Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oh Beatrice, My Beatrice

Go Ask Alice (1998) by Anonymous, ed. Beatrice Sparks
Jay’s Journal (1989) by Anonymous, ed. Dr. Beatrice Sparks
Annie’s Baby, The Diary of Anonymous, A Pregnant Teenager (1998) ed. Dr. Beatrice Sparks
Finding Kate, The Diary of Anonymous, A Teenager in Foster Care (2005) ed. Dr. Beatrice Sparks
Weight: 1 lb
Method of Disposal: Donate? I question whether it is responsible to pass them on, but I also am tempted because I remember how much I loved reading them.

I admit it. I loved reading the Anonymous journals. There were not nearly enough of them. Oddly, I cannot find what use to be my favorite, IT HAPPENED TO NANCY—an “anonymous” journal about date rape and contracting AIDS. Not at all a scare tactic to get teens to avoid dating older boys, I’m sure. It is a book that is not subversive (or really all that helpful), but it came into my life through protest and civil disobedience. Strange, right? It was presented by a peer of mine in one of our dull, sex-ed, bullshit, health classes. The teacher looked like she was going into a state of panic as she shut the girl down. Her reaction is what made me seek it out. Rape was real despite the public school system’s denial of it.

From there, I read GO ASK ALICE. In some circles, this is now considered a classic. It was probably my third favorite and did not stick with me. I have laughed with many people about it since I first read it. It is pretty ridiculous that some schools consider it required or suggested reading, but I guess it is a good thing? At least, they are not trying to act like drugs don’t exist. Too bad it doesn’t really portray drug addiction accurately.

JAY’S JOURNAL was next, and I loved it. Poor Jay. Such a good kid, turned wicked and unruly by the dark forces of the occult. He lost his way while playing with Ouija boards and sacrificing animals. Not at all dramatic—just honest to God truth wrapped up in 192 pages of PURE HELL. I shouldn’t poke fun. Jay kills himself because he cannot escape the demons he summoned. Let this be a lesson unto the youth, Satanism could get you killed. Mix that with drugs, drinking, and pill-popping girlfriends and you don’t stand a chance.

ANNIE’S BABY bored me from the get go, and I really have very little to say about it. She is so young. Can she really raise a baby on her own?! Where are you, Juno?

FINDING KATE is the newer model of the anonymous journal. I saw it in a dumpster while working at a bookstore, and I could not resist it. Kate had been beaten so badly by her Daddy that she threw herself in front of a truck, went into foster care, and learned that she could help others. The ending is a much happier one than dying of AIDS, drug overdose, suicide, and realizing you need to give up your baby, but still just as trite.

I am slamming the theatrics of these books and the obscure “lessons” that get taught through them for good reasons, but there is a silver lining (I am being positive too!) in all of this. I was drawn to the books as an angsty pre-teen/teenager because of their darkness and their fabricated privacy. At the end of the books, there is usually a list of crisis-lines because, let’s face it, bad shit does happen to teenagers. They are not always surrounded by people who are willing to help them, and they have to find another way. So the books brainwash, but they also offer a line. Sort of. Let’s just hope that too many people have not internalized all the sexist, scary, absurd fear-tactics that could end up doing more damage than good. Ugh. Should I donate or recycle?!

Who is this Beatrice Sparks person? I always ask myself that when I get to thinking about these over-the-top young adult creations. A quick Wikipedia search tells me that she was born in 1918. She was a therapist and a Mormon youth counselor. It is unclear if she ever received a doctorate.
Sounds about right.

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