go ask alice.


When I was in 4th grade, I broke my wrist in a rollerskating accident (I should note that this incident in no way decreased my boundless love for rollerskating).

The next day, my mom decided that I was old enough to start reading “adult” books.

I’m still trying to see the connection between these two events.

Anyway…my mom gave me two new books to set the grown up ball rolling: Flowers in the Atttic and Go Ask Alice. I’ll save my opinion on the first book for another time. All I can say is a novel about incest and rat poison is more than just a little mindblowing for a 9 year-old. I worried that I might some day find myself locked in the attic with my little brother, sentenced to years of having snot wiped on my shirt and my hair pulled.

Go Ask Alice changed my life. Or at least it made me really, really interested in drugs. I am assuming that my mother thought this book teach me a valuable lesson at a very tender age. But really, I just learned about the existence of psychedelics. I realized that it would definitely be unacceptable for me to take up LSD before puberty, so it was added to my mental list of “Things to Accomplish in High School.” This list also included goals like “lose my virginity” (check.), “learn to drive” (um. no check.), and “try whiskey” (check.).

So when I saw this book at the thrift store last week, I had to buy it. Last night I read it from cover-to-cover in an extra-long bath. Yes, I was pruney afterward. And I used all of the hot water in the house.

Described in the introduction as “based on the actual diary of a fifteen-year-old drug user,” Go Ask Alice–published in 1971–follows an insecure teenager’s descent into drug addiction and life on the streets. When I read this in 4th grade, I found a protagonist I could understand…especially when she declares her undying love for books. I remember thinking “bookworms=drug fiends.” It seemed entirely logical to me.

Early on last night, I decided that the book was even better than I remembered. Especially this part:

“I’m partly somebody else trying to fit in and say the right things and do the right thing and be in the right place and wear what everybody else is wearing. Sometimes I think we’re all trying to be shadows of each other, trying to buy the same records and everything even if we don’t like them. Kids are like robots, off an assembly line, and I don’t want to be a robot!”

But then suddenly the book began to turn into a preachy anti-drugs diatribe. The protagonist accidentally drinks Coca Cola laced with LSD at a party. This begins a rapid downward spiral. She becomes “addicted” to marijuana and pills and is soon selling acid to elementary school children. This decline is most obvious when she starts wearing “a cute pair of moccasins and a vest with fringe and a really great pair of pants.” Yep. Anything suede and fringe-y is always a sign of trouble.

I forced myself to finish the book, mostly just because all of the hippie references were hysterical. Lots of ironed hair, sandals, and bellbottoms. And oh, one white vinyl pants suit.

The moral of the story: as soon as one stops curling ones hair and starts smoking marijuana, a tragic demise is imminent.

Last night I became skeptical that this book was an actual person’s diary (much less the true story of a teenage girl’s drug problems). Investigation via Wikipedia revealed that it was most likely written by Beatrice Sparks, a psychologist and Mormon youth counselor. Despite denying that Go Ask Alice was a work of fiction, she spent most of the 70s churning out “true” books about teenage pregnancy, suicide as the result of involvement in the occult, and baby prostitution. All were billed as actual diaries with anonymous writers.

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One thought on “go ask alice.

  1. janelle says:

    2 of my favourite young adult books – also recommended to me by my mom!

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