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Go Ask Alice

Discussion in 'General Book Discussion' started by Motokid, Jul 14, 2005.

  1. Motokid

    Motokid New Member

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    I'm reading Go Ask Alice, it's supposed to be a real diary from some unknown girl who lived, I guess back in either the late 60's or early 70's.

    The author is anonymous. The book is written in diary style with dated entries, and it follows this teenage girl from around her 15th bithday into a world of drugs. It appears she's also a bit manic-depressive to which makes the drug use and mood swings amplified.

    I have not quite finished the book yet, but I do have some questions about it, and would like to discuss some things with anybody who's read it.

    I'm about 80% through the book and would appreciate it if the ending is not spoiled for me. Please use spoiler tags if you need to at this time.

    here's where I left off last night,

    she was still in the hospital after one of her old drug friends laced some peanuts with LSD at one of her babysitting jobs, and she had just about clawed her face off "because of the worms" (from thinking too much about her dead grandparents lying in the ground and decaying), but it sounds like she's getting ready to leave for another hospital that's more psychiatric...I'm not sure yet....
     
  2. Geenh

    Geenh New Member

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    I read it a few times. Sad but good. My brother being a drug addict and all makes this book hit home for me.
     
  3. Motokid

    Motokid New Member

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    My very first question is:

    Do you think it's real?
     
  4. Kookamoor

    Kookamoor New Member

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    I've read it and agree with Geenh - sad but good.

    Do I believe it? I've wrestled with this question. I have to say that I believe it because I've never heard any evidence that it's not true. I want to believe it is true because she seemed such a lovely girl on the inside who lacked the self confidence and the will to really follow through on her dreams and get out of the drug-induced rut she was in.

    That being said, it wouldn't surprise me if it was editted in some way to remove some details that would reflect badly on the girl or others (I believe it was editted by her parents - correct me if wrong, I'm reaching back many years).
     
  5. Motokid

    Motokid New Member

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    "(I believe it was editted by her parents - correct me if wrong, I'm reaching back many years)"


    I have no idea...but it has to have been heavily editted in my opinion. I mean, what 15 year old...especially one who's manic-depressive and soaring on drugs writes in complete sentences and never just leaves thoughts dangling?

    To me, the story seems too moralistic to be real. I believe it might be an adaptation of real events...but since I've not quite finished it yet I'm not sure what to conclude.


    That's why I'm asking....
     
