Drug abuse is one of the complex problems that continues to affect many young adults that are struggling with personal issues in their lives. Many of the novels we covered this semester were focused on teenagers using drugs or finding that drugs may help them overcome the problems they are fraught with on a daily. Two of the novels, Smack and Go Ask Alice were targeted towards drug addiction, running away, and self-destruction.
Smack and Go Ask Alice are two similar novels with the characters losing their way and becoming addicted to drugs. Smack tended to be more detailed with what the symptoms felt like when withdrawing from drugs and Go Ask Alice was representing what being on drugs was like. In both novels, the characters are only around fifteen or sixteen years old, but they are getting themselves into hard drugs such as heroin, LSD, marijuana, and many other different types of drugs. It is hard to believe that they would be getting into drugs that are so dangerous at such a young age. The two main characters were both dealing with troubled parents, who eventually pushed them to run away. In Smack, Tar is being abused by his alcoholic father and Alice is forced to move to a new school after her father landed a new job. Both of these characters eventually get mixed in with the wrong group of friends, and then get introduced to a new world of escapism: drugs.
Being a teenager in a world full of personal and family issues can push someone to try something that the rest of their peers are doing. It can send someone into a downward spiral of self-destruction and drug addiction and in the end, someone can either recover or continue to live the same lifestyle. Are drugs really the best way to escape from all the problems in the world? According to one of the diary entries from Go Ask Alice, “It’s a wonderful way to escape. I think I can’t stand it and then I just take a pill and wait for sweet nothingness to take over. At this stage of my life nothingness is a lot better than somethingness,” (Anonymous 48). Both novels had similar endings with the characters not being able to recover from their addiction. In Go Ask Alice, the reader probably thought she was going to make a full recovery because it seemed like it was going to be a happy ending, only to find out in the epilogue that she died three weeks later of a drug overdose.
“Was it an accidental overdose? A premeditated overdoes? No one knows, and in some ways that question isn’t important. What must be of concern is that she died, and that she was only one of thousands of drug deaths that year,” (Anonymous, Epilogue).
With that being the ending, it was so unexpected that it just felt like the whole story was over in a matter of seconds, and nothing else mattered except that drugs can kill you if you are not careful. It also felt like she wanted help but did not know how to ask for it. In one of the diary entries that jumped out at me during the reading, she’s connecting the rain drops to tears from Heaven.
“A raindrop just splashed on my forehead and it was like a tear from Heaven. Are the clouds and the skies really weeping over me? Am I really alone in the whole wide gray world? Is it possible that God is crying for me? Oh no… no… no. I’m losing my mind. Please God, help me,” (Anonymous, 114).
She obviously knows that she has a problem, but she is using the raindrops in this instance to connect her to God, and that she so desperately needs help. It is strange to think that she met a group of friends who introduced to her drugs, and she still ended up feeling alone, no matter how high she got off a drug.
Smack, on the other hand, dealt with a lot more authentic issues than I thought were in Go Ask Alice. The details of the novel were not dug into as much as they were in Go Ask Alice, and I think that is what made it easier to read and understand what Tar and Gemma were going through from the third-person point of view. I was able to analyze the characters from my own perspective, rather than having to read from diary entries that basically decided for me how Go Ask Alice characters were going to be. Smack was a lot more believable in the sense that the characters could be going through something one chapter to make them totally looked down upon from the reader, to the next chapter being they are the “hero.” Gemma seemed to be a very bad influence on Tar, even though she ended up following Tar when he ran away from home. I think that if they had just went their separate ways, that maybe he could have gotten his mind a little bit clearer from feeling so lost. Although he was the character with the most problems, he was the easiest to be sympathetic with because his home life pushed him to do the things he did. He probably could have found better ways to cope, but most of the time, someone does not know what they are going to encounter when they run away. The drugs were his escape and the worst thing that could have happened in this novel was when he met Lilly and Rob because they introduced him to heroin. I think that Gemma’s struggle with trying to find freedom and peace with herself, ultimately helped her in the long run with running away with Tar because she was the one who was able to change the most and get clean.
In both novels, the two characters go through a hard time, but what these novels are really depicting is the drug addiction associated with personal struggles. They both used drugs as a coping mechanism to overcome these struggles, which in turn causes more problems for the both of them. There are real life consequences for drug use, and Smack showed that. Addiction stays with you forever and maybe there will always be a part of someone who wished they would not have even tried the drug in the first place. Like Tar said, “Being an addict… now that lasts forever. Like they said in the detox center, once an addict, always an addict. You don’t dare take the stuff again no matter how safe you feel,” (Burgess, 314). Tar mentioned that loving another person can make you feel safe, and maybe all along he was looking for someone to love or for someone to love him, rather than having to resort to drugs for that feeling of love.
It became apparent after reading Smack and Go Ask Alice that young adults need to be more educated on drug use, young love, and the difficulties of teenage life. It seems that drug use is becoming more glamorized in today’s society and that younger children are able to access these drugs very easily. The importance of authenticity is important in both of the novels because it helps to get a message across. That message could come across to young readers as “don’t do drugs,” or just the dangers and outcomes of drug addiction in general. Regardless if the novels were fiction or not, if the stories follow material that is believable, then the reader will be more interested in it. The different characters and perspectives between both novels portrayed a message that it is important to realize the choices you are making and how they can affect you in the long run. These choices the characters happened to make were choosing drugs over finding another coping mechanism. Unfortunately, this happens too often in the real-world, and for these books to be targeted at a young adult audience could eventually help someone who is going through a similar life-style that these characters went through.