Since this book was based on an actual diary, I will treat it as if it were non-fiction. Non-fiction stories, in my opinion, are allowed to have scattered ideas because who’s to say what’s right and wrong?
I will, however, paraphrase what Sarah Silverman said in her autobiography, Bedwetter. Diaries are boring. When you’re accustomed to sentence structure, character development, and the works…diaries don’t fit. Mostly, because diaries are personal…not a work of literary art. And unlike a biography, you don’t need to edit yourself and rewrite aspects.
However, this book is considered great probably due to the topic. This book covers drugs, sexual abuse, LGBT, relationships…everything but racism really. There are even instances of prostitution and teenage pregnancy.
The short (semi-spoiler) version of the story: teenage girl accidentally discovers drugs, gets sucked into the hustling world, poverty, and the next hit. Quits. Returns to her family. Repeats a few times until she winds up in a mental hospital.
An exhausting story, really. Especially when you read it in a period of 2 days.
However, if you do not know anything about the cunning world of drugs, perhaps this book would be somewhat educational. Not in a sense of understanding why people go back into drugs…she never understood herself. More or less on, just, how euphoric it feels to go back after the drought.
Like I mentioned earlier, she repeated the cycle a few times. We get to see her mind in the eyes of her diary. She writes to her diary, her only real friend, on a somewhat common basis (or at least that is what was published). Usually whenever anything interesting happens. Each time she found herself taking drugs again, she was scared. She knew that drugs ruined her relationship with her family, and her security in school…but the feeling was superb. She really did try to stop. It would just somehow manage its way back into her life.
My take on our protagonist
Her name was never mentioned so I am referring to her as “protagonist.” Alice is actually a reference to Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland because…well…that doesn’t really need explanation if you know the story.
For some reason, probably because of TV, I imaged her having a high pitch voice. She kept repeating words like “fun! fun! fun!” The only times I hear that, in real life, comes from teachers trying to get kids excited about things.
For someone with her train of thoughts (I’ll quote some of her writings later), she was extremely emotionally immature and underdeveloped. Which given that she was a teenager, it is not surprising. The teenage years are hard to overcome, especially when everything is new and strong and uncontrolled. She needed a lot of attention, both physical and emotional, but because she couldn’t get that…she shut down. She wouldn’t express herself to anyone other than her trusted diary.
An example of her thoughts that proved her need for acceptance and lack of esteem can be found on pg 13, after being dropped off and kissed goodnight.
“I don’t know if he doesn’t like me or just respects me or what? I guess I just can’t be secure no matter what happens. I sometimes wish I were going with someone then I’d always know I had a date and I’d have someone I could really talk to, but my parents don’t believe in that, and besides, confidentially, no one has ever been that interested in me. Sometimes I think no one ever will be. I really do like boys a lot, sometimes I think I like them too much but I’m not very popular. I wish I were popular and beautiful and wealthy and talented. Wouldn’t it be nice to be like that?”
Those thoughts aren’t really red flags or anything, but, they are very low. Oh, I forgot to mention, at some points in her story, she seemed to be attracted to girls but dismissed it because she thought it was wrong for her to like girls. She never really experimented. That’s not the point though, I just remembered that because she said she likes boys a lot. Not once, did she talk about having any talent. She never spoke of hobbies. I don’t know if she just didn’t write them down, or if the editors didn’t think it would be important to have them published. She acknowledged everyone else’s greatness. She had a good moral compass.
Her mood switched from gratitude and excitement to confusion and frustration. But how does that differ from other teenagers? It didn’t. So then, what made her prone to drugs whereas others her age were able to hold strong? Nothing other than opportunity. She had a good family, according to what she wrote anyway. Her mother and father were together. Her younger siblings weren’t a complete terror. She just felt left out because she couldn’t make friends fast and the boy she loved didn’t like her back. In a moment of vulnerability, drugs were there. Well actually, her first and last time taking drugs, were accidents. She didn’t know what she was consuming was laced with hallucinogens.
I’m not saying that is how addiction works, that’s just how it happened in her story. She liked the feeling. She started looking forward to having “friends.”
In page 96, she said “After you’ve had it, there isn’t even life without drugs. It’s a plodding, colorless, dissonant bare existence. It stinks. And I’m glad I’m back. Glad! Glad! Glad!” If you haven’t heard already, each time you get back on it, it gets harder and harder to stop.
She had a drug-dealing boyfriend that got her into pushing drugs to her classmates and middle schoolers. At this part of the story, she tried to act real hard. It’s funny. When she’s repeated words, I see her as this innocent girl, but then she starts trying to talk the way druggies in TV sound and it just didn’t fit her persona. Which makes sense because drug dealing wasn’t her thing. She hated it. She moved to San Francisco to get away from it.
After San Francisco, her life stops being stable, even when she’s back home, living clean, with her parents. As I mentioned earlier, she didn’t go out looking for drugs again…it just happened. Or at least, that is how she wrote it. Until suddenly, she was in the hospital again because someone laced her food and she started tripping and banging her head open. “A psychotic episode” they diagnosed it.
