“Go Ask Alice” is a 1971 book generally viewed to have been written by the author Beatrice Sparks, however the novel was published originally under the pseudonym “Anonymous”. The novel is in epistolary format, being comprised entirely of diary entries and as such, was first thought to be an auto-biography. But questions about the authenticity of the book came up in the late 1970’s and it is now thought to have been written by Sparks, who wrote many similar books around the same time period.
The novel centers around a 15 year old girl who is referred to as “Alice” and her descent from a normal young woman into a drug-fueled existence in San Francisco and back to a normal life at home. During the novel, Alice begins using marijuana and “speed” pills and eventually moves to harder drugs like Heroine and LSD. By the end she is institutionalized for a bad acid trip. When she is let out of the institution, she vows to get clean but dies three weeks later of mysterious circumstances.
The book was a bestseller in its early years and was aimed at a Young Adult audience but has been criticized in recent times for it’s overly preachy anti-drug and sex message. The book has been adapted several times, including a 1973 television movie and a 1976 stage play.
An anonymous writer records her first entry in a journal. The novel refers to the writer as a girl named “Alice.” Alice says that she bought the diary the day before after being asked out by a boy that she likes named Roger. Being asked out made Alice think that she might finally have some beautiful thoughts to share with a diary and that she should write them down. However, that day Roger rejected her. Alice worried about returning to school the following day and wonders why it seems as though everyone wants to hurt her feelings.
Two short entries where follow where Alice reveals that she and her father have back-to-back birthdays. Alice turns 15 but reveals that she doesn’t feel that she cares about this. Alice feels bored with school and only feels that she has changed in that she has put on weight. She announces that her father has taken another job as a teacher at a college in another town and that her family will be moving. This seems to be a good thing to Alice, and she makes some resolutions to lose weight and dress better. She confides that she still cares about Roger but fantasizes about rejecting him.
Alice family readies to move. She talks about her two younger siblings, Tim and Alexandria and how they are complaining about taking along their “toys and junk” to the new house. Alice insists that she only cares that she take her books, which are her most prized possessions.
Alice also says that she no longer cares about Roger. To prove this, she goes out on a date with a boy. However, she realizes quickly that she doesn’t like this other boy as much as she likes Roger. She believes that Roger is the love of her life and cannot picture losing her virginity to anyone else.
Alice realizes that she is afraid to leave the only house that she has ever known and sad to leave her grandparents behind in their old town.
Alice’s mother begins forcing Alice to eat normally after she realizes that she is restricting her diet to an unhealthy degree. Alice begins to wonder if she can make herself throw up the food after eating. Alice thinks that she has to act like someone else around her friends and loses parts of her identity when she does this. She feels that she is most herself when she is writing in her diary.
Alice and her mother work together to make a dress for a Christmas party that Alice has been invited to. Alice wonders if her mother faced the same issues when she was young that Alice is facing now. She wishes to be like her mother when she gets older. Alice also wishes that she felt like she could talk to her mother about these issues but she feels that she cannot.
After the party, Alice is driven home by a boy and the two kiss.
The family moves into their new house. Alice is still excited, but also afraid that she will struggle to adjust in the new town. When Alice sees her new house, she thinks that it is beautiful, but her new school is different. As the new girl in school, Alice is somewhat ostracized, but she remembers doing this to new kids at her old school and feels she is getting payback.
Tim and Alexandria manage to make friends quickly, and this further isolates Alice.
February and March
She wonders how she is so closed in when everyone else in her family is so outgoing. Alice finally befriends a girl named Greta whom she sees as being as much of an outcast as herself. She thinks that her family is ashamed of her friend because the girl is very unkempt.
April and May
Alice’s mother tells her that she will be spending the summer at her grandparent’s house back in their old town as long as she manages to get good grades at the end of the term. Alice makes more plans to diet. She meets a Jewish girl named Beth and becomes better friends with her than she was with Greta, whom she has grown apart from. Alice’s parents like Beth and approve of her.
