Go Ask Alice–Real or Fake?

I finally got an audio version of Go Ask Alice and have been listening to it every free second I’ve had in my car. I’ve heard Go Ask Alice pegged often as one of the first modern YA books and, I guess, in a lot of ways maybe it is.

The book is advertised as based on the real diary of a teenage girl growing up in the early 70s. The diary follows the worsening drug addiction of the unnamed narrator, highlighting the problems of middle class drug use. The narrator becomes homeless, engages in prostitution, and pushes drugs to elementary school kids. It’s a total train wreck.

But the book (and its subsequent TV movie) have become a bit of an urban legend. The book was supposedly penned by “anonymous.” But, listening to the book, I started to wonder if this was a true story at all. I knew that the diary would have been edited, but honestly, I started having a hard time believing that the teenage narrator would have written this at all. I started to do a little research and, yeah, I’m not the only one questioning.

Expert  Barbara Mikkelson points out that, for a teenage girl’s diary, there is way too much space dedicated to long descriptive passages about how drugs feel and not nearly enough to personal relationships, boys, gossip, etc. For me, the narrator’s repetitive odes to marijuana were what set me on edge. Others have commented that specific details were mixed up that the author of the diary would not have mixed up. For instance, the narrator talks about the Psychedelic Shop and Diggers’ Free Store while living in Coos Bay, Oregon when both those stores are in San Fransisco. It’s possible, I guess, that the narrator could have been confused enough from the drug use to mix up her time spent in San Fran versus Coos Bay, but I don’t know…

Apparently skeptics have gone digging and the Copyright Office shows Beatrice Sparks, the diary’s editor as the copyright holder and she is actually listed as the diary’s author. Normally for posthumous diaries I guess the editor would be listed as the compiler, executor, or editor–not the author. Sparks was a psychologist and a Mormon youth counselor. She claims that Go Ask Alice was based on the diary of a patient. She went on to “edit” several more diaries based on those of her patient’s. One such work was Jay’s Journal, about a boy that committed suicide after becoming involved in the occult. After its publication, the alleged boy’s family came forward and said that the book had been based on only a couple real diary entries and that the entire occult angle was imagined. Interestingly, no one has ever come forward as being related to the narrator of Go Ask Alice.

In 1998, Mark Oppenheimer wrote a NYT article entitled, “Just Say Uh-Oh” in which he claimed that Linda Glovach was a co-author of Go Ask Alice, unkindly calling her one of the “forgers” of the book.

Another Go Ask Alice misconception exists regarding the narrator’s name. It’s not Alice, which is exactly what I had thought, too. Go Ask Alice comes from the lyrics of a Jefferson Airplane song called “White Rabbit.” At one point, the narrator meets a homeless drug addict sitting on the curb named Alice, but this encounter is very brief. The narrator also references Alice in Wonderland, musing that perhaps Lewis Carroll was on drugs when he wrote it. For a moment, I thought perhaps the narrator’s name was Carla, as she references a little boy walking in on her prostituting herself for drugs and says (more or less) that his father can’t come to the door because of Carla. But I haven’t found any support for that and there may have been another girl in the room at the time.

In any case, I guess Go Ask Alice will remain one of those literary mysteries. Have you read it? Do you think it’s real?

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56 thoughts on “Go Ask Alice–Real or Fake?

  1. Debra D. says:

    You know, when I read it as a tween, I *thought* it was real….so I guess I didn’t get that trying-to-pull-one-over-on-me feeling. But now…I’d probably guess it was not a real diary. Hard to say with any certainty, though (like, if it weren’t real–why the heck wouldn’t the writer/editor have fact checked the stores you mentioned?)

    For me, the fact that we’re debating it all means it could be true–and that says a lot right there.

    (I totally want to re-read it now, btw–CURSE YOU!)

    =D

  2. Kurtis says:

    It’s fake. I don’t think anyone seriously believes otherwise, particularly since Beatrice Sparks “found” and published other “diaries.”

