Book Review: Go Ask Alice
Written by Anonymous
Reviewed by Jenzl Guerrero, age 17
Go Ask Alice follows a young girl from age 14 to 16 who becomes entangled in the world of drugs. The first-person diary was published in 1971 under the byline “Anonymous.” It was not until later that Beatrice Sparks was indicated to be the author. A therapist and counselor who worked with teenagers, Sparks’ books are based on the diaries of the teens she helped, which explains why the book is in the form of a personal journal. Sparks started her counseling in 1955 after attending the University of California Los Angeles, and Brigham Young University. Go Ask Alice was not only challenged by schools and libraries but also banned nationwide for its perceived glamorization of drug use. Despite these criticisms, the book provides a cautionary tale for teens, because it depicts the sometimes ugly real-life side effects of drug use.
Throughout the story, Alice, the main character, meets people who encourage her to experiment with drugs. Early in the book, she is introduced to a new drug and describes her reaction: “I felt great, free, abandoned, a different, improved, perfected specimen of a different, improved, perfected species. It was wild! It was beautiful! It really was.” (This scene angered many parents who saw this as encouragement for their children to follow Alice’s actions.)
Even though most journal entries show Alice using drugs, they also show her trying to stop. With the help of her family, she realizes her mistakes in using drugs.
“I’m so very, very grateful that they don’t hate me, because in a lot of ways I hate myself,” writes Alice. Alice faces tough consequences for her poor decisions. Taken in the context of the entire story, this was likely Sparks’ true intention for the book.
My favorite parts of the book were the times when Alice recites what she has learnedlife is full of things to do that drugs can get in the way of. I was taught that making decisions starting with the thought “Only one…” as Alice says in the book, can get you involved in really bad situations.
Because the content in this book is explicit and very descriptive, I advise that only mature teens 16 and up be encouraged to read it. Alice’s story could serve as a wake-up call for teens tempted by drugs and similar bad influences.