Alice wishes to learn more about Beth’s religion, and the other girl tells her that young women have to remain virgins until their wedding in Judaism. Beth says that she isn’t sure how it would be proven that a girl wasn’t a virgin and worries that it will happen to her on her wedding day. Beth and Alice go on a double-date with two boys, but Alice is uncomfortable when her date tries to grope her in the car.
June and July
Alice is devastated when Beth leaves for summer camp as she feels that Beth is the only one that understands her. Alice goes to her grandparent’s house for the summer but realizes that she is bored there and wants to leave. She bumps into an old friend named Jill who invites her to a party at her house. While Alice is at the party, she unknowingly drinks soda with the drug LSD in it. She experiences a drug trip that leaves her in a happy and euphoric state. When she realizes what happened afterward, she looks back on the experience fondly but vows never to do drugs again.
Shortly later, Alice goes back on this when she realizes that she is interested in trying marijuana. She asks Jill to get her some. While on her way to the library, she bumps into a boy from the party named Bill and he asks her on a date. Alice and Bill experiment with more drugs and Alice enjoys the high that she gets from injecting speed.
Unfortunately, during this date, Alice’s grandfather has a heart attack. Alice worries about her grandfather and is relieved to find that he is alright. She does worry, however, that she will now be sent home and be unable to get more drugs. She thinks about her death and is disgusted by the thought of her corpse rotting underground.
Alice helps her grandmother take care of her grandfather while he is ill. She goes to another party at Bill’s house and takes acid, spending hours examining her hand. While on acid, Alice loses her virginity to Bill. She is surprised to find that the sex was fun but now worries that she will become pregnant and have to get an abortion. She also wishes that she had saved herself for Roger.
Roger and his parents unexpectedly visit Alice’s grandparents. Alice is elated to see him, and Roger takes her out and kisses her. He tells her that he is going off to military school and Alice feels guilty about her drug use and her fling with Bill. Feeling that Roger won’t understand, she stops speaking to him and refuses to answer his phone calls. One night when she is unable to sleep, she takes some of her grandfather’s sleeping pills.
Alice finally returns to her family and decides to start fresh. She continues to take the sleeping pills, however and after finishing them off goes to the doctor to get more. When Alice finally gets her period, she is so relieved that she is not pregnant that she throws away the sleeping pills and vows never to use drugs again.
Beth returns home from camp with a new boyfriend. Another girl, Chris, gives Alice a makeover and her parents tell her that she looks like a hippie. Alice’s parents talk to her and tell her that they are worried about her, but Alice ignores them. She finds out that Roger will be gone till Christmas and feels depressed until Chris gives her a pill to cheer her up. Alice takes the pill and becomes so hyperactive that she has to take a sleeping pill to come down.
Alice begins to bond with Chris and thinks that she likes her more than any friend that she has ever had. Alice’s parents continue to worry about her being a hippie, and Alice discusses the lifestyle with Chris who comes from an upper-class family. Chris helps Alice get a job at her store, and the two begin working together. School starts and Alice begins taking speed pills whenever she is tired or hungry to avoid eating.
Alice and Chris begin planning to move together to San Francisco. Chris’s friend, a college boy, named Richie, gets Alice started smoking marijuana.
Alice and Chris start selling marijuana to get money for more drugs. Soon, Alice sells LSD to a child at the elementary school and becomes so disgusted with herself that she vows to never sell to kids again.
Alice, who had started to have feelings for Richie, discovers that he is gay and is ashamed to have associated with him. She and Chris turn him into the police for dealing drugs and flee to San Francisco. Before leaving Alice writes a goodbye note to her family.
In San Francisco, Alice and Chris live in a dirty apartment and take boring jobs to get by. Alice becomes homesick but knows that she can’t go back home because she fears how Richie would retaliate for turning him in.
Alice gets a job with a reliable, nice jeweler named Mr. Mellani, who invites her and Chris to have dinner with his loving family, which makes Alice feel even more homesick. Chris also gets a job, but hers is a boutique run by a fashionable woman named Shelia.
That month, Shelia invites the girls to a party at her expensive apartment. At the party, Alice and Chris end up smoking marijuana and passing out in the bathroom overnight. Alice is panicked that she may have gotten pregnant as she cannot remember what she did that night. She begins taking birth control so that she can continue to party without worrying about getting pregnant.
