For teens of the 1970s, a cautionary tale of drug use and its effects was published by an anonymous author – Go Ask Alice.
Published in 1971 by Prentice Hall, the book was initially published as non-fiction with the author listed as anonymous.
The diary was about the young life of a teen girl and at age 15 starts recording her opinions and views on her life and what’s affecting her: boy crushes, weight, sex, friends and her parents.
She moves to a new town when her Dad takes a new job and becomes friends with Beth, but she soon leaves for summer camp, while the diarist is sent back to her hometown. She becomes friends with Jill and then Chris, she starts to party too much, take drugs, gets into bad situations and becomes a runaway.
She flees with Chris to San Francisco, where they try to stay away from bad people and drugs, but miss their families. Returning at Christmas they’re happy to be home, but feel the pressure of former friends and relapse into the drug scene.
The diarist tries to avoid drugs, but gets sucked in again and is then sent to an asylum to get sober and is given a new chance when her family moves her to a new town.
This cautionary tale was a sensation when published due to its frank opinions, profanity, details about drug use and its negative effects and a focus on drugs, sexuality, violence and runaways.
The book was banned in several school libraries in Texas, Minnesota, Michigan, New Jersey while in New York, Utah and Florida, libraries wanted adult permission granted before allowing a student to take out the book.
Although listed as a non-fiction and authored by Anonymous, the book was soon attributed to Beatrice Sparks, a psychologist. There have been several challenges of the book – and is now listed as fiction.
Sparks claimed to have created the book from a patient’s diary, and continued to publish more diaries, including Jay’s Journal, Treacherous Love: The Diary of a Anonymous Teenager and Almost Lost: The True Story of an Anonymous Teenager’s Life on the Streets.
Several articles were written contesting the validity and reality of all her books. In 1973, an ABC Movie of the Week was made, based on the book.
Yet this book became a bestseller and hot commodity among teen girls – since it so plainly showed the consequences of drugs and drug culture in the 1970s.