was almost thirty years ago. Today I am 40 years old, and I am a much more critical reader than I was when I was 12. And my thoughts upon rereading this book are quite different than they were when I first came to it.
The obvious issue here is whether or not the book is what it purports to be. Upon re-reading it, I find myself willing to believe that GO ASK ALICE is indeed the diary of a teenage drug user--but I also think it has been heavily re-written in spots to intensify its anti-drug agenda. I base this observation on two points. First, whenever the book describes drugs or their effects, it suddenly changes tone and becomes very, very specific in a way that the other entries are not. Secondly, the descriptions it offers re the effects of certain drugs are exactly those you would expect of a non-drug-user writing with reference to studies available in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
This does not change the fact that this is a good book for young teenagers to read. The literary merit is zero--but that is not the point; the point is, as it always was, that casual drug use is simply not a good idea, and it places you in a situation where one thing can easily lead to another without the user being aware of the drift or having concious control. But it is also a book that needs to be read with responsible adult imput, for some of its content may need qualification. Ultimately, although dated and perhaps not quite as honest as it at first glance seems, it remains a powerful tool in any parent's anti-drug arsenal.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
on November 27, 2004
I don't mind people liking this book or gaining something from this book, but many of the adult reviewers here seem hellbent on promoting this book as either as either a major literary work or as an actual diary depicting the horrors of teen drug abuse. It is neither. I think it does potential readers, especially teen readers a true disservice to promote this book in either way. If you're doing this, you are not being honest.
It is NOT a real diary. It simply is not. It is a work of fiction created by Sparks. She continued this path - soap opera in diary form in a full-out series of books warning teens about the consequences of bad behavior. Don't believe me? Go to the Snopes Web site (you know, the one that confirms or dispells urban legends, rumors and out-and-out lies?) and read about Go Ask Alice. The researchers there confirmed that It is a work of FICTION written by SPARKS (not "Anonymous") as if it were a real diary. I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, as long as teens aren't being told this is a girl's real diary. That would be a lie. I don't believe in lying to teens, regardless of how noble you think the cause. Interesting note - Sparks, who is now in her eighties - was (maybe still is, I don't know) a member of the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints church. She wrote books that promoted the values of her church (obey your parents, clean living, etc.) - she just seemed to forget that annoying little commandment "Thou Shalt Not Lie." Apparently, there was even a 1979 musical inspired by "Alice" follow-up "Jay's Journal" that focuses on Spark's promoting fiction as fact, taking advantage of "Jay's" family (there actually was a "Jay," but most of the book about him was fiction) to enhance her own career, etc.
BTW, note to English teachers - if you're having your students write papers on this book (there are better books out there), make sure the papers aren't plaigerized from the net. I was amazed at how many "lift this paper" versions of Alice book reviews I found. A tipoff is that most, if not all, spoke of Alice as being a wonderful, emotional, true account of a teen struggling with drugs. If students actually research this book, they'll know it's fiction. Of course, being an English teacher, you already should know it's fiction, right?
There are books that give true, harrowing accounts of what happens when you use drugs. This is not one of those books. This book is a didactic soap opera - a cautionary tale written in a highly dramatic, unrealistic way. It is not particularly well-written, not great literature, but it's written in an emotional, dramatic, edgy (for it's time) way to draw in teen readers. Judging by its popularity and the doggedly admiring reviews here, it's been very successful.
I don't mind this book or its format, but I do have a tremendous problem with it being promoted to teens as something that it is not. Enjoy it as a work of fiction, realize that drug users generally have very sad, wasted lives, use it as a way to realize you should "just say no," whatever. But realize it's basically a fictional soap opera or an after-school-special in fake diary form. If you understand that, then by all means, read and enjoy. Don't use drugs and don't lie to people. Both are nasty habits to have.
on March 11, 2001
"Go Ask Alice," the tome so gloriously expounded upon by four-hundred and forty-four readers below, is a fictional account of a teenager's descent into drugs. It is "edited" by Dr. Beatrice Sparks. Now take a moment, Amazon shopper, and do a search for "Beatrice Sparks" under "Books." As you can see, Ms. Sparks knows a quite a few anonymous teenagers, each of them with a different malaise. Whether it's Annie (pregnancy) or Nancy (date rape/AIDS), Jay (drugs/Satanism) or Jennie (pills), or even Sam (gang violence), Ms. Sparks covers it all.
