In Go Ask Alice, Alice is one of those people who just aren't happy no matter what's going on. When she's with her parents, she's bored and sick of being "square." When she's high as a kite and living off love with the other hippies, she's disgusted by their lack of initiative and how worthless they all are. When she's on drugs, she is busy swearing them off, and when she's clean, she's bored and wishing she were high. This girl seriously can't get no satisfaction. (Ugh, did you cringe reading that? We cringed writing it, that's for sure.)
Alice is perpetually unhappy with her lot in life, and nothing she does will ever be able to satisfy her.
Alice's dissatisfaction is just yet another convenient "symptom" of drug abusers that the authors needed to inject into their propaganda machine.
Since Go Ask Alice is thinly veiled anti-drug propaganda, it kind of goes without saying that drugs and alcohol play a pretty huge role in our tale. Alice's journey into the substance-abusing hippie culture of the early 1970s—she tries everything from pot to LSD to heroin—is a harrowing tale of the cycle of addiction, and the authors pull out all the stops to show us that drugs are bad—very, very bad.
We get to follow along on Alice's journey as she goes from loving her hallucinations and lack of inhibition to descending into the land of sexual assault, homelessness, and eventually death from overdose. Fun.
This story wouldn't work if it were set in the present day because, quite simply, drug culture is too different today.
Alice's introduction to drugs had to be via innocent means—i.e., the spiked soda—in order for her to be a sympathetic character. If she'd just been at a party and casually chosen to try LSD, her story would have a different flavor.
Go Ask Alice is supposed to be a diary, so there's quite a bit of anguished soul-searching and self-indulgent whining. There's no getting around the fact that Alice has almost non-existent self-esteem, so her sense of identity is determined by the people she surrounds herself with. Unfortunately, this includes some pretty unsavory characters. For the most part, however, she doesn't feel like she fits in anywhere. Part of her search for herself is what leads her down the road to Drugsville, which causes her to be even more lost than ever. Oops.
Alice's inability to form a sense of identity is normal, but linked with her lack of confidence, it is the main reason she turns to drugs.
Instead of trying to figure out who she is, Alice hides from the hard work of figuring herself out, which leaves her pretty freaking stuck, developmentally.
One of the key ways that Alice is able to pull off all of her shenanigans in Go Ask Alice is a healthy dose of self-deception and denial. The whole time she is doing drugs, dealing drugs, and having sex for drugs, she knows deep down that it's a really bad thing. And yet, she has to somehow convince herself that it's okay—otherwise the self-loathing would threaten to overwhelm everything else.
Some of the ease with which she does this can be blamed on her naïveté (the poor child just isn't all that tuned into the ways of the world), but the rest is a necessary evil. If she can't justify her behaviors to herself, her whole fantasy would collapse, so self-deception becomes like second nature.
And we can't forget why this book was written. The authors know that a large part of the cycle of drug abuse is an addict's ability to delude themselves into believing their behavior is acceptable, or conversely, that they'll never do it again. We know better, though.
Alice's stint as a drug dealer at the middle school is only possible as a result of her convincing herself that the kids would get the drugs with or without her.
Alice is easily manipulated, and her mental acrobatics surrounding her job as a drug dealer are more Richie's fault than hers.
Remember: The whole point of Go Ask Alice is to teach kids that drugs are bad, and the authors wanted to cover all the bases. If you keep that in mind, Alice's reliance upon religious tropes whenever she starts to come down off a drug binge is slightly less cloying. There's nothing wrong with turning to your faith when things seem to be falling apart—that's what religion is for, right? But we can't help feeling like Alice uses religion as another drug, to offer easy comfort and soothing platitudes so she can avoid reality (and responsibility for her actions) just a little while longer.
Alice's tendency to turn to religion after a drug binge is a result of her upbringing, an ingrained response to crisis.
Alice's religious dependency is actually just another tool the authors use to show the difference between good kids (i.e., clean, sober, church-going) and bad kids (i.e., drug-addicted hippies).
Even though Alice sees her family as part of her problem in Go Ask Alice, the deaths of her Gran and Gramps really trigger a response in her. Before they die, her diary entries are punctuated with casual remarks about wishing she were dead, or wanting to escape it all—but once they die, and she becomes obsessed with rotting corpses and worms and maggots and all the macabre aspects of decay. This preoccupation becomes especially significant when her inability to cope with that imagery becomes all too real during her catastrophic poisoning with LSD.
All of Alice's I wish I were dead statements are merely adolescent posturing and the idealization of an ultimate escape/easy way out.
Alice is actually suicidal as a result of the depression she suffers at the beginning of the diary.
When it comes to Alice in Go Ask Alice, sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between her innocence and her immaturity because they're so intertwined. She's possibly one of the most sheltered, naïve, blindly gullible teenagers to ever exist—either that, or she's really good at fooling herself into that state, because man, she thinks gullible is written on the ceiling.
This state of innocence (and loss thereof) plays a huge role in the young adult cautionary tale genre because it's essential for the character to remain sympathetic. Watching someone's decline into sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll is only interesting if they're somewhat unable to take responsibility for their bad decisions. Otherwise, they're just kind of loathsome.
Alice's innocence is an integral part of the story because it is her loss of innocence that makes the story compelling.
If Alice had died before she regained her "victim" status, her death wouldn't be nearly as tragic.
Alice has many problems in Go Ask Alice, but some of them have to do with her unrealistic plans and eternal optimism that verges on delusional. A lot of this stems from her immaturity and lack of experience—she just doesn't know how hard life really can be. Her naïveté gets in the way of reality whenever she crafts plans for the future, and it also helps her avoid confronting her problems with addiction since she clings to the idea of a clean-slate beginning. So even if she didn't die, her hopes for the future would be shaky at best.
Alice's dreams are damaging because they set unachievable goals, so she's always setting herself up for disappointment.
Alice's eternal optimism about the future contributes greatly toward her cycle of addiction—she thinks she'll always have another shot.
No coming-of-age tale would be complete without a type of sexual awakening, and Go Ask Alice is no exception. Alice's sexuality evolves alongside her exploration of drugs and hippie culture, so we get to see her wide-eyed, innocent take on sex and love morph into casual prostitution, and then come back full circle to a kind of born-again virginity when she realizes she's never done the no-pants dance without the aid of some kind of drug. It's just what you'd expect from Alice as she tries to figure out who she wants to be in the world.
Alice's sexuality and her drug addiction are inextricably linked, because she's never had sex without being under the influence.
Alice's insecurity and low self-esteem have as much to do with her sexuality as her drug abuse.
In Go Ask Alice, Alice's isolation stems from an inherent inability to communicate. She can't talk to her parents because she feels like they don't understand where she's coming from, and she refuses to talk to her friends about stuff that's bugging her because she fears judgment or social retribution. The sad thing is, though, that if she ever mustered up the courage to really talk to someone, she probably wouldn't feel so alone.
Alice's isolation serves as yet another factor that leads to her drug abuse. It makes her all the more desperate, so when people drug her without her consent, she's just thankful to feel like she's finally part of something. Yikes.
Alice feels isolated because of her own behavior.
Alice feels isolated due to factors that are out of her control.