Rummanah Aasi
  I'm probably in the minority of people who have never read Go Ask Alice before until now. The book has been extremely popular and not to mention controversial since it's original copyright of 1971. After 39 years, Go Ask Alice is still current with its theme of drug abuse.

Description: An unnamed 15 years old teen chronicles her descent into drugs after struggling to find acceptance amongst her peers and her overachieving parents.

Why it was banned/challenged: Go Ask Alice has a long track record of being banned and challenged throughout its 39 years of being in print. In 2008 the novel was challenged as a reading assignment at Hanahan Middle School in Berkeley County, South Carolina because of blatant, explicit language using street terms for sex, talk of worms eating body parts, and blasphemy. Source: ALA

Review: Go Ask Alice is a harrowing account of one teen's desperate attempt to find acceptance by doing anything possible. The unnamed narrator finds comfort in recording her struggles in a diary. She feels left out in her over achieving but distant family, she is ignored by the boy who she has a crush on, she has insecurities about her appearance, and is the new/weird girl at her new school. What starts off as a spiked drink at a party quickly turns into a crush and burn drug addiction and eventually time spent at a psychiatric center.
  I can't help but think that Go Ask Alice is anything but a cautionary tale of drugs. It is written during the 1970s where teens were highly experimenting with both drugs and sex. The diary entries are a cry of help and you can feel the teen's confusion leap off the page. Interestingly enough it is no way near graphic or horrific of other YA books that I have read about that deal with characters' drug abuse. I clearly remember being taken aback when I read The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carrol and the passages where the horrible withdrawals are described.
  Although the book is marketed as a "true story", it turns out that the book is not based on any teen's story but rather a culmination of various teens' case studies conducted by Beatrice Sparks. Sparks is credited in most places as the editor of Go Ask Alice. The true author of the book has never been clearly identified. Reading the book as an adult, I can easily pinpoint the inconsistencies in the narrative and voice. There are many vocabulary words and phrases such as "Dear Diary" that a 15 year old would never use. Nor would the teen remember her drug trip so vividly after being passed out for hours. Despite the inconsistencies in the writing, I can see why teens are drawn to Go Ask Alice: because it happens in real life. It does not hide or sugar coat life's problems but shows the gritty details. With drugs and sex still being a predominant factors in teen's lives, I can understand why schools would want to use this book for discussion.  

Rating: 3.5 stars

Curriculum Connection: Health

Words of Caution: Since this is a book about drug abuse, there are numerous drug references throughout the book. There are also allusions to sex, however, there is no graphic detail except the narrator telling the reader she has slept with someone. There is also some strong language and street slang in the book. I would recommend this book to mature 8th graders and up.

If you like this book try: Crank by Ellen Hopkins, Smack by Melvin Burgess, or The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carrol
1 Response
  1. I am one of those people who has not read this one...but I do plan to read Ellen Hopkin's Crank. I like realistic YA fiction. This was an excellent review!


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