    • Anonymous says:

      im a mother of a fifteen year old depressed n confused girl who cares if its real or not it has saved my daughters life frightening her so much that shes off drugs n has a very happy life real or not if it can save even one child u shouldnt even care it represents children suffering everywhere n brings awareness to nieve idioc parents who think children dont have real feelings

      • Anonymous says:

        I agree that the story is scary and well written to influence kids to never use drugs or get off of them but i believe that it is wrong to call this story real and have kids connect to the author because it was written by a “teen”.

  3. thereadingdate says:

    I read it as a tween and devoured it! I believed it was real at the time but now my more skeptical self doubts that it is legit. That is awesome that it is available as an audiobook – that must be very entertaining!

  4. LC says:

    It’s basically been pointed out that every book she written is fake, except for the one where only about 10% of the boys actual diary was used. If you’ve had the chance to read all of her books, you will notice all the diaries are written in the same manner, all the girls share the same exact values, they all have the same personality. I’m reading Annie’s Baby and it sounds like it was a diary written by Nancy from It Happened to Nancy. Now teens may try to act like one another in person, but the privacy of a diary should show their true selves. And I just don’t think it’s possible all these teens are EXACTLY the same. In fact people aren’t entirely sure that she actually has her doctorate and have noticed things she says about the books do not add up. They are great books, but definitely all fiction.

  5. shellster says:

    I am a recovering addict and i am just reading that book now i believe some stuff in it is really and could happen but just not to her it may have but i dont know what to believe in books anymore cause they seem to lie alot and i guess only alice would really know?

    • deleted says:

      my fifteen year old daughter on acid climbed from a telephone pole believing she could fly shattering both her ankles again this book saved her life i myself have played the whos got the button game many times and am also a recovering addict every drug experience i had was never the same different each time true or not again if it can save one person who really cares is it really worth giving up hope to debate it if it saved my child n can save more do u want them to believe it can b fake

  6. Suzanna says:

    I definitely believe the book is a fake. Though well-written and quite dramatic, it was written to scare kids away from drugs. However, from reading blogs from kids about the book, it does not sound like they’ve been turned off at all. In fact, most of the kids said that it made drugs sound more appealing.

  7. Julie Simbro says:

    I have been searching for the title of this book!! I’ve been telling a friend of mine about it so she can have her daughter read it. I am so glad I found this post. I read it as a teen and never forgot the book. It scared the daylights out of me! Because of this book, I was scared straight! I never tried drugs as a teenager. I don’t care if it’s real or fake. It convinced me and worked. Now I want to read it again too!

    • Anonymous says:

      You do realize that the book was made up by someone who’s never done any drugs and the descriptions are so false that they are more akin to someone suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, right?

      • deleted says:

        shut up and u do know that every one can tell u have never done a drug in your life and sound stupid everyones experience is different for every person no two are alike when u r under control of something u have no idea what they have put in it each one is made different depending on who made it grow up n dont talk about what u obviously have no experience with other than writing this start reading this start looking up schizophrenia which isnt some thing that voices tell u to do to other people n yourself all of the time not just one night learn how to not say any thing unless u know what your talking about first

  8. Shira says:

    It says on the copyright page “This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously.”

  9. Charis H. says:

    I am 13 years old and I just finished this book yesterday. I thought it had a haunting relation to it and it definetly will stick in my mind for as long as I live. But I began to question the fact if it was real. I myself have kept diaries. I don’t use as much description as the girl in the book used. My entries are short and usually talk about some sort of life gossip or how much I hate something just personal stuff

    Even if this book is fake it still leaves a good life lesson. It does say what drugs can do and how dangerous it can become. Whether this is real or not it will always be stuck in your mind. It will make you think twice about something. It is a good read fake or not. It is a good lesson fake or not.

    Beatrice Sparks probably never found these diaries maybe all she wanted was to give people a haunting experience she as a proffesional on this stuff and relassing books about “true” journals is all in all a good idea.

    I loved the book. It will follow me.

