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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. 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 is 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 harrassed 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. A 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.
Go Ask Alice 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.
- 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 as Go Ask Alice, 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- Did Not Do the Research: At one point in the narrative the girl talks about living in Coos Bay, Oregon. She then enthuses about the Psychedelic Shop and the Diggers Free Store. Both establishments were in San Francisco and had long been closed by the time of the narrative.
- Drugs Are Bad: Basically Drugs Are Bad: The Book the same way Requiem for a Dream is Drugs Are Bad: The Movie.
- Downer Ending: At first you think it is going to be 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 she was killed by other drug addicts.
- Emo Teen: Carla, Babbie, Chris.
- The Generation Gap: As a theme. It helps divide Carla from her parents.
- Growing Up Sucks
- 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.
- 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 actually Carla.
- 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.