Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Betrayed By Beatrice Sparks
When I was a young teen, I spent a lot of time at the library. One summer when I was 13, I signed up for the Teen Book Club at my local library and I read 43 books in less than 2 months. One of them was Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks. This book blew me away. It felt like I came across an antique gem, something that should be placed in a museum. I wondered why more people didn't know about this book, and while part of me wanted me to share it, I also wanted to keep it to myself. It seemed groundbreaking to me, because other than The Diary of Anne Frank, I did not know of any other published teenage diaries, and this one spoke to me.
If you haven't heard of Beatrice Sparks or her first novel Go Ask Alice, the concept is simple, Beatrice Sparks is a youth counselor who share the stories of her clients by publishing their anonymous diaries. Go Ask Alice was published in 1971, and is about a teenage girl who becomes addicted to drugs, and reveals how she is used in all of her sexual relations. Like the first three of Beatrice Sparks books, the diarists end up dead through the fault of others. I think what made the diaries seem so real to me, was also the fact that they appeared dated. Go Ask Alice was published in the 70's, so when the writer mentions using cans to curl her hair, moving to San Francisco to work at a jewelry boutique, and getting messed up with LSD and drugs, it fits the era of the 60's!
After Go Ask Alice, I came across a used copy of Jay's Journal. Again, it is a diary of a troubled teenage boy who gets involved in drugs, and cults. Beatrice Sparks is still only listed as the editor of the book, not the author. At the time I read these books, the internet barely existent and I didn't own a computer until 10 years later, so googling the authenticity of the books was a no-go. I doubt they would have had any articles about her in the library archives at the time, and if they did, I don't even know if they would reveal the fact that these books were not written by anonymous teens-that in fact, Beatrice Sparks was the author.
If you take a few moments to google Sparks now, you can find numerous articles about how she owns the copyright to the diaries, and because of conflicting views on the authenticity of her works, the publishers list them as Fiction, despite the fact that the covers depict her as the editor only and that they are written by anonymous dead teens. There has even been inquiries into Sparks Phd, and whether she even has one. The only fact that remains true, is that she was a Mormon youth counselor. Of course, as soon as I see 'Mormon,' I immediately think of religion, and right wing conservatism. Sigh.
I had only read three of Sparks so-called edited works as a young teen, all of them touched me in different ways. But the main point I want to get across now, is that I am totally perturbed that Sparks and the publishers are allowed to get away with such deceit! As a reader, it does make a difference in whether or not the work is fictional or not! And to deceive such a young audience just to get a point across is appalling. I am sure I am not the only one who felt like they had a connection with the diarists, and felt remorse at the loss of their lives. Their now FICTIONAL lives. It's not to say I would not have enjoyed the books knowing they were fictional, I am sure I still would have read them, but I would have felt differently about the works.
Shame on you! Stop the false advertising and be truthful to your young readers.