Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks as “Anonymous” (Banned Books)

banned books

Every month for the rest of 2014 ChrissiReads, Bibliobeth & I (aka Luna’s Little Library) will be reading a Banned or Challenged Book.

We’ll be looking at why the book was challenged. How/If things have changed since the book was originally published. What we actually think of the book.

If you’d like to joining in there is a list of the books we’ll be reading at the bottom of this post.

Previous Banned Book Discussion: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks as “Anonymous”

First published: 1971
Most recently in the Top Ten of Frequently Challenged Books in 2003 & 2001 (source)
Chosen by: ChrissiReads
Reasons: drugs (2003) & offensive language, sexually explicit (2001)

Blurb: Alice could be anyone – she could be someone you know, or someone you love – and Alice is in trouble …

Being fifteen is hard, but Alice seems fine. She babysits the neighbour’s kids. She is doing well at school. Someday she’d even like to get married and raise a family of her own. Then she is invited to a party, a special party where the drinks are spiked with LSD and Alice is never the same again.

This tragic and extraordinary true-life story shows the devastating effect that drug-abuse can have. But the big difference between Alice and a lot of other kids on drugs is that Alice kept a diary…

Discussion

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH:When I first began this read, I was quite surprised to learn that it was first published in 1971 as I found it read more contemporary than that – in other words, published about ten years ago or so. For the seventies, I think it was probably highly controversial when it came out even with the amount of “free love,” that was floating around at the time. I didn’t really find the language particularly offensive or find that it was sexually explicit but I am probably judging it by modern standards!

CHRISSI: I think it was probably very controversial at the time, so of course, it didn’t fit in. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that this book stood out, but I can understand why it was banned. The subject matter obviously struck a chord with many people.

LUNA: I honestly don’t know, 1971 is too long ago. My opinion of the 70s is mostly from That 70s Show that isn’t going to be an accurate reflection of the time is it? The book was published; it’s supposed to be warning regarding the dangers of drugs so it would have to be make an impact to work.

How about now?

BETH: This book deals with some very serious issues, namely teenage drug abuse. For this reason, I do understand why it is banned/challenged, especially in schools. I know that the book is meant to be quite gritty and portray a teenager coming out the other side of addiction but for me personally, I don’t think that message got across very well. At times I even felt like it glorified drug use in a way, or made it seem quite a lot of fun. Obviously that is not really a good message to send out to impressionable young people.

CHRISSI: I don’t really like that this book is marketed as non fiction. I actually thought it was a true story until I looked it further. It’s very frustrating that it’s marketed as non fiction when it’s not. Hmmmm. Non fiction or fiction aside, I don’t think it’s appropriate for use in schools. It raises very dark issues (as well as the drug use) which I don’t think are appropriate for some impressionable teenagers. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that every teenager is impressionable (they’re certainly not!), but some may take the messages this book sends in the wrong way.

LUNA: It’ll come as a surprise but I have a problem with this book. It’s nothing to do with the content (the banned reasons: drugs, offensive language and sexually explicit) and everything to do with the marketing. Go Ask Alice is a work of fiction. Yet it was originally promoted as nonfiction, it’s still sold as “by Anonymous” and the copy I have has “This is Alice’s True Story” on the cover plus the blurb on the back, the foreword and the Psychologist’s Comment at the back – everything is still packaged to make out this is nonfiction.

It got my back up. It is fiction and it should be presented as such.

What did you think of the book?

BETH: I have to admit, I was really, really disappointed. It’s only a short read (162 pages in my copy) and is made up of journal entries but for me it felt like a slog to get through the whole time. The main character annoyed me to the point where I wanted to throw the book across the other side of the room! And worse of all, I just didn’t believe it. Then we come to the ending… and for a second I almost upgraded my thoughts to a “three star” review until I read a bit more about the book in general. And I’m absolutely disgusted. As the girls have said, this is marketed as a work of non-fiction and if you buy into that the ending may change the way you feel about the entire book. As I later found out, it is a work of FICTION and I don’t know what else to say except that I feel really cheated and quite cross.

CHRISSI: It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be if I’m honest. I wanted to feel connected to the main character and feel sorry for her. But I didn’t. I just found her annoying- which isn’t what I wanted to feel from a teenage drug addict.

LUNA: The narrator is not likeable; I didn’t have any connection with her and found her rather whiny. Given that the point of this book if to warn of ‘what can happen’ I would have expected more empathy with the character. (Btw it’s never established what her name is.)

I know the book is over 40 years old but Go Ask Alice really feels it. A lot of the time I don’t notice age with books when I’m lost in a story but I don’t think the text has dated well. Maybe it’s partly to blame for the disconnect I felt to the character/story.

I’ll admit that my opinion of Go Ask Alice was negatively influenced by the marketing before I started the book but I was hoping the content would win me round – it never really did.

Would you recommend it?

BETH: I think it’s important that teenagers get to read the real stories behind drug addiction (get it? REAL!) but I wouldn’t recommend this one. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

CHRISSI: Possibly, but I think there are more powerful books around the same subject out there.

LUNA: If it wasn’t still labelled as a “true story” maybe but I think there are better books out there.

 

Banned Book Reading List for 2014

November
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
Chosen by: Luna

December
Lush by Natasha Friend
Chosen by: Beth

Next book:
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden

 

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