At the age of eleven, reading this book was a terrifying gateway into nethers of teenage existence. Now, at the age of nineteen, it has become a relic of the American War On Drugs; an antiquity like Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaigns or the "D.A.R.E." program. Like most anti-drug literature, it's well meaning, but inconsistencies ultimately get the upper hand.
"Go Ask Alice" reads like a pulp conspiracy novel, with the subject "tricked" into addiction by her friends (acid in the Cokes at a Party) who will stop at nothing to make sure she keeps taking drugs. The amount of drugs consumed throughout the book would have made Grace Slick nauseous. The climax is equally laughable.
David Toma had it right when he said that the most important factor in keeping kids off drugs was the unconditional love and care of a family. Maybe Ms. Sparks should have written a book on that instead.
---- For those who can stomach a truly candid book about drug use, seek out "Naked Lunch" by William S. Burroughs. For those who lack the patience to actually READ a book, watch Soderbergh's "Traffic."
on September 26, 2001
I remember my friends reading this in high school and insisting that I had to as well. My initial thoughts were that it was a little strange how this girl could be so strung out on drugs but kept on faithfully recording everything in her diary. My next thought was that there probably wasn't an Alice and that a grown up had written it in order to scare young girls away from drugs. Well, now I've found out that my instincts were right. The preachy tone of this book just reminds me of driver's ed videos and those cheesy anti-marijuana pictures in the seventies. Wanting to let kids know about the dangers of drugs is an honorable mission, but to do it in such a manipulative way is really inexcusable.
on August 6, 2003
After reading some of the reviews here, it seems many readers have neglected to realize that this "real diary" is a work of fiction and therefore says nothing definitive about teenage drug use, addiction, depression, etc. To quote the editors, 'Go Ask Alice: A Real Diary' is "based on the actual diary of a fifteen-year-old drug user." This means *any* of it -or more likely, *most* of it- may be invented.
Go Ask Alice is about a sweet, naive, somewhat insecure, though cared after, young girl (Alice) who happens upon an LSD-spiked soda at a party. Soon thereafter, Alice finds herself launched into a spiral of destruction. Within no time after the LSD incident, Alice starts shooting-up speed and having unprotected sex; all the while, she still yearns to try the elusive and seductive POT. (Come on, I mean, REALLY! We're supposed to believe she can get her hands on acid, speed, and men; but can't seem to get her lips around a joint!?)
Through her drug use/abuse (which I must say, does not seem that much beyond what I would define as "recreational"), Alice discovers what she perceives to be strength, confidence, and friendship. Yes, yes, we know... this can't be real because drugs are bad - a crutch, a lie, a shield, an escape, etc. Of course, despite Alice's new-found "happiness," her perfect life with mom and dad and brother and sister and gram and gramps gradually becomes one of truancy, drug-pushing (on elementary school kids, no less), sleeping in gutters, panhandling, promiscuity, and turning tricks to support her habit(s). (Message: watch out - that's what drugs will do to ya!) There are *plenty* of unbelievable details along the way.
After a while, Alice attempts to get clean but has great, great difficulty. (Message: don't do drugs - you can never stop!) Eventually, she returns to her family, stops using, and becomes the apple of a smart and exceedingly "together" college student's eye (yes, just like the movies!). No surprise - just when everything seems wonderful and promising and the words "happily ever after" are about to appear, Alice is found dead from an overdose. (Message: don't do drugs - you can never stop, you can't hide, and they *will* kill you). It's really difficult to convey how farfetched this whole thing is...Did the author think that such an ending would make the story seem more realistic? I mean, we all know happy endings are made-up - right? Well, in this case, so are unfortunate endings.
My guess is 'Go Ask Alice' was authored by someone who knows very little about drugs, and whose belief that "drugs are bad" has lead them to think they know all there is to know about drug use. This book is an attempt to further convince the ill-informed, drug-fearing public of the over exaggerated evils of recreational drug use (or even trying one drug once!). Alice's addiction is totally exaggerated and out of proportion with her actual drug use. She hallucinates once and the next thing we know, Alice is addicted to speed. By no means, however, does her actual use mirror that of an addict's. Even her relationships with her friends, and their anger when she tries to get clean, are unrealistic... it's ALL unrealistic!