On another night, Chris and Alice try heroin with Shelia and her boyfriend, but Alice later realizes that the couple had raped the girls when they were high. This traumatic experience leads Alice and Chris to swear off drugs again and the two resolve to start saving money to start their boutique.
The girls soon open a jewelry store in an apartment in Berkeley. The shop begins to do some business and turns into a hangout for local kids. In a fit of homesickness near Christmas, Alice calls her mother and tells her that she and Chris are coming home. Her family meets her at the airport and the time spent with them cheers Alice up. Alice is also happy that her family seems to see her as an adult after she lived on her own for a while.
Alice starts back in school and manages to fly right for a while. Classmates begin to pressure her about doing drugs, but she denies them. She spends more time with her family and Chris. One day, a boy named Lane tries to pressure Alice into getting him drugs and ends up physically assaulting her by twisting her arm. She manages to get away, but he begins harassing her with phone calls at home.
Alice’s mother seems to sense that something is going on and allows her to stay home from school the next day. Eventually, Alice and Chris fall back into using marijuana. She begins taking uppers, and her social life improves somewhat from her cheerful attitude.
Lane gets busted for having drugs, and since Alice and Chris were regularly seen with him, the police raid Chris’s house as well. Both of the girls are found with drugs and put on probation. Alice is also sent to a psychiatrist. As Alice is put under constant surveillance at home, her diary entries begin to fall apart with dateless scraps of paper making up most of them.
Alice runs away again and goes to Denver and then Oregon, hitching a ride with some other drug users. Alice ends up in a church in Oregon where a janitor directs her to a mission house. At the mission, Alice is looked after but refuses to tell the administrators her real name or let them contact her parents. She ends up living with a girl named Doris in a shabby apartment where the two do drug.
Doris has had a sad life. She was sexually abused by her stepfather and then her foster family. This story only makes Alice more depressed. Ill and high, the girls hitchhike to Southern California where Alice joins a cult. She reports that she is a “Priestess of Satan” in a confused passage. She confesses that she is also finding herself attracted to women but is unsure what to do about it. She begins having sex for drugs with the members of the cult although she loathes everyone in the cult and wishes that she were dead.
While Alice is wandering the city streets, she meets a priest who talks to her about why teenagers run away from home. This drives Alice to call her parents who tell her that they still love her and want her to come home. Her parents agree to come and pick her up.
While she waits for them, she talks with other teenage runaways and comes up with some theories about sources of contention between families. She wonders if she might go into psychology one day and vows to quit using drugs. Looking over her recent diary entries, she can’t believe the level that she has sunk to obtain drugs. She feels that her only two options are either to commit suicide or use her experiences to help others, and she decides to choose the latter.
Beginning of Diary two
Alice’s diary entries become more cogent and understandable again as she starts “fresh.” She is excited to be getting another chance and thinks about how she’s going to explain what she went through to kids once she becomes a counselor. She has a long talk with her little brother about drugs and is happy to realize that he is against them. She feels guilty that she caused him pain by running away.
When Alice returns to school, she is berated by the administration for her past behavior. Alice’s want to become a child counselor is only heightened after this. However, one day Alice has some vivid flashback of her time on drugs, and she panics that she may be losing her mind. Alice struggles to find friends, as she can no longer hang out with her old drug-using friends and the “straight” kids will have nothing to do with her.
Alice’s grandfather dies, and Alice seems to become obsessed with the idea of maggots and worms eating his dead body. She has trouble reconciling the idea of dying but admits that she still believes in God. Alice’s father brings her to an anti-war rally, and they talk about her desire to become a social worker. Alice begins feeling more mature than ever and visits a doctor who gives her statistics on drug use.
She begins using the library at her father’s university where she meets an older boy named Joel. Alice and Joel hit it off, and Alice’s father invites the boy over to have dinner with the family. The dinner is successful, and Alice’s father wonders if he can get Joel, who is an accelerated student but struggling financially, a scholarship to the University.
