Go Ask Alice

I read Go Ask Alice, by its allegedly anonymous author, when I was in high school over forty-one years ago. In the early 1980’s I was a Beatles fanatic, sorry to have been born sixteen years too late to appreciate the band and the 1960’s first-hand as a teen. I discovered this book while reading about the counterculture of that decade, although it was first published in 1971. I acquired my own copy after going through a progression of unwanted library donations where I traded up based on book condition.

After reading Unmask Alice, where the anonymity of the diarist is exposed as Beatrice Sparks, I decided to revisit this alleged diary. Since I read this book over four decades ago I didn’t remember much about it. I myself was a diarist when I read it for the first time, and given the perspective I have now, I can attest that Sparks did a good job in rendering the inner thoughts of a teenager. The entries didn’t seem unreal or antidrug preachy, however some of them were quite lengthy. The only part about the diary that did not seem genuine was that it was presented in a pristinely edited format, thus no abbreviations, spelling errors (I nevertheless found but one), drawings, doodles, or that bane of teen correspondence, an excess of exclamation marks.

The obsession Sparks would have with exposing the supposed epidemic of Satanism in America can be seen in one diary entry, after the diarist has an acid hit:

“I don’t know what or when or where or who it is! I only know that I am now a Priestess of Satan trying to maintain after a freak-out to test how free everybody was and to take our vows.”

The diarist is a model teenage girl who is not immune to the dangers of drugs. She experiments with LSD, marijuana and heroin, gets clean, relapses and leaves home, yet maintains a good reputation with her family, friends and at school. Her parents are loving and understanding when they could have thrown her out or punished her severely. The warning is that one should never try drugs in the first place. Even girls like the diarist (whose “real name” might in fact be Carla, not Alice, although there is a girl named Alice in the book) who appear to live ideal lives can succumb to drugs, Satanism, and then pay for it with their lives.

Here is my diary entry for December 22, 1982, noting when I finished reading it. As you can see, at the age of sixteen it didn’t bother me then to abbreviate Christmas:

When I read the book the first time it was classified as nonfiction at 362.29. My library system has a 2020 edition and it is now classified as youth fiction, with this disclaimer on the inside page: “This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and events are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.”

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