Peace, love and lots and lots of drugs. Welcome to the counter culture of the 1960s. Detailing the descent of a 16-year-old girl named only by the title, “Go Ask Alice” illustrates the isolated effects of an era characterized by rebellion.
The book is the diary of a young girl of middle class suburbia who unwittingly initiates a dependence on drugs when she is slipped LSD at a party. Though critics have long suspected that the book’s editor Beatrice Sparks is the actual “anonymous” author, the book distinctly presents Alice’s voice throughout.
With the typical recipe for rebellion — parents that don’t seem to understand, a boy that won’t notice her and a new town where she doesn’t “fit in” — the book has great potential for cliché. However, as Alice liberates herself from heavy drug use, only to find herself controlled by her cravings, her sincerity compels the reader to sympathize with her through her experiences.
The tragedy of the diary lies in her realization of her gradual decline and her inability, despite brief interruptions of success, to stop it. Though her parents support her in her rehabilitation, and friends share in her experience, she finds herself ultimately alone in her addiction and self-hatred. Whether or not the account is biographical, Alice comes to life through the pages of her diary. Though the circumstances may seem extreme and the climate heightened by historical context, Alice’s insecurities and tormenting reflections are frighteningly relatable.
At 192 pages, “Go Ask Alice” is easily a read-in-one-sitting endeavor. Written in a stream of consciousness style reminiscent of Holden Caulfield’s ramblings, Alice’s diary is engaging and haunting, with an important message for anyone willing to listen.