Helplessly fascinated, he plunged into a world of Ouija boards and witchcraft, animal sacrifices and Satanism… into a black abyss from which there seemed no escape.
Man, some days you just hit the jackpot when it comes to the Teen Scare Genre.
Background: This is the sophomore outing from Mormon youth counselor Beatrice Sparks, who “discovered” and published the “diary” of the “anonymous teenager” as Go Ask Alice in 1971.
All of those scare-quotes are warranted, as in the ensuing years Sparks “discovered” “anonymous diaries” of “troubled teenagers” with alarming regularity, going on to publish It Happened to Nancy (HIV), Annie’s Baby (teenage pregnancy) and Almost Lost (gangs) among others, right up until her death in 2012. None quite hit the sweet spot of Alice, which still strikes fear into the hearts of teenagers contemplating a life of heroin addiction.
The Plot: Nominally, Jay’s story is supposed to scare readers off of occult activities, but Sparks casts a wide net, warning teenagers about the dangers of drugs, sexually aggressive high school girls, predatory homosexuals, Ouija boards, ESP, telekinesis, crystal balls, cattle mutilation, Transcendental Meditation, Voodoo, Cosmic Alertness, Astral Projection, yoga and the lost continent of Atlantis.
I am sad that chemtrails weren’t A Thing in 1979, because I could have completed my bingo card.
14 year old Jay is an upstanding Mormon teenager in the town of Pleasant Grove, Utah: church-going, Boy-scouting, he loves America, his parents, his younger brothers, and going on not-at-all-homoerotic camping trips with his “more than friends, buddies, brothers” Dell and Brad:
When we were in Boy Scouts, the patrol we organized was called ‘The Boner Boys Patrol,’ referring to an erection, of course. This may sound perverted but we were indeed quite horny.
Jay’s troubles start when he learns that he has an IQ of 149 and his father rewards him with a part-time job at the family’s drug store. This attracts the attention of Debbie, the foxiest girl at school, and known pill-popper. Pretty soon Jay is stealing uppers and downers from the pharmacy, emptying the capsules and replacing the drugs with powdered sugar. He has a crisis of conscience when his aunt, a terminal cancer patient, has her prescription filled and gets a batch of the dummied-up pills, but Debbie threatens to leave him if he won’t keep her supplied.
One morning Jay’s father comes into the store early and catches him with his hand in the apothecary jar, and Jay gets sent to a fancy reform school.
Now, we’re only up to page 30, so you might be thinking that Jay’s Journal blows its load early (so to speak) but things get progressively more bizarre with every page.
In reform school, Jay is taken under the wing of Pete, the history teacher, who includes him in secret midnight meetings where they rap about all kind of new-fangled ideas:
This sound crazy weird but I’m still so curious to know more I just about wet my pants thinking about when we’ll have a chance to talk again. Pete’s into Astara and all forms of the occult. It’s so far out it shatters my wavelengths. He talks so easily about intuition, meditation, ESP, auras, life after death, the oversoul, how much karma a person must erase before they are liberated, how they can better influence the world in the new age, how they can recognize their soulmate, mysticism, esoteric science, hidden teachings of the ancients… Man, right now in my lost cluttered life I really need something like that.
Pretty soon Pete has Jay levitating coins all over the place, convinced that “My psychic self is a slumbering cosmic power!” At this point Jay’s parents spring him from reform school, and he must struggle mightily with his newfound Cosmic Realization and the simple joys of the deliciousness of his mother’s homemade bread that he mentions on literally every page.
But Pete won’t leave him alone, first calling him and making a pen levitate over the phone, then sending a couple of “missionaries” to talk to him. Pete urges him to bring Brad and Dell into the fold:
He said that he could feel good vibes from their pictures. Pete told me to be sure not to bring in the witchcraft part until after they’d been in a few weeks at least.