Things at school begin to worsen for Alice when a former friend begins using drugs, and Alice turns her into the girl’s parents. The girl, Jan begins spreading rumors about Alice and threatens to push drugs on her little sister, Alexandria. Someone hides drugs in Alice’s locker to frame her and Alice refuse to accuse anyone in the school of doing it out of fear that it will make them retaliate more.
Alice’s grandmother soon dies, and she again begins having nightmares of her body being eaten by worms and maggots underground. After her grandmother’s funeral, Joel has a long talk with Alice that cheers her up. The two kiss.
The police raid a party, and some of Alice’s former friends are arrested for using. They blame her, assuming that she heard about it and reported it. A boy from the party assaults her on the street and threatens to rape her. Alice only gives vague details about what is happening to her parents but opens up to Joel more. The school soon lets out, and Alice feels better thinking that the drug-using kids will not be bothering her anymore. She gets a job babysitting.
Alice writes from a hospital. She isn’t sure how she ended up there, and the entry is very confused and disordered. Her mother brings her her diary, and the nurses have to watch her unlock it to make sure that she is not smuggling in any drugs. She says that they keep telling her that she is going to get “better.” She once again becomes obsessed with the worms and maggots eating her and worries that they will eat her “female parts” first. She has been biting her fingers down to the bone and has clawed apart her face.
Alice’s writing is disordered, and her thoughts are violent and paranoid. Her parents visit her every day for a while and reveal that she was drugged with acid that someone put on the chocolate covered peanuts that she snacked on while babysitting. She remembers eating the peanuts and thinking of her grandfather only to have him suddenly materialize in the room as a skeleton that was being eaten by maggots. A casket appeared, and the maggots started attacking Alice who was forced into the casket and locked inside.
Alice thinks that she knows who drugged her but she has no way of investigating. However, she thinks that she is healing and that her body is feeling better. She is being transferred to another hospital soon. Her mother brings her some letters that Joel has written to her.
Alice finds out that the hospital that she is being transferred to is an insane asylum. Her father tells her that her case was tried and Jan and one other girl said that Alice had been on drugs and was still selling them. It is revealed that when Alice had her bad acid trip, the neighbors of the couple that she was babysitting for heard her screaming and locked her in a closet so that they could protect the baby. By the time the police arrived to sort everything out, Alice had beat her head against the door so much that she had fractured her skull.
Alice is taken to the state mental hospital and brought to a building with other patients her age where there is a youth rehabilitation program. A doctor named Miller tells Alice that she can only be cured once she admits that she has a drug problem, but Alice doesn’t believe that she does as she hasn’t voluntarily done drugs in months.
While in the asylum, Alice meets a younger girl named Babbie who tells her that she started doing drugs when she was introduced to them by an older man. She soon began prostituting to afford them and ran away to Los Angeles and then to San Francisco where she was raped and beaten.
Alice feels that the asylum is draining her. She goes to school in the youth program but longs for death. Listening to the other kids in the group therapy sessions helps Alice somewhat, and she wants to join a group called Group One, who are the kids that have proven themselves worthy of having more privileges.
Alice’s mother and father continue to visit. They believe that she is telling the truth about being dosed with the acid and are trying to get Jan to retract her statement. Dr. Miller is pleased to hear about Alice’s dream to become a social worker and encourages her. Alice hopes to be able to help Babbie and get her into a foster home. She talks to the other kids about drugs and feels that she gets somewhat of a “contact high” from discussing drug use which some of the other kids agree with.
Alice’s parents bring a letter from Joel and let her know that Jan has agreed to retract her statement. Alice finds out that she is going to be released from the asylum soon and is happy to be going home but feels guilty for leaving Babbie behind. When Alice finally returns home, she is elated and prays to God, thanking him for helping her. She feels that Joel is the only good thing in her life and vows to not have sex with anyone again until she is married.
Over the month of September, Alice’s life returns to normal, and she manages to make a new friend in the form of Fawn, a “straight” girl who does not use drugs. Alice celebrates her father’s birthday, and Joel kisses her again, giving her a friendship ring which she treasures. She says that she feels like she can talk to people again and no longer needs a diary.
