Thursday, March 19, 2009

Go Ask Alice


Go Ask Alice was one of those books I loved to read and reread when I was in middle school. That was back when I thought it was real, before I knew about and hoaxes. It purports to be a real life diary written by a 15 year old girl who falls in with a bad crowd and does drugs. In reality, it's basically a cautionary tale by a woman named Beatrice Sparks about the evils of drugs written in order to keep kids off drugs.

In Go Ask Alice, the nameless protagonist gets slipped some LSD at a party and from there it's all downhill. She runs away a couple of times, has sex on drugs, is raped, is slipped some LSD and has a major freak out where she hallucinates that worms are all over and starts scratching off her skin. The book ends with her deciding to go clean and to stop keeping a diary, and then there's an editor's note saying that she was found dead of an overdose two weeks after her last journal entry.

What really bothers me about this book isn't just that it's bad. It's also that it's the literary equivalent of "Drugs're bad, mmkay?" I really resent that this was on various reading lists and considered good literature when I was in middle school. But of course, no books should be banned. Only snarked. With that in mind, let's get started.
  • The main character has no first name, but I'm just going to call her Alice, because that's easier. So, one episode involves Alice losing her virginity to a guy named Bill whom she doesn't love while on drugs. This is meant to be a Very Bad Thing, but honestly, I kind of wish I'd been on drugs for my first time, just saying. Considering that Alice says that she thought sex would be like dogs mating but really took much longer and was "exciting...wonderful...indescribable," I'm in fact envious.
  • The first time Alice trips, it's because she's slipped LSD in a soda at a party. The party host calls the game "Button, button, who's got the button" and one of the guys at the party offers to "baby-sit" Alice since she got a soda with LSD in it and he didn't. Before my parents sent me off to college, they called that little game, "Rape by Intoxication," but who cares about semantics?
  • Alice's parents think it's a bad thing for her to wear her hair straight, like a hippie. When I think of women of the sixties with long straight hair, the first person to come to mind is Cher and Wiki doesn't cite any rehab stints. And all she had to worry about was marrying an abusive, hard-drinking rocker, starring in a string of infomercials, and the fact that she can't move over 90% of her facial muscles. Hmm, could it be? A fate worse than living the drug addled life?
  • Number one reason reason why this book is pure BS: the second time Alice runs away, she says she has no change of clothing, no money, nothing. Not even any Tampax and yes, she's on the rag. She keeps a diary informally by writing on bits of paper she finds. Yeah, I call shenanigans. No one's a dedicated enough writer to use bits of paper for diary entries when they could be staunching their blood flow with it. Although, if she's really a junkie, she wouldn't be on her period. I read the papers--I know all junkies are either too emaciated to menstruate or knocked up with crack babies.
  • When Alice and her friend Chris run away (that's the first time Alice runs off), they make it to Frisco and even manage to open up their own clothing boutique. Um, sure, yeah. They return home before they make it to Haight-Ashbury because speculating about it would've been too much for poor Ms. Sparks. But I was sad because I was kind of hoping Alice would get to meet Janis Joplin. Or have a totally awkward run in with R. Crumb.
  • Number of diary entries devoted to Alice bitching about how the guy she likes, Roger, stood her up: at least three. Number of diary entries devoted to Alice complaining about how her parents don't like her new hippie hair: at least three. Number of diary entries devoted to Alice talking about how much weight she wants to lose: around five. Number of diary entries devoted to Alice dealing with the aftermath of being drugged and raped by two adults that she and her friend Chris befriend in Frisco: one. That bad, huh? Almost as stressful as the time you realized you had to choose between buying a copy of Cheap Thrills to impress your new hippie pals and the new Monkees album because Davy Jones looked so damned bewitching on the cover. (This is the part where I confess to still lusting for young Davy Jones.)
  • Alice has to babysit because one of her stoner friends promised to but then flaked out. Then the girl, Jan, shows up and wants to babysit anyway and is stoned out of her gourd. Yeah, actually, Ms. Sparks, I didn't get what you were implying there with drugs and children. I think you needed to insert another iteration of the baby in the oven urban legend so I'll really know your stance on drug use.
  • The drug users that Alice used to be friends with get pissed when they realize she's clean and keep trying to tempt her to the dark side. When she babysits a second time, they even sneak into the house and leave some chocolate covered peanuts laced with LSD which she takes and then goes insane, trying to scratch off her face. Yeah, like any self-respecting junkie would voluntarily give up their stash. Or put it on chocolate covered peanuts. Duh, it's pot that goes with peanuts. LSD goes with M&Ms.
  • I call shenanigans on the fact that there is only one musical ref in this entire book, and it's not even a drug related song. (Alice starts missing her parents when she hears "She's Leaving Home.") Also, you just know that the author was patting herself on the back for putting in a countercultural drug reference in the title. Ooh, Jefferson Airplane! Now get back to me when you've listened to some Floyd.
  • At Alice's mother's birthday dinner (while Alice is living the clean life):
We had a fresh fruit cup and wilted lettuce salad with bacon dressing, it was a little wilted, in fact, much too wilted, but everyone pretended they didn't notice and Daddy teased me and said he wouldn't be surprise [sic] if I didn't make some young man a good wife someday.
  • Wow, bacon dressing, really? Good god, I'm about willing to start ripping off my own skin. Turns out it's not a bad trip that makes you do that--just boredom! Please go back to being a devil may care hippie, Alice. Also, either you have no idea how to use the conditional tense, or your dad hates you, but what he says amounts to saying that he'd be surprised if you were a good housewife one day.
  • Alice finally meets a nice young man named Joel. Towards the end of the book, he's away, but Alice's family secretly arrange for him to visit her on her birthday. And in one progressive scene, he mentions how he saw her coming home from school (he was hiding to surprise her for later) and she was wearing an old sweatshirt and shorts. Her brother and father laugh about how they had to practically tie him to a chair to get him to stay once he saw how she was dressed. You know, Alice, up in Haight-Ashbury, they don't even care if you shave your pits, let alone wear a nice dress, just sayin'.
  • Alice meets two different girls from broken homes who have been molested and are now used to having sex with almost anyone they meet. Ah, divorce, one of the evils of our time. It ranks right up there with making wilted salads and wearing an unironed blouse to the Saturday night sock hop.
  • The attempts of this middle aged writer to sound young and hip and anti-Establishment are hilarious. The snark speaks for itself:
Another day, another blow job. The fuzz has clamped down till the town is mother dry. If I don't give Big Ass a blow he'll cut off my supply...I'm almost ready to take on the Fat Cats, the Rich Philistines, or even the whole public for one good shot.
  • I resolve to start every day with the mantra, "Another day, another blow job."

In conclusion, I'd have more respect for parents who hired the "My Future Self" corporation as a way to scare their kids safe than for parents who gave this book to their kids.