go ask alice gets the boot for all the wrong reasons

I recently read that Go Ask Alice, the 1971 tale of drug experimentation gone horrifically awry, has once again been banned.  This time the ban was in the Berkeley County school district in South Carolina. It occurred, “After a parent complained about her 13-year-old daughter having to read explicit curse words and sexual language out loud in class.”

This is nothing new. Alice has been banned for similar reasons since its publication 37 years ago.

To be sure, Go Ask Alice is full of sex, drugs, cursing and all those other tantalizing tidbits that grabbed my attention when I first discovered it in sixth grade. But if there is any reason to ban Alice, it’s not because children can’t handle such a gritty slice of real life, but rather because the book is not about real life at all.

In the book, the narrator spirals out of control after getting slipped LSD.  Within days she has taken her first puff of marijuana, and almost overnight she is shooting, then selling, drugs and supporting her habit with prostitution. A graphic rape, psychosis and long suffering parents also feature heavily before the narrator dies of an overdose a few short months after the book begins.

Teachers who read Alice in their classes are often willing to overlook the rough edges because they feel that the anti-drug message outweighs the book’s explicitness. They are also often willing to overlook the book’s credibility.

In reality, Alice is not the diary of a troubled teen. It’s a partially or wholly made-up scare tactic, created by the woman listed as the book’s editor.

Yet many educators pass it off as fact and Alice is often listed by retailers as non-fiction. For example, Sundance Publishing, which provides a Go Ask Alice resource book for teachers, calls Alice, “A true and painful diary of a fifteen-year-old girl’s experiences with drugs that eventually lead to her death.”

Have you read Go Ask Alice in class? Did you know it wasn’t an authentic diary?  Do you think it matters whether it’s real or fake?

Posted in: Health, Sex & Relationships, The State of Sex Ed
  • Kitten

    It’s obviously fake. There are continuity errors and there’s a ton of controversy surronding the “editor” and her other literary works. It even says “This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.” on the publication page

  • luvli

    well i read crank and it is based on a true story ( actually a true 1 with changed names. ) the authors daughter did the same things.

  • Elle

    i read this book i absolutly loved it really opened my eyes because i thought my life was bad. it really tought me what drugs do to you and how i wanted to stop it why should it be banned it showes kids what drugs really do to you and i think the reasons kids do drugs is because they dont really understand the concequices (sp?) well i dont think this book should be banned because i thought it was an amazing story and it really opened my eyes 🙂

  • Porcelain_Cheese_Doo

    I saw that book in my school library. I was planing on reading it sometime closer to the end of the year when I don't have that many other things to read. I would probably classify it as a realistic fiction. I knew that the character couldn't be real, because if this really was the diary of an actual addict that was just found somewhere, then it would have been all over the news and stuff. BUT there are girls who get themselves into situations such as that, and most hardly survive. I'm really glad my school hasn't banned books like that. It sends a good message, even though it scary.

  • Sam

    I loved that book.
    Sometimes when parents shelter there child so much that the child tends to go all out and go crazy.

  • Brittany

    I've read the book a few times now,
    and i absolutly love it,
    it shows you the truth,
    once you have them there really is no life without drugs,
    and it shows that,
    it should never be banned.

  • ke-ke

    well i read that book wen i was 14 en i think if yur mature enuff then yu can read it…
    i think that book was really gud en that kids nowa days shud read it becuz there spennin outa control…
    im juss upset that is wasnt a real story…

  • Elinor

    I think lying about it's reality is not productive. Because once someone realises they've been lied to they stop trusting. Scare tactics are all very well, but personaly I think the REAL facts should speak for themselves.
    As for reading it aloud I've had to do worse, although I was 16 and the rest of the class 17+ so we were generaly more mature. I can understand not teaching it as a set book, but banning it completely is counter productive.
    One can learn from fiction, if fiction has it's facts right. But trying to pretend one is the other is insulting to the people you are trying to teach. Makes them feel (as some of the other posteres comment) like idiots for not realising it was fiction.