I first read Go Ask Alice when I started working with children. My first position in a non-profit agency I was working with adults. These adults had a primary diagnosis of a visual impairment, but also suffered from a mental illness. I worked there for a long time and it was a great learning experience. However, I wanted to work with children. When I started out, I instantly became interested in working with teenagers. Doing typical talk therapy in inner-city schools, was difficult. The population of the teenagers I worked with were African-American, and they viewed me as a middle class white girl. I needed to find a way to connect with these kids and quick. I found the book Go Ask Alice and it gave me an idea to use it with my teenagers. It is an easy read, teens could relate to it as well as it was a way to get the youth talking about important issues. It was a hit! They read the book and just wanted to discuss the book in general, but it provided me a way to ask questions in regards to their personal life. Needless to say, that is when I became an avid advocate for alternative therapies, such as art and music therapy. The excerpt below describes the book and the other two that followed Go Ask Alice.
There are some strong opinions about these 3 books. I found some critics of the book along with other information to why these 3 books are educational. Here is the summary of the 3 books, along with research behind them. I respect everyone’s opinion, me personally, I will make each of my children read these books.
The riveting, life-changing diaries of addiction and heartbreak in the tradition of Go Ask Alice are now available in one collectible boxed set.
Lucy was a good girl, living a good life. One night, one party, changed everything.
Ana was an athlete with a bright future. She only wanted to lose a few pounds.
David had everything: family, friends, a girlfriend, an undefeated football team…and a secret that was destroying him.
Read their devastating stories in their own words, in the diaries they left.
Upon its 1971 publication, Go Ask Alice quickly became a publishing sensation and an international bestseller, being translated into 16 languages. Its success has been attributed to the timing of its publication at the height of the psychedelic era, when the negative effects of drug use were becoming a public concern. Alleen Pace Nilsen has called it “the book that came closest to being a YA phenomenon” of its time, although saying it was “never as famous as [the later] Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games series”. In addition to being very popular with its intended young adult audience, Go Ask Alice also attracted a significant number of adult readers.
Libraries had difficulty obtaining and keeping enough copies of the book on the shelves to meet demand. The 1973 television film based on the book heightened reader interest, and librarians reported having to order additional copies of the book each time the film was broadcast.
By 1975, more than three million copies of the book had reportedly been sold, and by 1979 the paperback edition had been reprinted 43 times. The book remained continuously in print over the ensuing decades, with reported sales of over four million copies by 1998, and over five million copies by 2009. The actual number of readers probably surpassed the sales figures, as library copies and even personal copies were likely circulated to more than one reader. Go Ask Alice has been cited as establishing both the commercial potential of young adult fiction in general, and the genre of young adult anti-drug novels.
Go Ask Alice received positive initial reviews, including praise from Webster Schott in The New York Times, who called it an “extraordinary work”, a “superior work” and a “document of horrifying reality [that] possesses literary quality”. It was also recommended by Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and The Christian Science Monitor, and ranked number 1 on the American Library Association‘s 1971 list of Best Books for Young Adults. Some reviews focused on the realism of the book’s material, without further addressing the literary merit of the book. According to Nilsen and Lauren Adams, the book was not subjected to the regular forms of literary criticism because it was presumed to be the real diary of a dead teenager. Lina Goldberg has suggested that the publishers were motivated to list the author as “Anonymous” partly to avoid such criticism.
Years after its publication, Go Ask Alice continued to receive some good reviews, often in the context of defending the book against censors (see Censorship). In a 1995 Village Voice column for Banned Books Week, Nat Hentoff described it as “an extraordinarily powerful account of what it’s actually like to get hooked on drugs” that “doesn’t preach”.
However, starting in the late 1990s, the book began to draw criticism for its heavy-handedness, melodramatic style and in authenticity, in view of the growing consciousness that it was fiction rather than a real teenager’s diary (see Authorship and veracity controversies). Its portrayal of drug use, in which the diarist progresses from unwittingly ingesting LSD to injecting speed within a few days, and makes a similar quick transition from her first use of marijuana to heroin, has also been deemed unrealistic. Reviewing the book again for The New York Times in 1998, Marc Oppenheimer called it “poorly written”, “laughably written”, and “incredible”, although some other writers have pointed to the material as being plausible or even appealing to young readers. More recent analyses have expressed ethical concerns with the initial presentation of fiction to young readers as a true story. Despite these criticisms, the book is frequently called a young adult classic.
Although school boards and committees reached varying conclusions about whether Go Ask Alice had literary value, educators generally viewed it as a strong cautionary warning against drug use. It was recommended to parents and assigned or distributed in some schools as an anti-drug teaching tool. However, some adults who read the book as teens or pre-teens have written that they paid little attention to the anti-drug message and instead related to the diarist’s thoughts and emotions, or vicariously experienced the thrills of her rebellious behavior. Reading the book for such vicarious experience has been suggested as a positive alternative to actually doing drugs. Go Ask Alice has also been used in curricula dealing with mood swings and death.