Go Ask Alice
is a novel by youth counsellor Beatrice Sparks, first published in 1971. It is the story of a troubled young woman who seeks solace in drugs and the counter-culture. She comes to grief as a result. It is famous for its Drugs Are Bad
message, being banned for references to sex, rape and drugs, and almost certainly being a fake. Rather than being a Real Life
diary of a young drug addict, it is the work of Beatrice Sparks, who attempted to pass it off as true for a number of years.
It is classic School Study Media
The novel is a dark Coming-of-Age Story
. The work takes the form of a "diary", the keeper of which is not named
. Usually she is called Alice, from the title, but her name is actually Carla, and Alice is an addict who she briefly meets on the street. Carla is a sensitive fifteen year old girl, alienated from her conservative parents and initially without friends. When she does start making friends and discovers the The Sixties
counter-culture she also encounters drugs. Her first experience is benign: she is unwittingly given LSD at her friend Jill's birthday party and has a pleasant trip.
Carla loses her virginity while on LSD. She feels guilty about this and her drug use. She and her female friend Chris take to dealing drugs for their respective boyfriends. Upon discovering said boyfriends having sex with each other, they leave for San Francisco
, leaving their families as well.
In San Francisco they move into a small apartment and get jobs. Their vow to stay clean does not last—in fact they use harder drugs. While on heroin at a party, both girls are raped. A long series of unpleasant events follows. Carla gets on and off drugs over and over again. Chris gets in trouble with the police and Carla returns home, but upon being harassed by other stoner kids since they think she's a "squealer", she's framed for drug possession and is sent to an asylum, where she sorta bonds with a younger and even more broken girl named Babbie.
The novel at first seems to end on a high, so to speak, with Carla reunited with her family, off drugs, with a boyfriend named Joel and showing greater maturity. An epilogue slams that with a Downer Ending.
The portrayal of sixties hippie culture is limited. Tellingly, political protest and music are scarcely mentioned. It works best as a critique of the hedonistic excesses of the movement. As a "warning work" it has similarities to Requiem for a Dream
. It has a similar theme of disenchanted youth going off the rails as is found in The Catcher in the Rye
If you are looking for the trope that used to have this name, please see Alice Allusion.
Provides examples of these tropes:
- Alice Allusion: In relay: the book is named from "White Rabbit", a song by the contemporary psychedelic band Jefferson Airplane who in turn saw drug imagery in Alice in Wonderland. Carla in the novel also wonders if Lewis Carroll was on drugs when he wrote it.
- Anonymous Author: Or published as such, at any rate.
- Artistic License – Geography: The narrator speaks glowingly of her experiences in Coos Bay, Oregon, and in the same breath describes how she visited the Psychedelic Shop and the Digger Free Store. Both these establishments were in San Francisco, neither was a franchise, and both had closed down by the time the narrator got there.
- Based on a Great Big Lie: Ostensibly the real diary of a teenage girl, it was, in fact, entirely fabricated by Sparks. She has also released a series of other "true diaries" in the same vein, but dealing with different subjects, such as AIDS (It Happened to Nancy), teen pregnancy (Annie's Baby) and depression-linked Satanism, we kid you not (Jay's Journal).
- Ironically, the success of Go Ask Alice convinced the family of "Jay" to give their son's journal to Sparks for editing, assuming she would turn the journal into a cautionary tale for other parents of at-risk children. In reality, "Jay" was a mere depressed, troubled teen who committed suicide. Sparks expanded a single mention of Satanism into a major theme of the book and invented journal entries to support the Satanism theme. Jay's parents later claimed that Sparks had ruined their lives and tarnished their son's memory.
- Break the Cutie
- Broken Bird: Carla and also her friend Babbie, whom she meets while in the asylum.
- Coming-of-Age Story: Ticks the boxes.
- Contemplating Your Hands: This stoner cliché makes an appearance: in one scene hands become fascinating under the influence.
- Cruel Twist Ending
- Dan Browned: The book is not the result of researching a real account. It is fiction.
- Depraved Bisexual: Sheila the fashion designer. She and her boyfriend Rod are the ones who rape both Carla and Chris in San Francisco.
- Depraved Homosexual: The drug dealers Richie and Ted.
- Downer Ending: At first you think it's going to have a happy ending with the main character changing her life for the better. But then in the epilogue, you find out that she died three weeks later of an overdose. It's not clear if it was an accidental one or if it was a suicide by premeditated overdose.
- Dropped A Bridge On Her
- Drugs Are Bad: Basically Drugs Are Bad: The Book the same way Requiem for a Dream is Drugs Are Bad: The Movie.
- Emo Teen: Carla, Babbie, Chris.
- The Generation Gap: As a theme. It helps divide Carla from her parents.
- Growing Up Sucks
- Higher Understanding Through Drugs: Many of Carla's drug experience have a distinctly religious feel.
- Hope Spot: Just when you think Carla's on the right track to a bright, successful future, literally the last page tells you that she died of a drug overdose and her body was found by her parents after coming home from a night out.
- The Law of Conservation of Detail: The fact that the book follows this is cited by Snopes as evidence that it is fake. After all, one would expect a real teenage girl's diary to ramble on about silly gossip rather than focusing so much on her plot-relevant drug addiction. When this first came out, many reviewers simply assumed it had been edited to take out all the chit chat.
- Marijuana Is LSD: Apparently, marijuana was much better in the 60s.
- Misery Lit: The book tried to pass itself off as this, but is now widely agreed to be a work of fiction.
- My Name Is Not Shazam: As noted above, Alice is not the protagonist's name. Officially she's "anonymous", though a quote from a drug dealer's child indicates her name is possibly Carla (which is used on this entry).
- Scare 'Em Straight: The work's probable objective, as an anti-drug tract.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Carla's struggles and growth are rendered sadly pointless by the epilogue.
- The Sixties: The setting, as filtered through an anti-drugs activist.
- Slipping a Mickey: How the protagonist gets her first hit of LSD. She immediately spirals headlong into full-blown drug experimentation and addiction.
- This Is a Work of Fiction: Though it's marketed as the real-life diary of a teenage girl, the copyright page gives you the truth: "This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental."