Monday, February 10, 2014

Book Review: "Go Ask Alice" by Anonymous

"Go Ask Alice" by Anonymous
First published in 1971
214 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5
(image source)

I didn't plan to read "Go Ask Alice," the well-known story of a teenager battling drug addiction in the 1970s, but I checked it in at work the other day and randomly decided to grab it. It's written in diary entries and seemed short and sweet, and though I've sworn off young adult books for now I thought I'd give it a try.

Our diary writer is 15-year-old Alice. She's a nice, somewhat boring girl with a loving family and typical teenager problems like unrequited love. Shortly into the story Alice attends a party where she unknowingly drinks a soda spiked with LSD. The trip she has on the LSD is apparently the greatest experience of her life, and within days she's experimented with a handful of other drugs and can't wait to try more.

Though she's conflicted about the morality of her drugs ("I don't know why I shouldn't use drugs, because they're wild and they're beautiful and they're wonderful, but I know I shouldn't..."), boy does she continue! She gets in with the wrong crowd, her drug use spirals out of control, and eventually she runs away and finds herself living on the street, addicted to heroin and giving blowjobs for drugs. At some point she has a few moments of lucidity and realizes the depths of her destruction and her overwhelming misery, and she calls her parents. Soon she's home and committed to getting clean, but more horrors ensue.

"Go Ask Alice" is supposedly based on the real diary of a teen drug addict. Mmmm, if you say so. I read the book as a work of fiction. At times I had trouble identifying with Alice -- she was just so incredibly naive! And Alice's extremely rapid descent into addiction seemed a bit unrealistic to me -- as did certain plot elements, like Alice peddling LSD to a 9-year-old.

I also took issue with the ending. Alice's diary actually closes on a positive note, but the epilogue tells us in a no-nonsense manner that Alice returned to drugs and died three weeks after her final diary entry. I'd have preferred to leave it as an inspirational story of a teen overcoming addiction, but apparently Anonymous was going more for a don't-even-think-about-trying-drugs-or-you-will-die approach.

While I'm not sure Anonymous's DARE-like scare tactics are the best way to keep kids from using drugs (in part because Alice is so enamored of getting high that it might actually make kids more curious about drugs!), the book might spark conversation between kids and parents, or get young readers to think twice about using the hard stuff.

I had to keep reminding myself that "Go Ask Alice" was written in the early '70s -- when murders, rapes, drugs, profanity and sex of all kinds weren't readily available on every TV channel -- and written for teens yet unexperienced in the ways of the world.

All in all, if "Go Ask Alice" has kept even one kid from drug addiction, Anonymous has done her job.

1 comment:

  1. I remember reading that and watching the movie when I was a teenager. The theme song of the movie was freaky to me.


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