    • Mohan says:

      I posted this to Miguels blog, The Devil’s Excrement, I hope it is not wrong to post it here too:I will try to eiaplxn why I think it is prostate cancer here, first the text passages, then an explanation refering to those, then my analysis (I’m biologist not physician, with some knowledge over cancer due to familiar reasons)1- la evolucif3n de mi salud, desde que hace varias semanas comenzf3 a dar muestras evidentes de deterioro. 2- Confieso que desde el punto de vista de mi salud solo teneda previsto hacerme un chequeo en la rodilla izquierda, ya casi recuperada de aquella lesif3n de comienzos de mayo. 3- A lo largo de toda mi vida vine cometiendo uno de esos errores que bien pudiera caber perfectamente en aquella categoreda a la que algfan filf3sofo llamf3 errores fundamentales : descuidar la salud y, ademe1s, ser muy renuente a los chequeos y tratamientos me9dicos.4- Seguramente no fue difedcil para Fidel darse cuenta de algunos malestares, que, me1s alle1 de mi rodilla izquierda, yo habeda venido tratando de disimular desde varias semanas atre1s.5- Fue ased como se detectf3 una extraf1a formacif3n en la regif3n pe9lvica que ameritf3 una intervencif3n quirfargica de emergencia ante el inminente riesgo de una infeccif3n generalizada.6- Luego de aquella operacif3n, que en principio logrf3 el drenaje del absceso, comenzf3 un tratamiento antibif3tico intensivo con una positiva evolucif3n, que trajo una notable mejoreda. 7- Sin embargo, , fueron apareciendo algunas sospechas de la presencia de otras formaciones celulares no detectadas hasta entonces. 8- estudios confirmaron la existencia de un tumor abscesado con presencia de ce9lulas canceredgenas, lo cual hizo necesaria la realizacif3n de una segunda intervencif3n quirfargica que permitif3 la extraccif3n total de dicho tumor. 9- Se tratf3 de una intervencif3n mayor, realizada sin complicaciones, tras la cual he continuado evolucionando satisfactoriamente, mientras recibo los tratamientos complementarios para combatir los diversos tipos de ce9lulas encontradas y ased continuar por el camino de mi plena recuperacif3n. Symptoms appeared weaks bevor the Cuba visit. 1He had not taken care of his health, he didn’t do the tests that could detect some tumor early. 2Symptoms would have been detected by surrounding people 4 (1 and the cancellation of alf3 presidente )Some anomaly was detected by examinations (not detectable from the outside for him) 5Infection risk leads to chirugical intervention, drainage. 6Some tests were positive for cancer 7 8New major chirurgical intervention to eliminate the whole tumor 8 9Uncertainty or conviction that metastases has ocurred 9This, for me it speaks (if the facts are true) for prostate cancer (infection possible for weeks without really making he ill, for colon cancer it would had been devastating I think) (symptoms observable by other people: going every 30 minutes to the toilette) (drainage, I can’t imagine that by colon cancer, but maybe?) (a second intrvention to eliminate the whole tumor, with colon cancer it would had been the first time I think, you see the lesion and take so much as you need out, by prostate you don’t want to take it out -and the surroundings- if you don’t need it)I think HCh don’t want to say it is prostate cancer too, because of the implications, he would be under chemical castration (at least, see capsular orchiectomy) if there are metastases suspected.

    • Anonymous says:

      It starts just before she turns fifteen and I am pretty sure it ends right after she turns seventeen. I know this is a late response, but maybe somebody else was looking for the answer to the same question.

  10. damaris priscila (@1617latina) says:

    question

    1. how old is the narrator ?

    2. about whom is she peaking when she say ­­” i have waite all my life for him to see me ”

    3. what deos her father do ?

    4. how deos her first day at her new school go compared to her siblings?

    5. where deos she spend the first summer in the novel?

    6. what religion is beth?

    7. what invitation deos jill give to the narrator?

    8. what happens when the narrator plays”button”?

    9. what is the frist drug that she ingests?

    10. what deos she want to try next?

    11. who deos she say that she feels like after her experince?

    12. who inject speed into her arm?

    13. who has a heart attack?

    14. what other experience deos she have during her next acid trip?

    15. who stops by to visite her at her grandparents house?

