Wednesday, July 1, 2009

No 23: Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

When I was a teenager, my mom was convinced that any song lyric she didn't understand was a reference to drugs. We'd be riding along in the car with the radio playing and mom would turn to my sister and me and say "That's slang for cocaine." My sister and I were all "How on earth do you know that?" and she would nod gravely and say "I just do." Now, my mom is not some drug-using hippie. She's a straight arrow, school teaching, christian, ex-military wife who has never even taken more than the prescribed dosage of an advil. Turns out that she was right about at least one song I remember. I can find no logical reason for my mom's accurate knowledge of drug slang and am therefore assuming that she picked it up from Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (aka Beatrice Sparks).

First published in 1971, Go Ask Alice shows up at number 23 on the ALA's List of 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books. The title is a reference to that horrible Jefferson Airplane song, White Rabbit, which everyone but me seems to love. It is presented as the diary of an actual (anonymous) 15-year old girl who accidentally takes LSD, and begins a descent into the world of drugs, runaways, rape, violence, sex, and sex for drugs (which I think we can all agree is a different category of sex altogether).

Gentle Readers, do I even need to go into why this book is banned? That's what I thought.

There is another controversy altogether surrounding this book (which seems interestingly not to have impacted its banning one way or the other) and that is its veracity as a diary. Go Ask Alice written by an actual, real life, walking, talking, high school attending 15-year old girl? Yeah... not so much. I mean seriously, the book goes into pages of detail about her first drug trip (where she understood Adam & Eve's secret language) and then spends less than two paragraphs talking about a boy she likes. Does that sound like any 15-year old girl you know? Me neither.

Still, I felt sorry for the (made-up) teenage girl. She repeatedly tries to get off drugs only to be left lonely as the druggies torment her and the straight kids want nothing to do with her. "Lonely" and "teenager" are not a good combination.

Instead of banning this book, it would be great to use it as a jumpstarter for a conversation with teenagers about drugs. Granted, it's fairly dramatic (and possibly overblown) but also a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when bad drugs happen to nice kids.


  1. I remember this book. I only read it once, at a fairly young age and I'm pretty sure my mother yanked it out of my hands before I finished it. And here I was thinking I dreamed all that weird stuff. Thanks for the reminder. I may have to start reading your list of banned books. Some good ones in here.

  2. your idea of this book is incredibly bias, she is not made up definitely, maybe she's not a "normal" teenage girl.

  3. first of all it's not that she isn't normal it's just that she has problems

  4. YEA she is up in all the gucci XDDDDD