Spoilers ahead for Go Ask Alice.
Oh, Go Ask Alice. My personal opinion aside, you made for quite an interesting class discussion.
Class kicked off with the discussion of the stereotypical "problem novel." Influenced by the 60s and 70s counter-culture movement, the problem novel would take one novel and focus on just that as the point of the novel.
"Characters had problems, but the problems were not the characters... the problems become the character. The themes become the tail that wags the dog."
We talked about Sheila Egoff, some random professional person, and her thoughts on problem novels. According to Egoff, problem novels are strongly subject oriented with an interest in topics over the story-telling. The themes tend to be "adult-oreinted," like drugs, divorce, death and more.
Like we couldn't have figured that out.
But then we talked about why people read problem novels, and we couldn't really come to a conclusion.
"It's like a car accident... people have to take a look."
"It's a twisted form of escapism."
"[I'm] reminded of reality television..."
Then we finally tackled the matter of Go Ask Alice itself. (Did you know it was named after a line in "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane?)
We talked about how it uses cliches and their problems. Topics fluttered over briefly include:
- the melodrama
- "unsuspecting first time"
- aura of innocence while willingly engaging in drugs
- how easy it is for sterilization
But mostly, we talked about how it's not actually a true story. (I apologize in advance if that ruins the book for you.) It's written by two ladies, Beatrice Sparks and Linda Glovach, and it's clear that they're trying to create a moral lecture throughout the story. (Easy to figure out: don't do drugs.)
A lot of people agreed that the perception changes how we see the story. A perhaps too-innocent girl becomes an obviously moral tale; silly things that could have been ignored become poor writing. And most of all, it seems like Sparks and Glovach don't respect their audience.
And then we talked about whether or not Go Ask Alice had any literary merit because of it, and especially because of the perception change.
But I'll leave that to you to judge.
Question for the Comments:
Straight from the white-board in the front of the class.
Do you think Go Ask Alice has merit? And if so, what kind (literary, social, historical)? Why or why not?
Did you miss a class?: