Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Hey, Man! Groovy!

Who knows how the mind works, but this past weekend I suddenly remembered that funky movie Go Ask Alice. Reading a Wiki summary of the story it is impossible to believe the impact this movie/book once had. Its message scared me to death.

In the early 70s I was in middle school—a time fraught with great unhappiness. It wasn’t hard to imagine the main character’s insecurity, fear of failing, having to navigate the troubled waters of friendship.

Looking back now, Go Ask Alice is laughable, full of about every fear-mongering cliché one can think of concerning drugs, the bad guys who do drugs, and how easily one is sucked down, held in the vise-like grip of addiction. It was seemingly written as an object lesson.

The diary format gave the book an authority it didn’t deserve. It seemed so real. Of course I didn’t know any better.

Almost immediately the book’s authenticity was questioned. It was written by Anonymous. Now it tops the list of faked memoirs.

The “author” was a Mormon youth counselor with an agenda to make sure America’s teens stayed away from drugs—and ironing their hair and all the hippie fashion that went with that lifestyle. Even her claims of authorship have been disputed. Her bio or purported PhD has also been called into question. Who’s surprised?

I actually have enjoyed many novels written in diary form. Joan Blos won a Newbery Award in 1980 for A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl’s Journal 1830 -1832. It is the fictious story of a young girl growing up in New Hampshire who despite loss displays courage and an indomitable spirit. The entries read real and made me feel as if I were there. I had this same method in mind when I wrote the first draft of what was to be my YA novel Beyond Paradise, but a diary kept through 4 long years of war—though it lent immediacy to the history—was clunky and cumbersome, hard for the reader to keep with what themes were important and what was simply news about the war. I gave it up and sent it through the re-write machine with the help of my editor Rosemary Brosnan at Morrow Junior Books. Thanks so much!

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