Banned Book Week: Go Ask Alice

Monday, September 22, 2014

It’s Banned Book Week!!! As I may have mentioned in the past, banned book week is a big deal to me.

As Heinrich Heine said, “Where they burn books, so too will they in the end burn human beings.” I know that banning a book isn’t the same as burning it, but it’s not far off. Anytime we decide to restrict what others are allowed to read, we are treading into dangerous territory. Reading gives people the opportunity to explore new worlds and ideas and forbidding that should never be an option.
So celebrate your freedom to read this week and check out this list of frequently banned and challenged books to see how many you’ve read.
This year, in honor of banned book week, I read “Go Ask Alice” a book that has been banned countless times since the 1970s. The reasons cited for banning include profanity, explicit references to runaways, drugs, sex, and rape.

Go Ask Alice
by Anonymous
This fake diary of a teenage girl explores her downfall by drug use. At the beginning we see a self-conscious girl who isn’t sure where to turn. By the end she’s tumbled beyond society’s ability to help her because of the bad influences by friends. This book rocked the literary world decades ago when teens everywhere thought they were reading an actual diary.
The book has an oddly childish tone and never sounded like a real teen to me. There are too many times when the girl says how wonderful her mother is or how sorry she is for her actions. In my experience, most teenage girls are a bit more critical of their mothers. It felt like something a mother would write to make her daughter scared of drugs.
It was hard for me to take seriously because it just felt so forced. I know that when it first came out people thought this was a real diary and if I’d read it at that time I’m sure I would have had a completely different reaction. But instead I went into it knowing that it was later revealed to be a work of fiction.
BOTTOM LINE: Not my cup of tea. I know a lot of teens struggle with drugs, but there are other books I’ve read that deal with that issue is a more convincing way.
“Sometimes I think we’re all trying to be shadows of each other, trying to buy the same records and everything even if we don’t like them.”
Image from here.


Bybee said...

I read it in middle or high school and it always felt a little bit off to me, too. I don't know if I'm remembering correctly, but she smokes one joint and suddenly she's a heroin addict.

Anonymous said...

I've never read this, but when I worked at a bookstore it was always a consistent seller. Still think i should read it someday, but i can also see your criticisms.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Bybee - Bahaha, that's about it.

52booksorbust - I'm definitely glad I read it. I'd heard about it for so many years I wanted to know what it was about.

Anonymous said...

We had to read this book in high school and I HATED it. It's so obviously a fake diary written by an adult for the purposes of scaring teens to not to ever ever do drugs or all the bad things in the world will happen. Ugh.

Ruth @ with freedom and books said...

I read this in junior high, and it scared the crap out of me. At the time, I had no idea it was fictional, but I think I learned that later on. I'd have to reread it to see how my reaction would differ.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

sarahsaysread - Glad I'm not alone. That's exactly how it read to me.

Ruth - I really think it would be a different read if you thought it was a real diary.

The Gilmore Guide to Books said...

I read this book in 1977 and it scared me to death. I was a sophomore in HS and am pretty sure I thought it was non-fiction at the time. I've not read it recently but would imagine it does not hold up well- kind of in the same way that I think Psycho just looks horribly fake and therefore not scary. The context of the times.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Catherine - Context of the times, that's exactly it!