Book Review: Unmask Alice by Rick Emerson

Unmask Alice by Rick Emerson
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 5, 2021
Source: Borrowed
Two teens. Two diaries. Two social panics. One incredible fraud.

In 1971, Go Ask Alice reinvented the young adult genre with a blistering portrayal of sex, psychosis, and teenage self-destruction. The supposed diary of a middle-class addict, Go Ask Alice terrified adults and cemented LSD’s fearsome reputation, fueling support for the War on Drugs. Five million copies later, Go Ask Alice remains a divisive bestseller, outraging censors and earning new fans, all of them drawn by the book’s mythic premise: A Real Diary, by Anonymous.

But Alice was only the beginning.

In 1979, another diary rattled the culture, setting the stage for a national meltdown. The posthumous memoir of an alleged teenage Satanist, Jay’s Journal merged with a frightening new crisis—adolescent suicide—to create a literal witch hunt, shattering countless lives and poisoning whole communities.

In reality, Go Ask Alice and Jay’s Journal came from the same dark place: Beatrice Sparks, a serial con artist who betrayed a grieving family, stole a dead boy’s memory, and lied her way to the National Book Awards.

Unmask Alice: LSD, Satanic Panic, and the Imposter Behind the World’s Most Notorious Diaries is a true story of contagious deception. It stretches from Hollywood to Quantico, and passes through a tiny patch of Utah nicknamed “the fraud capital of America.” It’s the story of a doomed romance and a vengeful celebrity. Of a lazy press and a public mob. Of two suicidal teenagers, and their exploitation by a literary vampire.

Unmask Alice . . . where truth is stranger than nonfiction.

I love my job, but it can be a little monotonous sometimes. I code medical charts for an insurance company, and sometimes it’s really interesting and other times it’s 5,000 mind-numbing pages of nothing. So to keep my sanity, I’ll listen to something while I work. Sometimes it’s music, sometimes it’s an audiobook, sometimes it’s a podcast. One of my favorite podcasts is You’re Wrong About, and I’ve listened to almost all of the episodes. A few months ago, Sarah did a series on Go Ask Alice with Carmen Maria Machado and Rick Emerson. By the time it was done, I knew that I absolutely had to read this book.

Honestly, my mind is blown.

I never read Go Ask Alice when I was growing up. I definitely remember it always being on the shelf in my library’s YA section, but nothing about it really appealed to me. For good reason, it seems, based on what I learned in this book.

I’m not going to spoil anything, but this is an absolutely crazy story. For the first maybe 80% of the book, the author splits his story into so many seemingly unconnected threads. It’s clear that they’ll come together somehow, and I was just wondering how the different stories and different people connected. And when they did? Like I said, my mind was blown. You can maybe imagine a little bit of what happened when you hear that Go Ask Alice is a work of fiction. But the layers of deception, the way that it spread, and the effect that it had on society is almost unbelievable.

This is such a well-written and engaging account of what happened. It’s a story that feels more like fiction since it’s so crazy that a grown woman could behave so badly. It’s like the Bad Blood of publishing. I really can’t recommend it enough, regardless of whether you’re familiar with the source material.

P.S. I’m now reading Go Ask Alice and at roughly 30% in, I can say I’m not at all surprised to find out all of it was a lie.

Have you read Unmask Alice? Have you gotten any good recommendations from a podcast?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: Recent DNFs

Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match by Sally Thorne
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 6, 2022
Source: Borrowed

For generations, every Frankenstein has found their true love and equal, unlocking lifetimes of blissful wedded adventure. Clever, pretty (and odd) Angelika Frankenstein has run out of suitors and fears she may become the exception to this family rule. When assisting in her brother Victor’s ground-breaking experiment to bring a reassembled man back to life, she realizes that having an agreeable gentleman convalescing in the guest suite might be a chance to let a man get to know the real her. For the first time, Angelika embarks upon a project that is all her own.

When her handsome scientific miracle sits up on the lab table, her hopes for an instant romantic connection are thrown into disarray. Her resurrected beau (named Will for the moment) has total amnesia and is solely focused on uncovering his true identity. Trying to ignore their heart-pounding chemistry, Angelika reluctantly joins the investigation into his past, hoping it will bring them closer. But when a second suitor emerges to aid their quest, Angelika wonders if she was too hasty inventing a solution. Perhaps fate is not something that can be influenced in a laboratory? Or is Will (or whatever his name is!) her dream man, tailored for her in every way? And can he survive what was done to him in the name of science, and love?

Filled with carriages, candlesticks, and corpses, Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match is the spooky-season reimagining of the well-known classic that reminds us to never judge a man by his cadaver!

