Go Ask Alice

Anonymous. (2006). Go Ask Alice. New York: Simon Pulse.
ISBN: 0689817851 pbk.
185 pp.

Reader's Annotation:

Go Ask Alice is the story of a teenage girl that struggles to find herself and instead finds the seductive and engaging world of drugs.


Alice’s story is presented to the reader as a diary. This format allows for a quick and provocative read that picks the reader up, rams full speed ahead and then dumps one at the end without ever stopping for a breath. This quick charged format mimics the craziness of Alice’s experience. However, this format also allows the author a loose hand with the details. The quick episodic nature of a diary allows the author to focus the reader on sensationalist details without having to provide a lot of explanation. Because the author has the diary format to rely on Alice’s story is lent an air of credibility that might otherwise be lacking.

The voice of Alice in Go Ask Alice is a very believable teenage voice. Alice obsesses over boys, her weight, her parents and the normal societal pressures of a teenage girl. The genuine nature of this voice makes this book relatable no matter the generation that reads it. However, Alice’s drug voice is sadly lacking. Alice’s descriptions of drug use are highly sensationalistic, inaccurate and read like an anti-drug pamphlet. Phrases like, “after you’ve had it there isn’t even life without drugs,” sound like they are pulled directly from a D.A.R.E. program. The rapid and extreme escalation of her drug use is highly improbable and made believable only by the episodic nature of Alice’s diary. The connection between sex and drug use is also contrived, especially the frequent link to homosexuality.

Despite all of these idiosyncrasies, I am not sure how I would have regarded this book as a teenager. I am not sure if it would have made me scared of drugs or intrigued. However, I do know that I would have found Alice relatable. Alice’s voice is a sympathetic one that makes the reader pull for her, in spite of her self-damaging choices. This book’s ability to relate to the experience of being a teenager is what makes it a classic. Classics are often not the best story, but the story that resonates the most soundly with an audience. Alice’s story does just that it resonates regardless of whether or not it rings true.

Christopher Award
School Library Journal Best Books of the Year
YALSA 100 Best Books (1950-2000)

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