Friday, December 18, 2009

Go Ask Alice - Anonymous


So far in my Shelf Discovery journey, it has been fun and games. The frivolity stopped here, at my ninth book in my Shelf Discovery Challenge Rampage Month. I read Go Ask Alice in high school, and like many of the Judy Blume books, it was underwear-drawer-worthy. One that you and all your friends had to read at all costs, but was like the hot potato that you didn't want to be holding when your parents took an interest.

The story is in a diary format, written by an unnamed girl of 15, growing up in the '60's culture. At the opening of the book, she seems like the normal, dramatic, hyper-sensitive teen. She doesn't feel like she fits into the popular crowd, she has a crush on a boy who may or may not notice her, she hates her hair and is annoyed with her parents. But as she continues to document her life, we start to see issues with her weight (binging and starving), and wicked mood swings. Soon, in an effort to be accepted, starts to hang with the wrong crowd and begins using drugs - LSD, pot, uppers, and various injectible substances. During her drug trips, she allows boys to have sex with her. She bounces from friend to friend, boyfriend to boyfriend. She pushes drugs to younger children to earn money. She runs away, her life goes to hell, then runs back to her family, again and again.


This is an extremely disturbing account of what happens to kids who become lost. The books is, after all, aptly named after the famous Jefferson Airplane song about drug abuse. The girl comes from a good family, and when she is having a good day, she appreciates them and gushes her love for them. On a bad day, she hates them. It is frightening to witness how she can be on cloud 9 today, swearing she is going to turn her life around, and the next week she has run away to San Francisco, in dirty clothes, starving and high, hoping she isn't pregnant. You honestly don't know what girl you will find at the next journal entry. The book ends abruptly, and not in the way you think it will. As a parent, it breaks your heart. But in high school, it scared the living crap out of you.

Do I believe it really is a journal written by a real girl who was protected by her publishers? No, not really. I think that Anonymous thing is a gimmick. (Some claim the author is Beatrice Sparks, psychologist and Mormon youth counselor.) When we all read this book in high school though, we all talked about it as if it were absolutely true, with wide, frightened, reverent eyes. The author certainly has captured the essence of the troubled teen soul, and has accomplished what I am sure he/she set out to achieve:
drug prevention at its finest.


4.5 out of 5




21 comments:

JoAnn said...

I've been meaning to reread this for ages!

Anna said...

I read this book in 8th grade. I didn't remember all the details, so thanks for refreshing my memory. I do remember my parents having to sign a slip giving me permission to read it. I don't remember any discussions about the book, and honestly, I lived such a sheltered youth, I probably was too young to really get it. I agree with you, though, that it's probably not the journal of a real girl. They were just out to scare us into submission. LOL

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

farmlanebooks said...

I haven't even heard of this one! It just shows how different books are between countries.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I remember this as being the big secret underground book. I never got to read it though; unless I encountered a secret underground book under my sister's bed, I had no access!

Jeane said...

When I read it as a teen I thought it was real! It certainly made an impression on me- but then I was kind of annoyed to find out later it was written by someone who wanted to just push a message.

Zibilee said...

I thought this book was real when I read it as well, like a lot of others. Even if it is a gimmick, it seems like it could be spot on with some of the youth out there, which is what I think makes it so scary. I remember being really upset by the ending as well. Thanks for posting this, I hadn't thought of this book for ages!

Julie P. said...

I read this one in middle school and I remember wondering if it were real too. Such a sad read!

bermudaonion said...

I remember the song and all the fuss over the book but I've never read it and I'm not sure why. It does sound disturbing.

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

You've been making a lot of headway with this challenge. I remember reading this and being just as absorbed with it as you mentioned. It may have been a bit if a gimmick but it was so scandalous to read. I was amused by what they had to say about it in the Shelf Discovery Book.

Kathleen said...

I want to reread this one again. It definitely scared me and hit close to home. One of my older sisters was the girl in the book...well not really the girl but just like her. So we lived the story at home and in some weird way the book comforted me because it gave voice to what was happening to our family as a result of my sister's behavior and also made me less ashamed because if it was happening in a book it somehow made it easier...weird, I know. I ordered this one from Amazon after you said you were planning to read it. I'll have much to say about it when I get around to reading it again. Thanks for a great review.

Literary Feline said...

I read this when I was in high school and it made quite an impression on me. It sounds like it still would. Thanks for your great review, Sandy.

Amy said...

I never read this book but I very much want to now. It's one of those books that I have always meant to read but it just slipped through the cracks.

Your review is fantastic!
Thank you for a great post!

Lisa said...

I absolutely loved this book when I read it in middle school and again when I reread it in high school. It scared the hell out of me--doing more to keep me on the straight and narrow than anything my parents could have done. I didn't care whether or not it was written by a real girl.

When I picked up Shelf Discovery, expecting to see all of my youthful faves and found that this book took a beating, I was done with it!

heidenkind said...

I never read this book. The cover was scary enough for me.

C.B. James said...

I just read the wikipedia article about it. It's worth checking out. Go Ask Alice is a strange book. If kids read it and chose to avoid drugs as a result, then that's great. Good for them. But, overall, I think it's a kind of exploitation that leaves a bit of a bad aftertaste. We all read it in high school, too, and were convinced it was real at the time. Well, most of us were. But, when we found out it was a lie, we had reason to suspect other things we'd beed told about drugs were a lie as well.

I think it's better to tell kids the truth. That's work so well with anti-smoking education. Trying to scare kids just makes it more cool because it makes it more brave.

Danette Haworth said...

As a high schooler, I thought this book was a memoir as well. In fact, I remember reading somewhere (maybe even in the book) that the narrator put the journal together by writing on whatever scraps of paper she came across.

It was disturbing and exciting, but mostly disturbing, especially when she was so messed up she didn't know if she were male or female.

ANovelMenagerie said...

I've never read it. But, your review was AWESOME!

Annette said...

I read this book in middle school. There is another book with a similar theme but I think it is unavailable,
"Carmen."

Jenners said...

I remember this ... and you're right -- the frivolity stopped with this one. It was so depressing and a bit over my head ... it certainly is an effective anti-drug book. Nothing glamorous about it.

Toni said...

I must have almost picked this book up a hundred thousand times when I was young. I knew it was disturbing. I think my sister may have checked it out. It quite possibly could be the longest running book on my TBR list.

Dar said...

I read this when I was a teenager and I can still remember the story quite clearly. I remember being horrified by what this girl did and went through as my life wasn't like that. I still have it on my shelf somewhere. I may have to dig it out and read it again. While it may be based on a real person or not, this story can really be any young person who becomes lost in their life.