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Thread: Remember 'Go Ask Alice'?

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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    Default Remember 'Go Ask Alice'?

    Claim: The book Go Ask Alice was the real-life diary of a teenage girl.
    Status: False.

    Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2001]


    Do you know anything about the book "Go Ask Alice"? In case you aren't familiar with it, it's supposedly an anonymous diary found by the parents of a fifteen year old drug user after she overdosed and died. I read it when I was a kid and even then it really didn't seem like stuff a fifteen year old would write . . . now I'm twenty-four, just found my old copy and started reading it for old time's sake and it REALLY seems ridiculous.


    Origins: Drugs
    were on the minds of everyone in the late 1960s and early 1970s, even those who weren't partaking of illegal substances or harboring plans to ever do so. Paternalistic concern about the burgeoning drug culture led to the youth of that day being heavily indoctrinated with anti-drug propaganda at almost every turn — particularly in school, where they were subjected to health classes which were little more than "don't get high" lectures. Even the selection of recreational reading materials intended for them was booby-trapped with literary offerings purporting to be true life stories of real kids yet which were no more than "This is what could happen to you" sermonizings.

    The most famous of these literary works was 1971's Go Ask Alice, presented as the diary of an anonymous teen girl who began her career as a stoner at age 15 and died of an overdose just weeks after her 17th birthday. Through the diary entries we see this girl quickly escalate from her first drug experience (LSD was surreptitiously slipped into her Coke at a party) to all manner of disaster, including:

    Indulging in a wide variety of illegal drugs.

    While high, losing her virginity to a boy she didn't much care about (rather than the one she was in love with).

    Becoming casually promiscuous, then deeply regretting almost every sexual escapade she engages in.

    Running away from home (twice).

    Being sexually abused by people she falls in with while on the road.

    Upon returning to her family, being ostracized by the nice kids and targeted for abuse by the stoners (who have decided she is a "squealer").

    After deciding to go straight, being slipped dangerous drugs by the stoner kids and then going on a horrifically bad trip, during which she tries to scratch off her face.

    Being committed to a psychiatric hospital.
    (The "Alice" of the book's title refers to the druggie girl of that name in the 1967 Jefferson Airplane hit White Rabbit, a song that expounds upon a drug theme its lyricist found in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. There is an "Alice" in the book Go Ask Alice, but she's a minor character mentioned in only one paragraph. The name of the teen diarist is never given.)
    The unnamed girl's descent into the horrors of the drug world culminates with her death. The book closes with this epilogue:


    The subject of this book died three weeks after her decision not to keep another diary.
    Her parents came home from a movie and found her dead. They called the police and the hospital but there was nothing anyone could do.

    Was it an accidental overdose? A premeditated overdose? No one knows, and in some ways that question isn't important. What must be of concern is that she died, and that she was only one of thousands of drug deaths that year.

    Did she commit suicide? Did she take an accidental overdose? Did vengeful stoner kids return one more time to slip her a deadly dose? Or was the unnamed deceased teen who supposedly kept a diary detailing the drug-strewn path she followed to her own destruction merely a figment of a moralizing writer's imagination?

    Go Ask Alice was the product of Beatrice Sparks, an author who has come out with a number of "teens who saw their lives ruined by their bad choices" offerings, each one presented as a true story, often in the form of a diary of an anonymous teen:
    It Happened to Nancy (she's dying of AIDS)

    Annie's Baby: The Diary of Anonymous, a Pregnant Teenager

    Treacherous Love: The Diary of an Anonymous Teenager (teen girl is sexually taken advantage of by a teacher)

    Jay's Journal (yet another diary, this one of a teen boy who turns to satan worship and drug use)

    Almost Lost: The True Story of an Anonymous Teenager's Life on the Streets

    Kim: Empty Inside: The Diary of an Anonymous Teenager (eating disorders)
    The precise authorship of Go Ask Alice is still a bit of a mystery. Beatrice Sparks is presented as its editor rather than its author, and one tantalizing mention in a 1998 New York Times book review indicates the book might have been the work of several people:

