The Controversial Legacy of Go Ask Alice

What is the legacy behind Go Ask Alice?

I went to meet one of my friends the other day for coffee down at Fourbarrel (on Valencia). After I ordered a lovely 12 oz. Guatemalan pour over (it really is as good as everyone says), I took a seat across from Liv. She barely noticed me, staring intently at a book and silently holding up an index finger as if to tell me, “one minute while I finish the page.”

Intrigued at her concentration (she’s hardly a reader), I took a glance at the title.

Go Ask Alice by “Anonymous.”

Go Ask Alice. Why was that title familiar? I nodded as the words brought back memories of listening to Jefferson Airplane records with my dad. I read somewhere that Grace Slick had actually been to Duffy’s in the seventies (it’s interesting how your brain makes all these connections in a split second).

I asked my friend if she was reading a biography on Grace Slick. After a few more seconds, she said no, and actually put the book down and looked at me. “It’s pretty fascinating,” she said. “Diary of a fifteen year-old girl who’s addicted to drugs.”

That intrigued me. I chatted with Liv for a little while, but she had to grab the bus for work. I asked her if I could borrow the book. “Sure,” she said. “Just get it back to me tonight or I’ll be pissed.”

And so the next two hours passed, and I was just as lost in the book as Liv was when I met her. I really connected with the little girl spilling her heart out on the pages.

“I wish I had someone I could talk to,” she kept saying. It was hard to watch the narrator go from taking LSD for the first time unaware, to falling into addiction, coming clean, battling to stay sober and falling back into addiction again.

Break my heart, already.

It’s the first time since Gatsby that I’ve read another book from cover to cover. And that fast. I read the heartbreaking ending and took a breath.

But the next thing I did negated the entire read. I looked at the copyright page.


Boy, do I feel like a dummy.

You ever been played? A book shouldn’t make you feel like you’ve been played.

I fell—hook, line, and sinker for the “Names, dates, and certain events have been changed” bit at the beginning of the story and completely missed the “This is a Work of Fiction” disclaimer on the copyright/legal notices page.

Now, I have no problem with compiling stories and creating composite characters based on real life events. But this book is . . .

Pretty sneaky.

So, is this book fiction or reality? A quick internet search reveals that the “diary” was written by its “editor,” Beatrice Sparks. In fact, she has authored eight “anonymous” diaries. Alice was her first.

I know that complete works of fiction have used the “based on a true story” device/conceit before, but when I’m watching a movie like Fargo or the Blair Witch Project I can feel that they aren’t real. It’s a movie. Go Ask Alice’s approach seemed a bit more sinister to me.

Now that I have put a little space between my initial anger at being fooled, I think there’s a better question to ask than whether this story actually happened:

Do books like Go Ask Alice help or hinder addiction education and recovery?

Which leads me, I guess, to another question: Does this book proclaim truth about what it is like to be addicted to a substance?

I think most people would agree that the unspeakable depths that addiction can take you mirror the experiences of the unnamed girl in the story. Addiction certainly can lead you to skid row.

But addiction doesn’t often appear in such insidious packaging. It’s not all bad trips, pimps and prostitutes. Addiction usually is craftier than that.

We don’t realize the disease has us in its grips precisely because it doesn’t send everyone to the streets. In our disease, we fail to see that we rely on our addiction for escape, acceptance, courage and about a million other things.

Rather than bringing us to what appears to be the very lowest, it tricks us into believing that our lives can’t be great without it.

Addiction also deceives us into believing that it can’t eventually take us to the streets.

To those outside of addiction, Go Ask Alice shows that addiction isn’t a nameless thing. It’s something that attacks people. The book just might help normies realize that this is a disease and that we can’t just stop.


I spent a little time checking out the discussion on forums about the book. Some people didn’t mind that the narrator wasn’t a real person. On one forum, a recovering addict said, “Don’t mind that it was a hoax. It was an excellent read though, especially since I felt just like her. I was trying new drugs and felt lost. This book helped me feel not as alone, I felt the girls(sic) pain.”

Interestingly enough, a lot of people on the same forum said the book actually made them want to try LSD if it happened to be as awesome as the narrator described it.

On another forum, a family member of an addict says, “Basically whether you believe this is fiction or not that should not matter. If you believe this story is too far fetched to be true, then I must say that you are absolutely wrong, because my (recovering) drug addicted sister is “Alice,” I am the innocent “Alex,” and our family is the one that will always love her and always take her back. Stories like this absolutely exist in real life. My sister even started using at the same age as “Alice” so stuff like this does happen, even to good people.”

So, what are your thoughts about this book (and others like it)? Was learning that Alice wasn’t real like finding out that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny don’t exist? Does the book help the cause of recovery or is it just a piece of anti-drug propaganda?