  6. JRakovan

    JRakovan New Member

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    from www.shutitdown.net

    some excerpts from "Curiouser and Curiouser": Fact, Fiction, and the Anonymous Author of Go Ask Alice.
    ...
    Go Ask Alice was originally published in 1971 with the authorship credited to Anonymous. There is noindication that any one besides "Alice," herself had contributed to the text, save for a four sentence introduction signed, "The Editors." Seven years later, however, Beatrice Sparks unveiled herself as the editor of Go Ask Alice, when she published her second book. In the thirty years since the publication of Go Ask Alice, Sparks' connection to the title has been used to market eight other books for which she is credited as editor, including: Kim: Empty Inside: The Diary of an Anonymous Teenager, Almost Lost: The True Story of an Anonymous Teenager's Life on the Streets, Jay's Journal, Annie's Baby: The Diary of Anonymous, a Pregnant Teenager.
    Clearly, Sparks, who is now in her eighties, found a winning combination with the unprecedented success of Go Ask Alice, and has continued to follow it into the current era. But why is there so much conflicting information about her books' accuracy? And why are they still being sold to teens as fact?
    Go Ask Alice is the narrative of "Alice,"3 and her inadvertent plunge into the terrifying world of drugs and sex. In the book, 15 year old Alice unknowingly is dosed with LSD at a party, and within ten days is shooting speed intravenously. This trend continues, when Alice smokes marijuana for the first time, and 20 pages later is shooting heroin and being "brutally and sadistically raped."4 Alice's story only gets more horrifying. After trying to stay off drugs for a period of time, the pressure of her peers becomes too much for her. A classmate gives her two amphetamine pills and she wakes up an unknown amount of time later in another city, in another state, where her only means of survival is prostitution.
    Alice makes many astute observations over the course of the novel about the relationship between herself and her parents, such as, "They keep saying that they know I am a good, sweet girl, but I'm beginning to act like a hippie and they're afraid the wrong kind of people will be drawn to me."5
    She doesn't limit her analysis to the troubles of her own family--she seems concerned with the plight of the relationship between teenagers and their parents in general--leading her to make the observation about another runaway, "She didn't know whether she was running away from something or running to something, but she admitted that deep in her heart she wanted to go home."6
    As it turns out, the parents are always right. The wrong people were being drawn to Alice because she was ironing her hair and wearing vests with fringe. And using marijuana once will lead you down a road that ends in numerous sexual assaults and ultimately, death.
    The front cover says it is, "A Real Diary" but the heavy-handed, moralistic tone suggests that Beatrice Sparks, a Utah resident and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had more to do with the book than the marketing implies.7
    In 1979, eight years after its publication, in an interview in School Library Journal with Alleen Pace Nilsen, Sparks admitted that although there was a real "Alice," Sparks had added other incidents and ideas inspired from similar case studies. In the interview, Nilsen also questions Sparks' qualifications to be working with teens. Sparks presents herself as a youth counselor or social worker, and in later books as a youth therapist and PhD, but Nilsen found no evidence to validate Sparks' claims, and said that Sparks herself was "vague about specifics" when describing her past experiences in the substance abuse treatment field. She also admitted that Alice had not died of a drug overdose as the book reports, but of unknown causes. In addition, Sparks claims that Prentice-Hall, the first publisher, has the original copy of the diary, but that after transcrbing them, she threw away the attached entries that were written on scraps of paper while Alice was on the run.8 Coincidentally, these scraps of paper were where the raciest lines of the book were found, such as, "Another day, another blowjob."9 One has to question whether these titillating portions of the book came from the diary of the 15 year old, or from the 53 year old editor, speculating on what life as a runaway teenager must be like.
    The follow-up to Go Ask Alice, was titled Jay's Journal by Anonymous, and was, if possible, even more unbelievable than its predecessor. The book details 15 year old Jay's decline from a successful student with a genius level IQ, to a kitten-slaying, devil-worshipping suicide victim....
    ...
    Go Ask Alice and Jay's Journal are the only books of Sparks' that have any proof of "real" people behind them, and are based on actual diaries, and yet only Go Ask Alice is listed as fiction by the publisher (ever since Sparks admitted that it was not entirely true), although it is still sold as non-fiction in many bookstores, and generally taught in schools as non-fiction. It does seem interesting, however that all of Sparks' subsequent books are listed by the publisher as non-fiction, possibly because there are no actual family members to refute Sparks' claims, primarily because the books are entirely created by Sparks, and not based on real teenagers at all.
    ...
    Annie's Baby: The Diary of Anonymous, a Pregnant Teenager, follows the same format as Go Ask Alice, but to a weakening and more skeptical audience. A book review in Publisher's Weekly said, "Sparks (It Happened to Nancy) shares another slice of a troubled teen's lifeā€¦ The book carries a strong anti-abortion sentiment and has an aura of soap opera as well."15 ....
    In the book, Annie, who is raped by her boyfriend and becomes pregnant, comes to the realization that it will be better for everyone if she gives up her baby for adoption. Like many of Sparks' prior books, Sparks herself figures in as the main character's non-judgmental therapist who helps her come around from troubled teen to responsible young person.
    In her interview with Sparks, Nilsen tells of the publishing world rumor that Go Ask Alice was published anonymously because Alice's parents had threatened to initiate legal action against the publisher. Sparks neither confirms, nor denies this rumor, saying only, "Oh, there were many reasons for publishing it anonymously, but my reason was for the kids."17 The motivation to list an anonymous author seems clear-it lends validity to the work, while at the same time rendering the childish prose and improbable plot immune to literary criticism, primarily because it is presented as the work of a deceased 15 year old.

    There is plenty of evidence, both internal and external, that these books are fraudulent, ut they continue to be taught in schools as truth, and Go Ask Alice is still devoured by teens voraciously every year. Sparks' books have many common elements: parents are always loving and caring, and most importantly, always right. If you do drugs, even once, it can kill you. Premarital sex is wrong and will have lifelong repercussions, and might kill you. Hanging around with the wrong crowd, even for a little while (because once you do, they will never let you go), can kill you. And most importantly, the main characters are generally good kids, who love Jesus, and are by and large blameless for the situations they are in. For example, in Go Ask Alice, Alice was slipped LSD in her soda and this was the catalyst that started her in the downward spiral the ultimately led to her death. In Annie's Baby, the main character's pregnancy at the age of 14 occurs because her abusive boyfriend raped her.

    Clearly, these books have struck a chord with teenagers. Perhaps in the age of the more realistic "problem novel" teens embraced these books, because they may have found it uplifting to read stories where there weren't so many shades of gray-here, the parents are always loving, drugs and premarital sex are always wrong, and you should never hang out with the "bad" crowd.

    It is possibly for this reason--that these books have such a strong message of traditional morals--that there has been so little effort to expose them as fraud. Why would adults want to discredit a book that would ostensibly have a positive affect on teenagers? The only available references to Beatrice Sparks are found in primarily obscure and out of date journals and periodicals, and most reviews of her books either do not mention the claims against them, or say that although they are unrealistic, they carry such positive meaning that they should be read nonetheless. The fact is, if these books were equally popular but had a subversive message, they would have been exposed as fraudulent immediately.
    Had Sparks openly admitted at the time of publication that Go Ask Alice was not non-fiction, and was, rather, a loosely fictionalized account of a girl that Sparks claims to have known, it would not have reached the literary popularity that it did. O ne of the reasons the didactic tone was accepted by teenagers was that they believed it to be a true story coming from one of their peers. Had they known that the morals, in fact, had been inserted by a middle-aged Mormon author with no actual drug experience to speak of, they would have been less inclined to accept its message of total abstinence, and Sparks would not have been able to carve a literary career out of the body of a dead girl
     
  7. Motokid

    Motokid New Member

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    Damnation JRakovan...that's awesome....thanks for the highly informative post....I knew it all smelled kinda fishy....I still plan to finish the book, but I will look at it a bit differently now....

    How many 15 year old junkies refer to sex as intercourse....???? And the wierd interjections of God and religion....????

    Thanks again...


    edit: should have checked here too...when in doubt...interweb

    http://www.snopes.com/language/literary/askalice.asp
     
  8. Kookamoor

    Kookamoor New Member

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    *sigh* Oh well, there goes my theory. I can't say that I'm overly surprised, though. As I said, I would *like* it to be true, but am not surprised that it's not.

    There is one thing in the link you put up, Moto, that I disagree with:

    Having kept a journal through most of my youth I can tell you that I used words like these. Yeah, they were big words, but they described what I wanted to say, and when one is ranting about something it feels good to express yourself eloquently (still do!!). So I don't necessarily think this is a good point, and is indeed a little insulting to the intelligence and writing abilities of teenagers.
     
  9. novella

    novella Active Member

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    Good catch, Moto. I was one of the impressionable young girls who read that book in the 70s and I remember having this perverse attraction and fascination with Alice. In some ways I wanted to be like her.

    Don't forget that she also develops anorexia, becomes 'popular', completely disregards and disconnects from her parents--plus kids in those days had a completely different take on drugs. Every single kid I knew smoked pot every day if they had it.

    Whatever the author's intention was, I guarantee it is backfiring pretty often, having the exact opposite effect.
     
  10. Motokid

    Motokid New Member

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    Where's that Sell Sword dude now I say???? :D

    Thanks novella....