    Linda Glovach, since exposed as one of the "preparers" — let's call them forgers — of Go Ask Alice, has just written Beauty Queen, about a girl who flees her alcoholic mother, becomes a stripper and dies of heroin addiction.
    Our best guess is that a number of folks work at churning out these cautionary tales, which are then presented to an overly accepting public as real diaries of anonymous teens. Yet on the question of authorship, one thing is startlingly clear: whoever wrote the Go Ask Alice "diary" was not a 15-year-old girl.
    Girls of that age do not write the way the journal entries of Go Ask Alice are penned — both in terms of structure and content, it fails the adolescent test. For example, our doomed teen goes on for more than four pages about her first LSD experience, describing what happened and how, yet diary entries dealing with her broken heart over the loss of her one true love are given only two short paragraphs, barely a third of a page. Similarly, school, teachers, the casual gossip of the day, and ordinary "He said; she said" chit-chat which make up the bulk of teen girl chatter go almost unmentioned in this book, even though it's hard to imagine a real teenager's diary in which these topics wouldn't account for the greater number of the entries. Meanwhile, the "diary" is filled with sizeable words one would hardly expect to find in a teen's private account of her life. Polysyllabic terms such as "gregarious," "impregnable," "conscientious," and "ecstatic" turn up within four pages of each other, yet we'd be surprised to find any one of these words in a real teen's diary. It's not that teens don't use large words in conversation or include them in written work meant to be handed in at school, but they certainly do not record their deepest, darkest secrets in words they'd be hard-pressed to spell. Remember, a diary is not meant for the eyes of anyone other than the diarist, so the writing style used tends to be far more casual than that employed in pieces intended to be read by others.

    The unnamed teen's fall is formulaic as well. The "unsuspecting first time" is a standard plot device used by writers looking to keep their main characters sympathetic. This gal's long slide into a pine box begins not with an actual intent to do drugs to see what all the shouting is about, but with an act of bad companions who introduce her to the world of drugs without her permission. Her fate thus becomes the potential fate of any teen, even one determined to "Just say no." To quote Mark Oppenheimer's musings about the structure of teen morality novels:


    I'm going to write a young-adult novel about drug abuse. It's easy. I've read three and think I know how to do it: The narrator must feel oppressed by parents either distant, alcoholic or both; have a "shrink," who does no good whatsoever; get turned on to drugs unsuspectingly; run away from home; descend into prostitution or dealing; and think and write in bad coffee-shop stream-of-consciousness prose. Short, diary-entry chapters should begin or end with references to countercultural artists (Lewis Carroll, Jefferson Airplane, the Buzzcocks). At the end, a minor character assumes the narration to report the death of our previous narrator.
    Cynicism aside, that's a relatively fair assessment of how to build one of those works. We noted one further theme that jumped off the pages of Go Ask Alice: with the exception of the diarist, every teen in the book who was heavily involved with drugs and whose home situation was described came from a broken home. It was not difficult to pick out the underlying secondary moralistic message, that divorce is one of the great social evils of our time.

    Another point to ponder: In an era when journalistic exposés are the coin of the realm, how is it that after more than thirty years (and "More than 4 million copies sold"), no intrepid reporter has managed to track down the identity of Go Ask Alice's "anonymous" author? That in over three decades, none of the people who knew this poor girl — friends, relatives, teachers, classmates — has ever identified or spoken about her is truly amazing. Our government doesn't keep classified secrets so well.

    It's not necessarily wrong to present a cautionary tale in the form of a first-person narrative — that storytelling device has been used effectively as long as folks have been spinning yarns. But it is unfair to maintain that something is a "true story" when in fact it's manufactured hooey. There are enough real teens who lead short, tragic lives that we don't need to invent any more.

