Fiction as Self-Help – Go Ask Alice

In the early 1970s, when Go Ask Alice by Anonymous was published, I was 13 years old and heading into 7th grade.

Rod Stewart may have been singing Maggie May but I didn’t know of him yet (he would later become my favorite artist). I was listening to Bread‘s Make It With You.

I was an asthmatic, hyperactive, loud-mouthed, goofy, misunderstood girl who had learned that the world was not a safe place for people like me.

In the summer of 1971, I had a growth spurt and my 135 pounds, which had produced a chubby-me at 5-foot-whatever-I-was … became a slim-me at 5″6″ or so. Why do I mention my weight? Because, it had already become vitally important to me. And it will fit in later… be patient.

All the girls were reading Go Ask Alice. Maybe some of the boys, too. There were copies flittering around everywhere and for a while, it’s all my friends  were talking about it.

As-if torn from the pages of 15-year-old Alice’s diary, the story of her descent into drug-hell felt like something of a voyeuristic journey that none of us would ever take… though… it was very clearly a warning. We must be vigilant… or else.

Was it fiction? Was it real? Who knew? And who cared? It spoke to us. It spoke OF us … although, looking back, how could it? We were a bunch of mostly-white, middle-class families who had never been stained by divorce, teenaged pregnancy or illegal drug use. This made the book feel, at least to me… naughty. <<<Silly word to say in these days of everything-out-there (By the way, I think it’s better to be open, but I digress).

So, why am I talking about this book… that may be straight-up fiction? (I don’t think it’s ever been determined if there’s actually an “Alice” or if this is her diary.) I’m writing about it because… it touched my life. And when I saw it in my travels recently, I remembered it and picked it up.

So, here’s what I’d like to share about it… from my memory:

Alice was a normal teenager, full of angst and upset over normal teenager things like the boy she liked and moving to a new neighborhood and school. She got depressed. Very depressed. And anxious.

She gained weight.

Let me stop here, which is where I was headed, anyway. It’s been 45 years and I still remember this distinctly.

Then she got invited to a party and somehow ended up with LSD in a drink or something and got hooked. She went on a downhill spiral and got really skinny.

Ah, we’re back here again, are we? Yes, yes we are.

Then she had sex and it felt kinda good. She realized she had a drug problem or maybe her parents noticed (I don’t remember) but also, she was still skinny. Drugs make you skinny.

And no shit, kids… I wanted some of whatever she was taking.

All these years later… this is what I remember? Yeah. Also, don’t take drugs cause they’ll eff up your life.

Spoiler Alert: Also, you’ll die.

There were also maggots and decomposing bodies. <<< Just a head’s up.

I have LITERALLY NO IDEA why I chose to write about this today. Not kidding. Maybe I’m waxing nostalgic or something. Maybe someone needs to read this book? Is it you? I  know it’s not me. Or maybe it is. Maybe I’m supposed to remember that girl… not Alice… me… who wanted to do whatever necessary to get thin. I certainly carried that bit of garbage-thinking around with me for a few years (read: decades).

I never know what leads me to do what I do… but I just follow my gut.

So, I will end this post by saying: This book will break your heart in a million ways, if you let Alice in.

And that’s all I have to offer.



  1. I remember the book. It felt naughty to me too. I steered clear of drugs because my brother dabbled in some and I saw how it wrecked my daddy. I remember Maggie May. I remember Bread. I don’t remember wanting to lose weight because until my 30s I was extremely skinny.

    I needed to see this post today to confirm all my fears on how my overweight child must navigate her life. Being judged automatically before she even opens her mouth. I’ve said before when I’m being real. Fat and alive over skinny and dead any day.

    Liked by 1 person

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