Thursday, September 25, 2014

Giveaway and BANNED! Book Review: Go Ask Alice by Anonymous


Title: Go Ask Alice
Author: Anonymous (Beatrice Sparks)
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: September 14, 1971
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

It started when she was served a soft drink laced with LSD in a dangerous party game. Within months, she was hooked, trapped in a downward spiral that took her from her comfortable home and loving family to the mean streets of an unforgiving city. It was a journey that would rob her of her innocence, her youth -- and ultimately her life. 

Read her diary. 

Enter her world.

You will never forget her. 


For thirty-five years, the acclaimed, bestselling first-person account of a teenage girl's harrowing decent into the nightmarish world of drugs has left an indelible mark on generations of teen readers. As powerful -- and as timely -- today as ever, Go Ask Alice remains the definitive book on the horrors of addiction.


My Review:

That's right, it's one of my favorite literary weeks--BANNED BOOK WEEK!  During this event each year, Sheila at Book Journey hosts a little celebration on her blog, and this is the third year that I am participating.  It's a great excuse to explore the world of banned books and read some good ol' blacklisted literature.  You can check out my Banned Books Week reviews from the last two years here: Flowers for Algernon and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.  READ ALL THE BOOKS!


Alrighty, let's pipe down and review Go Ask Alice.  This book has been on my TBR for years--so many years that I finally added it to my "30 Before 35" list last year, in an effort to make sure I finally read it.  I thought the premise sounded interesting, especially because the diary was reportedly written by an actual anonymous teenager who suffered through a drug addiction.  This reminded me a lot of Crank by Ellen Hopkins (a fiction novel based on her daughter's real-life drug problems), and I was eager to get a different perspective on this issue.

However, pretty early in the book, I started to feel like something was a bit off.  Alice (the protagonist) was awfully preachy and introspective for someone with such a serious addiction.  On the days when she was sober, she was quick to reprimand herself for her behavior, and to explore the many moral ramifications of her actions.  This seemed unusual, given the tone of other addiction memoirs I have read.  At first, I chalked it up to the influences of a different era (this book is from 40 years ago, after all).  But then I was also a bit bothered because Alice's drug encounters always escalated so fast.  It was never just her getting high with her friends.  It was "I got high, and then I also got raped, and then suddenly I was selling LSD to 9-year-olds." 

I don't doubt that these types of things can happen when people truly sink into addiction, but for Alice, it was pretty constant to the point of feeling farfetched.

Finally, some Googling put this in a clearer perspective.  Apparently the author of Go Ask Alice isn't very anonymous at all--the author is Beatrice Sparks, who at the time of the book's release was a social worker and member of the Mormon faith (she has since passed away).  She was originally credited as just an "editor" of the book, but after some questions arose regarding the true identity of "Alice", it became clear that much of the book was written by Sparks herself.  Hence, preachy tone and conveniently trumped-up circumstances, meant to warn impressionable teens of the dangers of drugs.  (You can read more about the Sparks allegations here,)

After delving into that information, the often-banned status of Go Ask Alice became even more interesting to me.  Because first: why would parents and teachers want this book banned, if it's entire purpose is to warn teens away from drugs?  I suppose they're taking the abstinence approach--if we don't talk about drugs or sex or alcohol, then they'll just never do them!  (Yeah, let me know how that works out for you.)  And second: isn't it intriguing that this book was banned for drug/sex/etc references, when the REAL crime here is the authenticity of the writing?  It seems rather criminal to me that this is sold to teens as a real girl's diary, when in fact it is the work of a 40-something youth counselor.  Teens today are pretty savvy, and I'm guessing that many of them could see right through this writing.

Despite the crime against literary humanity that Sparks committed here, of course I (as always) feel that this book should not be banned.  There are other tales of drug addiction, written with more authenticity, that would be more likely to get through to modern-day teenagers.  However, the basic intent of this book (to show kids a "worst case scenario" for such behavior) is admirable, and if it keeps even a few teens away from these poor choices, then who can argue?

Have you read a banned book lately?  Check out the top 100 most banned books HERE.