    Barbara "through the looking glass" Mikkelson
    http://www.snopes.com/language/literary/askalice.asp

    You know, I must have been really unaware when I was a teenager (or else very, very stoned) because I never picked up on this being a scam but after reading this, I'm sitting here thinking 'of course'! Although I disagree about teens not using so-called 'big words' in a diary. I kept a journal for years and used it partly as a place to improve my writing skills.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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    Elite Member Tenaj's Avatar
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    This thread title jumped out at me, How could I forget this book?

    I stole this book from my dads book collection when I was younger and read it on my own. I say stole as i know he wouldn't have been happy with me reading it. I remember it disturbing me.

    and yes - I believed every word.

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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    I did a bit of research and apparently the woman who 'edited' Alice also wrote a bunch of other Anonymous type books, one of which, Jay's Journal, was almost wholly fabricated. Here's a link to that story, which is pretty shocking.

    http://www.slweekly.com/editorial/20...2004-06-03.cfm


    So old Beatrice Sparks basically made up a bunch of stuff in the name of 'saving' teens, which didn't probably work, since Go Ask Alice not only didn't turn me off drugs, it probably spurred me on a bit.
    Anyway, this woman claims to be all religious, etc but she sure is a liar, which doesn't sound very Christian to me.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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    Elite Member Tenaj's Avatar
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    Bloody hell, for a religious woman she sure has a very dark imagination when she writes. That’s an interesting link, I feel bad for the family of Alden, his memory seems to have been tainted because of the way that she sensationalises everything just for the shock factor.

    religious obsessives can be a bit like that though can't they? My dear old Grandma told me I would burn in hell when I moved in with a boyfriend without a ring on my finger.

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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    One of my kid's classmates told him he was going to hell for two reasons: not sure he believed in God and showing his naked butt.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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    Hit By Ban Bus! ediebrooks's Avatar
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    I guess I was really gullible;I fell for this book, hook, line and sinker.

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    Elite Member NawdleZouss's Avatar
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    I read this when I was ten. Never once thought it was true, simply becasue it sounded too moralizing and cautionary tale-esque (i.e., exactly the kind of obvious fabrications they'd tell us during mandatory retreats in my first Catholic school). It bothers me that it's presented as nonfiction. Most other teens I know who've read it believe each and every word, which is just a shame.

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    Elite Member KrisNine's Avatar
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    I have to say I was one of the girls who read this book in probably 6th or 7th grade and believed every word. I wonder if she wrote the one about the girl getting pregnant and her and her high school boyfriend having to raise the baby together. I don't remember the name of that one.

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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    i read it and believed it. and it made me want to try drugs
    I'm open to everything. When you start to criticise the times you live in, your time is over. - Karl Lagerfeld

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    Elite Member mistify's Avatar
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    sounds like urban legends... maybe she created lots of those too.haha
    "Shit, I think I just confused myself. QUICK! Somebody hand me chalk, a chalkboard and Will Hunting's brain!" michael k -dlisted

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    Elite Member B.C.'s Avatar
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    My daughter read this book, I remember it upset her. Guess I should tell her it was made up.

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    Elite Member Palermo's Avatar
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    I read it and loved it. I even bought a copy for my niece when she was old enough.

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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    I may have to get a new copy of it. I haven't read it since I was a teen and that was a looong time ago.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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    Elite Member Beeyotch's Avatar
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    I read it and hate to say that I was one of the gullible souls who believed every word of it. I remember feeling intensely sad at the thought of such a young girl dying. But I never really blamed it entirely on the drugs, you know? It was the same reaction I have when I read about kids who are victims of incest or other violence. Horrible things happen.

    So the moralizing part went way over my head, and I guess that's good since it was fiction.

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    Elite Member missbazilb's Avatar
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    I read it when I was about 12, and didn't really believe it, because I couldn't figure out how she could have kept a diary while tripping out, and also, weren't some pages supposedly written on random scraps of paper found in the garbage? Like, who found them in the garbage and how were they able to piece it all together.

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