I would not make this book available in my class library. It's junk. There is no reason to try to scare kids out of trying drugs - just educate them with *facts.* And please, let's not forget the definition of fiction and the artistic license it allows. This book is ludicrous; it's a shame so many people have been duped into believing it is a true story.
on August 6, 2004
It is downright shameful that this is passed as legitimate diary entries. The first time I read it it felt completely contrived and dishonest and extrememly preachy. I did some research. Turns out the "editor" Beatrice Sparks has "edited" dozens of "anonymous diaries" that all have that same exaggerated theme. And also now she is required to label her "anonymous diaries" as fiction, because they are. What becomes predominantly clear is that she is entirely uniformed about the situations and settings she is writing -oh excuse me- EDITING. I understand that she has written these books to scare children and instill paranoia into parents, and while her intentions are possibly positive, unfortunately the book will work against her intents. As soon as yonger people influenced by her book discover the world of drugs to be nothing as described in her "diary" that they will ignore the negative hype and embrace the drug culture more so than they would had they simply been told the truth.
My apologies for the moralizing, I'm glad I read the book, it is a bit of a "cult classic" (which label I'm sure Beatrice abhors) but don't be fooled, it is fiction, religious propaganda and misleading.
on September 17, 2004
Every year I have students tell me that this is their favorite book, and every year I feel compelled to explain to them that it isn't really a real diary and that Alice didn't exist. If they were to read the book with a more critical eye, they would see that it is complete garbage. It is preachy, moralistic, and poorly written. "Alice" is a nice girl from a good family who is slipped drugs once and is suddenly dropped into a nightmare world of abusive sex, prostitution, homelessness, and pain. Her attempts to get herself out of this nightmare are thwarted by the "bad kids" who gave her the drugs in the first place. In Alice's world, parents are always right and kids from broken homes always troubled. This book is a very dated response to the growing acceptance of drugs in the popular culture during the late 60's and early 70's. Go Ask Alice is almost always being banned by some school district somewhere for its supposed frank discussion of drugs and sex. I don't believe in banning books, but I wouldn't be sad to see this book taken off reading lists. As an earlier reviewer said, it is like watching Reefer Madness--it is so far from reality, and I think it does a disservice to kids to pretend that this book represents the real world.
on January 15, 2001
Look, I know I shouldn't be saying this because this book is the IMPORTANT BOOK to keep children off of drugs, but it's pure drug hysteria. It's one of those books that you read before you even know anyone who drinks beer and it scares you. Later on, you take drugs anyhow especially when you realize that your potsmoking cousin has yet to shoot up with heroin. By making a huge issue out of drugs, it undercuts it's message and renders it useless. False notes include:
"Alice" being tricked into taking acid: Acid's expensive. Acid's also easy to freak out on, and if you are with someone whose tripping that isn't liking the experience, it's going to ruin your evening. Usually when people take acid for the first time, their friends make sure that they are not going to go paranoid.
Dealing to school children: Why would 10 year olds want the stuff? They've all been indoctrinated in the "Drugs kill little kids" paranoia. If you were dealing to elementary kids, you'd be lucky to get out of the playground alive.
Being raped by heroin addicts: Heroin kills all sexual urges. Nothing more to say there.
Shooting up after being on acid for awhile: People don't go comparison shopping for drugs. People tend to settle on what they like. I was a pothead in college. My friends were drunks. We usually didn't mix and match and I only know a few people who even tried smack or cocaine.
Being tricked back into Acid: This had to be the most ridiculous scene in the book. Alice is babysitting. She eats the candy in the dish. It's Acid. She goes nuts. Huh? Did her friends break in when she wasn't looking? Did the nice young couple that hired her do it as part of the DRUG CONSPIRACY! Is this the magical Acid that doesn't fall apart at room temperature. Besides that why would a drug addict want to actively recruit other addicts. Drugs aren't plentiful. If someone wants to stop using, you let them. It leaves more for you.
It would have been so much more realistic if "Alice" had tried to hang out with her old friends and realized that they had nothing in common and that made her want to go back on drugs if only to have something to talk about with them. The evil drug addicts who try to get their lost sheep back into the fold is the stuff of Moonies, Scientologists and Christians - not drug fiends.
I could go on but I won't. All in all, this is a silly melodrama, with a lot of drug myths strung together in order put fear into the hearts of teenagers. If you want to read a REAL diary about drug addiction - read THE BASKETBALL DIARIES by Jim Carroll. It's urbane, realistic, funny and blisteringly evil. It shows the pure horror of drug addiction from the perspective of a punk kid who doesn't realize how horrible life is getting for him until it's too late. He's not a whiner like "Alice" and he's not making excuses for himself and there's no "He died of a heroin overdose isn't that sad" shock ending. The movie is Disney-melodrama, but the book is pure brilliance.
For other books about drug addiction try Please Kill Me: The Oral History of Punk, Trainspotting or even Naked Lunch.
If you want to know what drug addiction is really about then don't read the literary equivalent of Reefer Madness.
on November 21, 2005
It really pains me to think that there are people out there who have read this book and become touched by this girl's story because having been recommended this book by 2 friends who shared that very same reaction, I found myself often questioning the validity of the "diary", while first expecting to be blown away.
It starts out fine, I get a small glimpse of the seemingly normal, yet slightly overachieving author of the diary. The articulation is a bit too sophisticated for that of a 15 year old, but since I don't really know much about this girl, I figured I can't really be the judge. Then we get to the drug use; it sounds like it was written by someone who writes cheesy screenplays for after school specials; full of non-fifteen-year-old-who-experiments-with-drugs-type material and isn't that what I am being advertised?
My friends told me that it was so "real", so isn't that why I'm supposed to be drawn in? At the last page of the book, I was throughly disappointed. The girl's death is so abrupt and unexplained. Perhaps this is to create the illusion that this is a real person and a story can't be fabricated to satisfy curious readers. I was expecting so much more...Had this been what it's advertised to be, I would at least ponder what happened to this girl's family or have a bit of empathy. But instead I only wondered whether or not the sham of an author who wrote this fictional tale was ever exposed or if it wasn't that big of a deal because the message they were spreading (this being "drugs are bad") is a good one. Even if it is, after all, written in lies.
I just got done reading this eyesore of a "realistically brutal" diary and I immediately researched about Go Ask Alice on google, it only to discover that it is indeed the fictional work of someone misinformed. Looking back, it's not hard to figure out that anyone who describes the effects of a first-time marijuana use to those similar of someone tripping on hardcore LSD probably hasn't tried a single drug in their life. And when you find out it's actually some Mormon youth counselor from the late 60s who wrote the book, it just rings all too true. Any rational person would feel like an idiot having any sympathy for the supposed author of the diary after finding out it's some bible toting, middle aged woman brainwashed into thinking society is riding it's way to hell with every use of a mind altering substance it has and uses that as their only inspiration to cheat people. "More than 4 million" to be exact.
I don't recommend this book to anyone at all. While I hope that anyone who would read this isn't enough of a sucker to buy into it, there's still the risk that someone out there is shedding a tear for a person that doesn't exist, By recommending this book that calls it self "A Real Diary" I am cheating anyone who is expecting just that.
If you are looking for the diary of a young girl experimenting with drugs to become inspired by or become intrigued by, try searching through the millions of blogs out there on the internet written by actual people. That's not to say there isn't a chance that those might be fictional work too, but given that Go Ask Alice has apparently sold "over 4 million" copies, making some lady with a religious background and a lot of free time on her hands to taint her "good" intentions of scaring people into submission by feeding them lies, too rich to even fathom, anything that claims to be a diary and actually is is worthy of reading.
Futhermore, due to unrealistic quality, it doesn't even make a good fictional anti drug book.
Needless to say, 2 over enthusiastically thumbs down.
on October 20, 2004
This book is a ridiculous, pathetic, poorly-written, manipulative, shameless lie. It's incredible to me that this piece of trash continues to fool people to this day. If the "editor" Beatrice Sparks is to be believed, teenagers are dropping dead all over the place and leaving diaries that just beg to be published along with IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU!!!! moralizing tacked on to the end.
Anne Frank was an anomaly. This doesn't happen that often. Think about it, kids. How many drug addicts do you know that have the brain- and willpower to keep a long-winded diary? Heck, how many people do you know that keep a diary, period? How many 15 year olds do you know that correctly use the word "gregarious" in normal conversation? How many stoners do you know that would actually attempt to kill a teenage girl because she decided that drugs aren't for her?
It's sick and wrong that there are so many reviews on Amazon written by kids (and adults!) who were fooled. The idea that teachers (aren't they supposed to be teaching the truth?) are continuing to teach this book as fact proves that the education system in this country is screwed-up beyond all repair.
Don't buy into this sick, deluded woman's lies!