Sunday, September 9, 2012
Book #52: Go Ask Alice
This novel, printed in 1971, was challenged and censored quite often over the years for its mature content, which made me want to read it even more. I am very into reading banned books lately, because I don't think that books should ever be banned. Children should not be handed books that would scar them due to the mature content, but I believe that books should be available to everyone.
I was interested in this novel also because it has no listed author. An editor's note in the beginning of the novel claims that this was the true diary of a young, anonymous girl, and that names and places have been altered to protect all those involved. However, the novel is listed as a work of fiction. Upon finishing the novel, I did some research about it. Apparently in the 1970s when it was first published, Go Ask Alice was marketed as a nonfiction YA book. However, over the years there has been much speculation about a woman, who claims to be only the book's editor, possibly having written the fictitious novel herself. Regardless, the novel is absolutely incredible and worth reading whether or not the author is truly the author of these diaries.
The protagonist of this novel doesn't have a name. The title comes from a Jefferson Airplane song apparently (one with which I am not familiar). However, for clarity's sake, I will refer to her as Alice in this review. Alice is 15 at the start of the novel, and the whole book is comprised of her diary entries over a couple of years. At first, Alice is living a basically normal teenage life: some days are pretty good, some days are filled with angst. Her family moves when her father is offered a new job at a college, and Alice hopes that life will be better for her in this new town. When it turns out that this is not true at all, she is isolated and sad for most of the remaining school year.
When Alice visits her old town during the summer (her grandparents still live there), she runs into a popular girl from her old school, who is surprisingly a lot nicer to her than she used to be. After talking for a while, the girl invites Alice to a party she is throwing and Alice is delighted to go. While there, the kids play a dangerous party game involving LSD, which Alice doesn't realize until she is already flying high. She believes that what everyone has told her about drugs can't be true, and that she may try a few other substances just to see what they're like, and then be back to normal.
But of course, life doesn't go as Alice planned. From that night on, she starts a battle with an inner demon that will not let her go: addiction. She is flung in and out of her addiction over the course of the novel, and her diary entries let the reader look through a window into Alice's mind, as she battles herself for months and months and her life begins to crumble around her.
Go Ask Alice reminded me a lot of the verse novels written by Ellen Hopkins (i.e. Crank, etc.), though since Go Ask Alice came first, perhaps that's where Hopkins got some of her inspiration. Despite how it may sound, this novel is not entirely depressing. The subject matter is absolutely dark and mature, but there are times when Alice fights back hard against the darkness inside her, giving the reader hope that she may in fact overcome her addiction. This novel is terrifying but intriguing, and I wouldn't have guessed for a second that it is over 30 years old. I finished it in one day, if that is any indication of how quick and fantastic a novel it was. It shocked me till the very end, and left me deep in thought. Rather than censor books like this, I believe that we should encourage high school students to read them, and learn the terrible truth about what choices like Alice's can do to a person. It's no wonder this book became so famous (or infamous); it's definitely worth reading and it won't let you go right away once you've finished it.