    16. what deos she steal from her grandfather?

    17. what do her parents say she lookd like when she returns?

    18. who works in a clothing boutique?

    19. who do she and the person in question 20 want to quit their jobs?

    20. who initiates the narrator into dealing drugs?

    21. to whom is she selling

    22. where do she and chris decide to go?

    23. what do she and chris want to do in a year?

    24, who is Mr, mellani?

    25. what happens at shelia’s party?

    26. when does she arange to go home?

    27. what does lane do when he tries to convince the narrator to supply him with drugs?

    28. whose house gets raided while the narrator is there?

    29. where does the narrator run away to next ?

    30. who does she meet in the doctor’s waiting room?

  11. delta says:

    12:07 a.m. 24/01/13 love the book love the movie it was nali, LSD….I want to get out and live a little. Does the book encourage people to experiment on drugs. Lose it all, gain a lot, have a bubbly, have a shot. Alice oh my Alice

    • RachelLR48 says:

      It does not encourage teens to experiment with drugs. In fact, have you even read the book? In the end the character (whether real or fake) dies. Death is not normally how you encourage teens to experiment with drugs.

    • Kuri says:

      Cody. I learned shnteoimg from every video and I watched them all. Terrific. You explained everything very well so it was almost as good as being there. I can see lots of things for me to try, and lots to go back and do better, especially turning the forequarters and hindquarters away on the ground. (manners) . And that’s my plan. One question. I got my 2 yr old colt going so we were trotting and cantering in the pastures last fall. All fine and calm except now and then she’d spook at shnteoimg I was doing with my hands while riding, such as adjusting my hat or zipping up my jacket. I tried sacking her out with tall flags etc as a first resort but it didn’t really help. Any suggestions.Tyler Trafford

  12. Addi says:

    I’m a teen and just got done reading this book. I feel that maybe some of it was real, but definitely not all of it. Kind of bums me out that they make it seem so real when it isn’t, still a terrific and sad read though.

  13. nicole says:

    who cares if its real or fake? its a good read, and teaches our teens a lesson. my 14 and 12 year olds just finished it. i think real or fake the important part is, the message behind it is real. thats whats important.

  14. Naomi Longo (Twihard) says:

    the first page says ‘Go Ask Alice is based on the actual diary of a fifteen year old drug user. It is not a definitive statement on the middle class teenage drug world. It does not offer any solutions. It is however, a highly personal and specific chronicle. As such, we hope it will provide insights into the increasingly complicated world in which we live. Names, dates, places and certain events have been changed in accordance with the wishes of those concerned. The Editors’

    It says that it is Based on the diary so we dont really know HOW based it is but its not saying that all of it is real

  15. erika says:

    This was one of many outspoken literature pieces to me as a teen .
    Showing me a path taken and filled with drugs . In a way im sure this is real

  16. Anonymous says:

    egads ; what silliness ; it is clearly the expansive projections of a therapist ripping her patients stories off then homogenizing them to make the nancy drew like –

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  18. Anonymous says:

    I think it definitely could be a real story, if she’s a psychiatrist it wouldn’t be unlikely that she had some access to her patients diaries. Also there are plenty of people with stories like this, especially on the 70s. She does spend a lot of time on the teenage girl aspects of the book in the beginning– I can say this as a 15 year old girl–, and when she’s really addicted she wouldn’t be thinking about the teenage aspects anyway. She would be focused on the drugs, it’s all she would care about.

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  22. Marilyn says:

    This isn’t real. Beatrice Sparks even said in an interview that the girl it was based on was someone who’d come to see her when she was doing one of her speaking engagements, and that she’d become friends with her parents and they’d visited back and forth. The girl had issues with self-esteem and probably depression, but it’s not clear that she was a habitual drug user, or that she ran away from home, or sold drugs to ten year olds. She also claimed that she accidentally threw out some of her source material and the rest is locked in the publisher’s vault. Oh, and the girl died but not from a drug overdose. It may have been an accident or a suicide, she said. Did anyone notice of a lot of ten year olds from nice, middle class white neighborhoods getting loaded?

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