But then Jay gets word from one of his reform-school classmates that Pete is “a fruit” that ran off after raping one of the students in his charge. Jay swears off Cosmic Consciousness and starts dating Barry, a nice girl who doesn’t “go all the way”:
I know that part of the feeling of security and peace that I have around her is that I know where she stands. ‘No handseys!’
Jay also looks forward to vacationing with Dell and his family in Las Vegas, where his father is working as a contractor for the summer. But in between endless games of shirtless basketball, Jay learns a shocking secret about his old friend:
Can you believe that Dell is into the occult here? Man, that was the biggest blow to my head in the world. I didn’t know that O was underground in most schools.
Pretty soon Jay is joining Dell at highly organized “O” meetings, where a Ouija board knows that Barry has been pressuring Jay to become a Presbyterian (!!!)
Dell’s Dayan is unbelievable.
As I was trying to rationalize myself out of the maze the pain became so great that I felt myself go limp, my head fell to my shoulder. It was over. When I awoke Dell and eleven others were anointing my body with oil and chanting together over me.
John says he’s from Atlantis.
At the end of the summer, Jay returns to his upstanding family, and vows to go straight as high school begins. He has some success as a narc, but things have changed on the girl front:
Barry got big as a cow during the summer and her face erupted out in pimples like volcanos. In a way the fat makes her look somewhat like her mongoloid sister.
But things change when he meets Tina, a confident, ambitious freshman running for class president. But then:
I can’t believe this! Tina’s into O too!
Pretty soon he’s sucked back in:
Tina and I sat on the floor with a candle between us. In a very low, muted voice she told me how, in the dark evening hills of Haiti, the drums begin to throb in the warm night air and Houngan priests conducted sacred secret ceremonies requesting favors from Ibo, Damballah and other gods.
In no time Tina has him taking PCP and going to midnight orgies:
I could feel the whole group throwing power at me, and a strange burning incense filled my nostrils, my throat and my chest. Detached from my own self, somewhat surprised, I found myself undressing and joining the circle.
‘Angel dust!’ It should be called Devil Dust!
But things go south between Jay and Tina when he doesn’t voo-doo hard enough on her behalf.
Tina won runner-up in the Miss Apple Hill contest. She said the Ouija board and the crystal ball both had said she would be queen and that only my negativeness made her slip down to princess.
They break up and she curses him with crabs!
Jay takes her back in a weak moment, after he confides in a favorite aunt that he’s in over his head with this O stuff and she blabs it to his entire family and gets him grounded. Jay and Tina get married in a graveyard at midnight with two covens of 13 in attendance:
We went through the ritual of eternal slavery to each other although, I the male, would always technically be the master.
Don’t abandon traditional gender roles just because you’ve pledged your soul to Satan!
There is another orgy, this time with implied bestiality. There is a Black Mass. The Boner Patrol steals a car and drives to Canada to mutilate cattle and bring back gallon jars of blood that they all bathe in. Brad and Dell make a Monkey’s Paw-like deal with the devil for fame and riches and then are each mysteriously killed in car accidents a week apart. Jay is stalked by a demon named Raul and his parents just can’t get the smell of brimstone out of his room.
And Sparks plays all of this totally straight. Jay was a REAL TEEN who TOTALLY LEVITATED COINS ALL DAY LONG and then TOTALLY COULD NOT GET RAUL THE DEMON WHO WAS A TERRIBLE ROOMATE TO MOVE OUT.
The only thing that kills the fun of reading this one is the fact that this is the only one of Sparks’s “anonymous teens” that actually has a real person behind it.
After the success of Go Ask Alice, Marcella Barrett approached Sparks with her son Alden’s diary, hoping to publish it as a cautionary tale about teenage depression and suicide; unsurprisingly, the Barretts were pretty pissed off when the final product was almost wholly fictionalized to serve Sparks’s crazed Satanic Panic agenda.
Sign It Was Written in 1979 Department: “Mrs. Stewart put Debbie Dale next to me in English. I can’t believe how beautiful she is! She’s prettier than Charlie’s Angels or anybody.”