In the end (SPOILER ALERT), she commits suicide three weeks after telling her diary that she is not going to start another one because she thinks she can hold it together now. Remember when I said the only person she expressed herself to was her diary? If her life was overwhelming enough with her diary, can you imagine the insurmountable demons she faced without it? I’m not suggesting that this is a good excuse to commit suicide. This book was published in the 70s. Which means, the story took place before then. Back then, from my understanding, they didn’t have the resources we have now. She probably didn’t know she had other options.
I wish she would have left a note. Something to let us know what her last thoughts were. But unfortunately, in reality, we don’t get to have that. It was her choice. Truly controversial book.
My Favorite Quotes
“The pill is harder to get than drugs–which shows you how screwed up this world really is!” I just thought that was funny.
“In the beginning, when they were telling me about their deep concern, I had the overwhelming desire to break down and tell them everything. I wanted to tell them! I wanted more than anything in the world to know that they understood, but naturally they just kept on talking and talking because they are incapable of really understanding anything. If only parents would listen! If only they would let us talk instead of forever and eternally and continuously harping and preaching and nagging and correcting and yacking, yacking, yacking! But they won’t listen! They simply won’t or can’t or don’t want to listen, and we kids keep winding up back in the same old frustrating, lost, lonely corner with no one to relate to either verbally or physically.” In the defense of parents, I find that a lot of people do this regardless. More people want to talk than listen. I know I’ve run into that situation where I forgot to listen. Or I am trying to talk about something extremely vulnerable but the other person keeps bringing the focus on him/her. It’s annoying, especially when you’ve been holding it in for so long and you thought this was a form of release. Or….this could have just been her excuse to not open up. Because I’ve guilty of that too.
“When I look around here at all the ass draggers, I really think that we are a bunch of gutless wonders. We get pissed off when someone tells us what to do, but we don’t know what to do unless some fat bastard tells us. Let someone else think for us and do for us and act for us.” That was an interesting insight. You hear that when someone is zoned out, they don’t care about what is going on around there. But here, clearly, our protagonist cared about what she was identifying with. And yet, she was admitting to the helpless pattern of the addict.
“I have just read the stuff I wrote in the last few weeks and I am being drowned in my own tears, suffocated, submerged, inundated, overpowered. They are a lie! A bitter, evil cursed lie! I could never have written things like that! I could never have done things like that! It was another person, someone else! It must have been! It had to be! Someone evil and foul and degenerate wrote in my book, took over my life. Yes, they did, they did! But even as I write I know I am telling even a bigger lie! Or am I? Has my mind been damaged? Was it really just a nightmare and it seems real? I think I’ve mixed up things which are true and things which are not. All of it couldn’t be true. I must be insane.” I am always amused by identity crises. This is no different. Not being able to tell who is the real you and the fake you. Is the druggie the true you, or is the clean one who wants to give up you? Are you really as happy as you think you are? Or are you pretending out of fear? It’s interesting to think. It’s horrible if you are that person…but…interesting, nevertheless. The brain is extremely fragile.
“Maybe I’m schizo. That often starts in teenagers when they lose contact with reality, doesn’t it? Whatever it is, I’m really screwed up. I can’t even control my mind. The words I wrote when I was out are just squirming little lines and roads with a lot of rotten crap and symbols in between. Oh, what am I going to do? I need someone to talk to. I really and truly and desperately do. Oh God, please help me. I’m so scared and so cold and so alone. I have only you, Diary. You and me, what a pair.” I like this quote because it’s raw. It’s honest. It’s….the illusion of rock bottom. But we always persevere. She was having a panic attack, and your first one is always hard to identify. I’ve struggled with panic attacks, and I still have trouble identifying them in the moment. But it’s extremely gruesome. You feel susceptible to your nonsensical notions that in a different life, would have seen silly and easily overruled.
“It’s terrible not to have a friend. I’m so lonely and so alone. I think it’s worse on weekends than during the week, but I don’t know. It’s pretty bad all the time.” This is a recurring movie on the cinema of her thoughts. I’ve known how that has felt before. That’s not something that’s easy to admit out loud…or in general.
“It’s strange how much sex I’ve had and yet I don’t feel as though I’ve had any. I still want somebody to be nice and just kiss me goodnight at the door.” See, it’s not quantity but quality. But also, drugs rob you of the moment. She was usually high whenever she was having sex. Although she said it felt amazing, she didn’t think it felt real.
“I looked at the sky this morning and realized that summer is almost gone which really made me sad because it doesn’t seem as though it’s been here at all. Oh, I don’t want it to be over. I don’t want to get old. I have this very silly fear, dear friend, that one day I’ll be old, without having really been young. I wonder if it could happen that quickly or if I’ve ruined my life already. Do you think life can get by you without you even seeing it?” The only worse than dying is not living.
Time for the last quote…I know I’m sad about that too.
“Anyway, this morning I was reading an article on identity and responsibility, and it said that kids who aren’t allowed to make any decisions for themselves never grow up, and kids who have to make all the decisions before they’re ready never grow either.” This quote doesn’t really need any explanation, just a simple digestion of information. Do you fall into a certain category? I know I do. Being a parent must be hard.
That’s my take on this book. I did not read the excerpt of Jay’s Journal because…there’s only so much drama a person can take. What were your thoughts?