James's Reviews > Go Ask Alice

Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks
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did not like it
bookshelves: young-adult

This infuriating book is the most repugnant piece of reactionary propaganda that I've ever had the misfortune to read. Go Ask Alice is unnecessary proof that sex and drug stories are the best money makers; it helps when they also support a staunchly conservative, traditionalist agenda. The whole book is a fetid lie, and a poorly executed one at that.

OK, now that I've calmed down a little bit, let's actually discuss this "real diary." If there ever was a real diary (which seems hardly likely) it was probably very mild compared to this oversexed and overwritten garbage. What seems most likely is that Beatrice Sparks set out to write a book that would prove that smoking a joint or two, having sex without marriage, and (gasp!) not praying all the time would lead to a tragic decline and fall, eventually leading to a premature death. Now, to be fair to Sparks, I'm sure that this literary hoax was on some level a serious effort to help kids avoid the pitfalls of drugs, etc., but the author goes about it a way that is misguided at best and ethically indefensible. If this is on some level a real diary (once again, extremely unlikely) the advertisement and sale of it as a lurid, trashy cautionary tale is a disturbing thought. But, the fact that it is a lie disguised as the truth is simply disgusting. It is a blatant slap in the face to all families who have suffered real drug related losses. It's the commercialization of tragedy.

Next, there is the writing style and storyline (remember, this is fiction) to consider. The book does tug at the heartstrings, but only in a way most abusive to the reader. If there is one thing that always upsets me in fiction, it is any tragedy involving the elderly; this has always bothered me. Naturally, Sparks kills off both of the narrator's grandparents in the most tragic ways the story allows. She exploits the reader's archetypal love of grandparents for cheap heartache (is it any wonder that this was made into a TV movie of the week?). If there was any clue to this book's lack of authenticity, it's the glaringly obvious fact that the grandparents will die before book's end, something a child could see coming. The reader is supposed to accept that a girl who can't figure out how a doctor can tell if a girl is a virgin, would, a relatively short time later, be using language out of a Henry Miller novel. The attempts to sound like an innocent girl and a jaded junkie are hackneyed and incompetent. The progression is totally unrealistic, but is still clearly the progression of a novel, not a real diary. I have to hand it to Sparks, she really throws in everything, including some outrageous, barely concealed homophobia: of course the drug dealers are gay, and drugs make the narrator want to be a lesbian and similar such things. And unsurprisingly, it must be pointed out at the end that the publication of this "real diary" is a commemoration of the "thousands of drug deaths that year." I think that if parents chose to sit down with their kids and talked about drugs without stigmatization instead of letting them read this crap, it would be a small, but much more intelligent (and certainly more tasteful) tribute to the dead and a step towards a more educated future.

Go Ask Alice was an important book for me; I can honestly say I've never run to the computer so fast to type out a review, good or bad, before. I do understand, truly, why books like Alice exist. Parents fear for the welfare of their children and want to have preventative measures, while kids love stories packed with drugs and sex. I just wish there was a way to educate young and old without having to read a ridiculous, exploitative forgery like Go Ask Alice.
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message 1: by Bob (new)

Bob Ridpath "The progression is totally unrealistic, but is still clearly the progression of a novel, not a real diary."

Good insight, I think, James. The book is still marketed as a real diary in many circles, despite fairly strong literary and circumstantial evidence to the contrary.

My question, though: Is it a well-marketed "forgery," as you note in closing, or simply a "novel?" Many works of fiction are written in the first-person.

I appreciate your visceral response!


Jodie Spot on review. I finally gave up on this one about half way through. Complete and utter trash.


Becca Lindberg If there was some way for me to commemorate this review more than just commenting on it, I would. I was actually speechless by how brainless and horrible this book was, but I'm happy someone was not only able to FINISH this book, but also properly slap it upside the head.
Well done.


Luann This was our assigned reading in school when I was younger. I remember liking it. Did you read it as an adult or as a child? Bc as an adult you probably see things differently.


message 5: by Dennis (new)

Dennis Cooper Oh dear


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