Study Guide

Go Ask Alice

By Anonymous, edited by Beatrice Sparks

Go Ask Alice Introduction

Pop quiz time, Shmoopers. You ready for this? Okay: How hard was it to get LSD in the 1970s?

Not sure?

Then you'd best get your hands on a copy of Go Ask Alice. Spoiler alert: The answer is very easy.

Published in 1971 as a response to hippies and their freewheeling ways, Beatrice Sparks and a number of shadowy figures "edited" together this diary to convey the message that drugs are bad. Scratch that—drugs are the worst. This is the anti-drug morality tale to end all anti-drug morality tales, and Sparks and her minions wrote it in hopes of reaching those who were drawn toward bell-bottoms, vests with fringe, and hallucinogens—all equally perilous, from where they were sitting.

Go Ask Alice introduces an anonymous diarist (whom readers generally refer to as "Alice" because of the title) whose life is ruined after she innocently falls into a cycle of drugs, prostitution, and homelessness. What can we say? It's a slippery slope. Alice just doesn't stand a chance.

You know what else is a slippery slope? The truth in this book. Because despite being put forth as the true diary of a teen gone horribly wrong, Alice actually isn't real, and neither is her diary. Nope, Sparks and her editorial team totally made this book up. Oops.

But even though everyone and their mom knows this, people keep picking Go Ask Alice up. There's just something about this teen's sad and melodramatic descent into the seedy underbelly of the drug world that people can't seem to resist. So grab a copy and get reading—everyone else is doing it, after all.

What is Go Ask Alice About and Why Should I Care?

In this day and age when Internet hoaxes bombard you from every angle and the Discovery Channel (of all places) passes off documentaries on mermaids as real, it's crucial to be able to critically interpret the source from which "true stories" originate. It's getting harder and harder to be able to ascertain whether something really is a true story, or if it's just a tagline someone came up with as click bait.

Go Ask Alice is a shining example of people passing something off as a true when, in reality, it's just as carefully constructed as any other novel. It even started a trend of teen morality novels, which became a whole sub-genre of YA lit. (Curious about how Sparks pawned this off on America as true? Click here and here to dig deeper.)

But, you ask, if Go Ask Alice is a fake diary with a thinly veiled agenda, why read it? To hone your truthiness detectors, Shmoopers. We live in an era where pretty much anyone can write anything and claim it's true, so by sorting through Alice's story, your lie-detecting chops will only get stronger. And, of course, reading this learning guide will help, too (if we do say so ourselves—and we do). Sparks may have tried to pull a fast one on readers, but by reading her book, we will be better able to discern fact from fiction when we inevitably encounter it next.

Go Ask Alice Resources

Websites

Not Alice
Beatrice Sparks doesn't have a website, but one person has built an entire website about the book anyway, so click on through for all things Alice.

Movie or TV Productions

Go Ask Alice
Guys, they made an after-school-special movie that is totally faithful to the book… and it has a young William Shatner.

Articles and Interviews

"Just Say Uh-Oh"
This guy just sounds like a really disgruntled, under-published author, but he still has some really good points.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
Or, an in-depth exploration of Beatrice Sparks's work.

Video

Have an Hour to Spare?
You can watch the entire made-for-TV movie here.

Audio

"White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane
Here's the trippy song that Sparks got her title from.

Images

Alice, Alice, Alice
This illustration has Alice from Through the Looking Glass, with lyrics from Jefferson Airplane, in reference to Go Ask Alice. Cool.

If Gullible were written on the ceiling…
… then you'd make a movie-of-the-week about a fake diary.