In the epilog, the reader is told that the subject of the diary, Alice, died three weeks after her last entry. Her parents returned home from a movie and found her dead and the authorities were unsure if it was an intentional overdose or an accident. She is one of the thousands of drug-related deaths that happen in the country every year.
Alice – the protagonist of the novel. Alice begins the novel as a typical teenage girl who is interested in romance and insecure about her looks and her weight. Over the course of the novel, Alice begins using heavier and heavier drugs and her life briefly devolves into a drug-addled existence. Alice is obviously meant to represent an average 1960’s teen at the beginning of the novel which is trying to “find herself” and find someone who she feels totally understands her and is lead into a life of drugs. Her friends and peers escalate this behavior, and she is regularly taken advantage of by adults who offer her even more drugs.
Eventually, Alice comes to realize that drugs do her more harm than good and vows to stay off of them. However, her reform from the scene is not taken kindly by the kids in her school who are still using, as they resent her. It is never revealed in the novel who doses Alice with the acid on the chocolate-covered peanuts, but it is presumably one of her classmates. Perhaps Jan, the girl who later testified against her. This relapse is difficult for Alice but she manages to power through, and when Jan recants her testimony, Alice is released from the asylum. Alice begins to get her life back in order but unfortunately dies under suspicious circumstances weeks later.
Alice’s parents – though never given names in the book, Alice’s parents are important characters. Alice’s parents are normal, loving people. Her father is a university professor, and her mother appears to be a stay at home mother. Although Alice’s parents tell her that she can open up to them about anything, she never feels as though they understand her and fails to tell them when she starts using drugs and having sex.
Alice’s parents are forced to view her struggle from a far and are helpless when she runs away from home two separate times. Though they do their best to help her, her addiction always seems to win. In the end, Alice is appreciative that her parents see her as an adult and they do everything in their power to get her out of the asylum after she is wrongfully convicted.
Joel – Alice’s main love interest. Joel is a college student who works as a janitor to pay for his tuition. Joel has experienced the loss of his father at a young age, and as such is in a good position to console Alice when she loses her grandparents. More than anyone else in the novel, Joel comforts Alice and brings her out of her shell. Alice feels that Joel truly understands her and she fantasizes about marrying him one day. For his part, Joel seems to love Alice, too. In the epilog, nothing is said of Joel’s reaction to Alice’s death, but it is safe to assume that he was devastated.
Beatrice Sparks Biography
Beatrice Sparks was born in Goldburg, Custer County, Idaho on January 15th, 1917. Not much is known of her early years today, except that she grew up in the town of Logan, Utah and was raised in the Mormon religion. She attended the University of Los Angeles and Brigham Young University in Utah after which she began working as a music therapist at Utah State Mental Hospital.
During Sparks’ lifetime, questions were raised about her qualifications and researchers were unable to locate any record of the Ph. D. that she claimed to have. In one interview, it was claimed that Spark was “vague about specifics” when asked about her mental health and counseling qualifications.
In 1955, Sparks began working with at-risk teenagers, and it was this work that leads her to begin writing. In 1971, the novel “Go Ask Alice” was released with Sparks claiming to be it’s editor. She claimed that the novel was produced on account of a real teenager combined with some fictionalized events that were based on real stories from her work with other teenagers. When asked, Sparks refused to produce the real diary for proof.
In later editions of the book, the proviso that it is a fictional work was added.
In 1973, a woman named Marcella Barret whose son had recently committed suicide read about Sparks work on “Alice” and became convinced that she was the perfect person to bring her son’s diary to public notice. The diary was published under the title “Jay’s Journal” and tells the story of the boy and his trials while being drawn into Satanism. Barret’s family, however, later claimed that the story was fake and that the real boy, named Alden, had never been involved with Satanism and that Sparks had only used 21 of his real journal entries while making up the rest.
Despite the criticism, Sparks continued to produce more “real” anonymous diaries from teenagers who had been taken in by some terrible fate. The diaries were produced under the Young Adult genre and meant to be taken as cautionary tales. Sparks went on to release ten more books during the 1990s and early 2000s some of which claim her as the editor and all of which are labeled as being written by “anonymous.” She continued to insist that the diaries were factual and written by real teenagers and that she was only the editor until her death in May of 2012.