Without further ado, it's GIVEAWAY TIME!  Let's celebrate banned books together!  Just fill out the Rafflecopter below, and you'll be entered to win a copy of the banned book of your choice (from this list, limit of $15).  Giveaway is international, as I will be shipping through Book Depository.  Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

28 comments:

  1. Great post! This is one I have been curious about! My favorite banned books are the Potter books. I read banned books because they really bring out interesting reads - and amazing reads. Thanks for playing in the banned! :)

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    1. I saw that you are reading it now--can't wait to hear what you think. And thanks again for hosting!

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  2. hmmmm wonder if I ever read a banned book. I will need to research this and maybe put one or two on my list. This one sounds a little too preachy about drugs to me to put it on the list but great review!

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    1. Oh I'm suuuure you have, at least in high school. A lot of required high school books are banned!

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  3. This book sat on our bookshelves all while I was growing up (guess my mom had bought it for herself) and I remember being kind of scared/intrigued by it. I eventually read it as a teenager and remember thinking it was so lurid. I don't remember doubting the authenticity of the account back then, but I learned a couple years ago (thanks Internet!) that it was actually a fictional diary.

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    1. So I guess the book did its job if you didn't doubt it!! :) It's definitely pretty lurid, especially for younger readers.

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  4. To be honest, I've only read a few banned books that I know of, but my favorite so far is Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

    I read banned books because I think it's absolutely ridiculous to ban them. It should be up to the individual or parent if a minor whether to read a book or not. I personally did not restrict what my kids read.

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    1. Thirteen Reasons Why--great book!! And important reading for teens for so many reasons. I agree about letting parents oversee their kids reading. If you can at least offer helpful dialogue with your kids while they are reading a "controversial" book, they will learn more than if you ban them from it.

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  6. I enjoyed this post. I have read a couple of these books. Interesting thoughts about Banning books. I believe people should get the choice to read what they want.

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  7. I think my favorite banned book is The Handmaid's Tale. That book, man! It got under my skin and it makes me want to run around and shove it into the hands of unsuspecting victims.

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  8. My favorite banned book? Gah, so many!! LOL Right now it's Eleanor & Park. :) I want to read Little Brother by Cory Doctorow because it was banned here in my city very recently. I read banned books because I hate other people thinking they can decide what goes into my head.

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    1. I didn't know Eleanor and Park was banned! I'm dying to read that one. Good choice!

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  9. Fahrenheit 451 is my favorite frequently banned book. These days I usually don't select a book because it is or isn't banned. However, when I was working as a librarian I had to read a number of challenged books as part of my job. I also read a number of challenged books when my children were young so I would know what they were reading and be able to discuss a book if they wanted to. I have to say that almost all were good books. Who wouldn't want their daughter to read Are You There God, It's me Margaret, or Harriet the Spy?

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    1. That's great that you read challenged books that you knew your kids might read. I hope to do the same when mine are older!

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  10. My favorite banned book is To Kill a Mockingbird. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Excellent book!! I've read it twice and I'm sure there will be more re-reads in my future.

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  11. My favorite banned book series is probably the Harry Potter series. And it's less me reading actively banned books than other people banning books that I enjoy.

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  12. Thanks for sharing in Banned Books Week. I just couldn't find the time this week but did it last year. I read A Time to Kill by John Grisham last year. My favorite reread of a banned book is To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

    I read Go Ask Alice by Anon in high school (yes, I am that old) and my friends and I thought it was true, then found out later on that it was fiction. However it did get people talking about the dangers of young people using drugs, so it wasn't all bad, except the publisher should've come clean about who wrote it. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. At least it got the discussion going. Based on several of the responses I've gotten here, it sounds like it does its job by at least getting the conversation started, and many teens don't realize it's fiction until after the fact.

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  13. my favorite banned book are definitely the harry potter books! I really enjoyed reading them as a kid. can't believe they banned the whole series!!
    I read banned books because I love seeing what was so disturbing about a book that they had to BAN it!

    rafflecopter name Karin Saim

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    1. Haha I totally agree. If something is banned, that just makes me want to read it more!

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  14. HARRY POTTER & THE HUNGER GAMES for sure.

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  15. I read this baby when I was much too young but I LOVED EVERY MOMENT of it ;) Honestly I think it might be the reason why I didn't experiment in my teen years...so mission accomplished, Mrs. Sparks! :D

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    1. Okay, see, maybe I'm wrong! Maybe teens are totally falling for this one! Haha.

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