    And kook...I'm thinking you may not have been the average teenager....I would like to know how many 14-16 year olds could even pronounce gregarious, let alone use it in a sentence correctly?

    I read it because my daughter read it. I wanted to see what the hoop-la was. Now the question is....what do I tell my daughter...should I tell her it's all fiction ?????
     
  11. novella

    novella Active Member

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    I would ask your daughter what she thinks of it, what she thinks of Alice. There are lots of girls out there measuring their lives out in french fries, having sex too young, keeping everything important from their parents, and who will do anything to impress a guy or be popular and thin. As far as all that goes, I think nowadays it's even worse than it was 30 years ago.
     
  12. Kookamoor

    Kookamoor New Member

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    You'd be surprised, man. There's a lot of smart kids out there who are very well read for their age, and that's where a lot of vocab comes from. You'd also be amazed how these smarter kids dumb down their language for the playground - that's what I did... it wasn't cool to be smart.

    I wouldn't tell your daughter that it is or it isn't. Unless she asks, of course. If that's the case then you should say that it's been revealed since that it was only 'based' on a true story, but point out that there are a lot worse real-life stories out there about people who are on drugs/homeless/have eating disorders/bad family lives, etc. I think the message is still good (peer pressure = bad and family = support), even if it was concocted in a religious bias.

    I have no idea what your thought processes were back then that you wanted to BE her, novella!
     
  13. novella

    novella Active Member

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    Times were so different then. I went to a private school, wore a little plaid uniform, took AP math, was at the top of my class . . . but it still didn't stop me from doing acid and quaaludes every weekend. It was so pervasive, it's really hard to describe. I'm truly horrified at the thought of how much danger I put myself in. Alice didn't seem so different from a lot of people I knew, she just pushed the envelope a little.
     
  14. Kookamoor

    Kookamoor New Member

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    Different times, I guess. I imagine my kids will look back on the way smoking was tolerated indoors and how we treated homosexuality and just shake their heads... I hope anyway! :eek:
     
  15. Motokid

    Motokid New Member

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    I can see how a kid might look at Alice's being able to run away and survive on her own as a bit of a romantic notion. Starting her own business, fending fro herself...surviving to some extent....if you take the hardcore drugs,prostitution, and rape out, it sounds like a fairytale escapism story for any teen who's dreamed of breaking away from "the man".
     
  16. novella

    novella Active Member

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    Yeah. We used to make a big distinction between 'pseudo' hipsters and real hippies who'd actually lived the life and been on the street. When I was 15 or so I really respected the down and dirty types who were 'real' 60s people. I actually wanted to spend time getting to know people like that, who'd lived like Kerouac and met Grace Slick and lost their minds.

    It was sort of equivalent to the gangsta attractions kids get now. They want it to be real, even if (or because) they know it's dangerous.
     
  17. Kookamoor

    Kookamoor New Member

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    That's a really interesting comparison... I never thought about that sort of correlation.
     
  18. AnnaRenae86

    AnnaRenae86 New Member

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    I've never read this book.. but I will now. I remember hearing about this book in 8th grade because it was banned from my school. Students caught reading it were given detention and spankings. It apparently had something in it that they didnt want a bunch of spoiled suburban kids reading.
     
  19. ecks

    ecks New Member

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    I always wanted to read this book but couldn't get myself to it. Thanx for reminding me, now I'll probably start it.

    You people are right that the "dark" and "mysterious" life seems very attractive to well-off people. For about a year and a half, I went to a catholic school, and it was a very weird experience. Nobody there believed in God and had no faith in religion, they only went there cause their parents made them go. They all thought black people were the coolest people and wore baggy school uniforms and Lugz boots.
     
  20. Motokid

    Motokid New Member

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    Wow....the book was banned....and you could receive spankings....

    How long ago was this?

    I finished the book...quick read....if you can find a copy give it a shot...I hope it was not ruined for you to find out the book is not a "real true life diary"...
     

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