Caroline the Future Librarian

Caroline Davis | LIBR 265-10 | SJSU | Wrenn-Estes

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

Title: Go Ask Alice
Author: Anonymous
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Date: December 2005
ISBN-13: 9781416914631

Plot Summary: Originally published in 1971, Go Ask Alice claims to be the real diary of an unknown teenage girl that died of a drug overdose when she was 16-years-old.  In entries that span about one and a half years, the unnamed narrator (not named Alice – there is only one mention of the name Alice as a minor acquaintance of the author) chronicles her descent from a happy and normal adolescence into a crippling addiction to drugs, and the dangerous behavior she displays while on them.  Her first drug use was at a party, when she was unknowingly given a soda laced with LSD, and the beautiful trip she experienced hooked her and piqued her interest in trying other drugs.  She becomes addicted and is forced to start dealing drugs in order to maintain her lifestyle.  Throughout the book she claims that she wants to quit, but is irresistibly drawn back into it.  She runs away to San Francisco with a fellow addict before returning home a few months later, and at another point she hitchhikes into Denver, Colorado, while high.  After a bad trip following the death of her grandparents, she is finally determined to quit drugs and seems to be doing better, when she dies of an overdose.

Critical Evaluation: I can see why this book has been a popular choice for teen readers over the last few decades (it has almost been 40 years since the first printing!).  In the same way that A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer remains a popular title for young adults who are interesting in reading about a (supposedly) true story of child abuse, Go Ask Alice allows teens to vicariously experience the highs and lows of taking drugs, including detailed descriptions of how wonderful acid trips are supposed to be.  As a teen, I probably would have been fascinated by this book, on a subject completely foreign to me (although many teen readers may have had more experience in this department and responded to the book for different reasons).  As an adult reading it, I couldn’t help but be distracted by the feeling that I can’t quite believe this is a real diary (not that young adults wouldn’t be perceptive enough to pick up on this, but speaking from my own experience I was better at ignoring my critical thinking as a teen than I am now).  I would probably include this in a library collection for young adults if for no other reason that I’m sure there will be requests for it.  I’m not sure I would ever recommend it for a teen – it’s just not that good of a book.

Reader’s Annotation: This supposedly real diary of a teenage girl chronicles her descent into drug addiction.

Author Information: If, as we are meant to believe, this book is non-fiction, then the author is an unknown teenager that died of an overdose.

More likely, the “editor” of the book, Beatrice Sparks, either partially or completely wrote the diary.  Born in Goldburg, Idaho, in 1918, Sparks studied at UCLA and Brigham Young University before working as a youth counselor and therapist, starting in 1955.  A devout Mormon, Sparks has written a series of supposedly “real” diaries about troubled adolescents to serve as cautionary tales.

Genre: Non-Fiction, Autobiography, Fiction

Curriculum Ties: Drug education

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Why does it seem so hard for her to quit taking drugs?
2) Does it matter if the diary is real or not?  Why?

Interest Age: 14 and older

Challenge Issues: drug use, sexual content, rape

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the book and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews available for viewing on Amazon.com.

• Try to get reviews of the book from teens who have read it.

Selection: I selected this book because I knew it was a popular title for young adults over the last few decades.  I wanted to include a biography or memoir in the collection, but I find it hard to believe that this book is actually non-fiction.

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May 10, 2010 - Posted by | Books | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I read this when I was fairly young. My dad rented the movie and watched it with me. The most memorable thing was that after the movie finish, my dad said to me in his most serious voice, “Christine, remember this…just get high on life.” Still makes me laugh to this day. 🙂

    Comment by Christine O | May 12, 2010 | Reply


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