DNF @ ~10%

We all know that The Hating Game is one of my all-time favorite books. 99 Percent Mine wasn’t bad. Not my favorite, but not bad. I’ve had Second First Impressions on my shelf since it came out and haven’t read it yet. But Angelika Frankenstein? I was skeptical, especially given the early reviews, but I wanted to give it a chance. It took me three weeks to get to 10%, and what I read was just so… weird. This isn’t necessarily a forever DNF, but my library book was due back and I just can’t justify buying this book that I don’t care that much about reading. I might pick it back up later, once there aren’t 20+ holds on it.

The Roommate by Rosie Danan
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 15, 2020
Source: Borrowed

House Rules:
Do your own dishes.
Knock before entering the bathroom.
Never look up your roommate online.

The Wheatons are infamous among the east coast elite for their lack of impulse control, except for their daughter Clara. She’s the consummate socialite: over-achieving, well-mannered, predictable. But every Wheaton has their weakness. When Clara’s childhood crush invites her to move cross-country, the offer is too much to resist. Unfortunately, it’s also too good to be true.

After a bait-and-switch, Clara finds herself sharing a lease with a charming stranger. Josh might be a bit too perceptive—not to mention handsome—for comfort, but there’s a good chance he and Clara could have survived sharing a summer sublet if she hadn’t looked him up on the Internet…

Once she learns how Josh has made a name for himself, Clara realizes living with him might make her the Wheaton’s most scandalous story yet. His professional prowess inspires her to take tackling the stigma against female desire into her own hands. They may not agree on much, but Josh and Clara both believe women deserve better sex. What they decide to do about it will change both of their lives, and if they’re lucky, they’ll help everyone else get lucky too.

DNF @ ~50%

I thought I’d like this. Really, I did. And it wasn’t bad at first, but Clara really rubbed me the wrong way. The premise was good, but I started losing interest halfway through. I would’ve probably finished it if my library loan hadn’t expired while I was in the hospital giving birth. I can’t say that I really care enough to put it back on hold, wait however long until I get it again, and then pick it back up.

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Source: Borrowed

1990. The teen detectives once known as the Blyton Summer Detective Club (of Blyton Hills, a small mining town in the Zoinx River Valley in Oregon) are all grown up and haven’t seen each other since their fateful, final case in 1977. Andy, the tomboy, is twenty-five and on the run, wanted in at least two states. Kerri, one-time kid genius and budding biologist, is bartending in New York, working on a serious drinking problem. At least she’s got Tim, an excitable Weimaraner descended from the original canine member of the team. Nate, the horror nerd, has spent the last thirteen years in and out of mental health institutions, and currently resides in an asylum in Arhkam, Massachusetts. The only friend he still sees is Peter, the handsome jock turned movie star. The problem is, Peter’s been dead for years.

The time has come to uncover the source of their nightmares and return to where it all began in 1977. This time, it better not be a man in a mask. The real monsters are waiting.

DNF @ ~20%

I remember hearing so much about this book when it first came out. I really thought that I’d love it. I mean, it’s basically Scooby Doo for grown-ups! (Right down to the Zoinkx River.) But the characters annoyed me, the writing style annoyed me, and I also just… didn’t like the plot. I wish I’d been able to finish this one. It seems like it would have been perfect for spooky season.

Have you read any of these books? What’s the last book you DNFed?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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WWW Wednesday

It’s time for another WWW Wednesday!

WWW Wednesday is hosted over at Taking on a World of Words and just involves answering the 3 Ws!

What are you currently reading?

  • Begin Again by Emma Lord: I thought this would follow the Taylor Swift song, but it doesn’t so far (and that’s fine). I do wonder if it will eventually since I know Emma Lord is a Swiftie! Either way, it’s good so far and I’m sure I’ll end up enjoying it.

What did you recently finish reading?

  • Unmask Alice by Rick Emerson: This was honestly the best nonfiction I’ve read since Bad Blood. I want to go read Go Ask Alice now that I know what went on behind the scenes!
  • Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match by Sally Thorne: This was a DNF. I might try it again later, or I might just pretend it never happened and read a different Sally Thorne book from my shelf.

What do you think you’ll read next?

  • Built to Last by Erin Hahn: My library just fulfilled my request to buy this one and the copy my husband preordered just showed up! I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now!

Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR? Did you do your own WWW Wednesday post today? Let’s talk in the comments!

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ARC Review: You Have a Match by Emma Lord

You Have a Match by Emma Lord
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 12, 2021
Source: ARC via Netgalley
A new love, a secret sister, and a summer she’ll never forget.

When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie … although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.

But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.

When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents—especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.

The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.

But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.

By this point, you may have noticed that I’m in a bit of a pattern of apologizing at the beginning of my reviews. This review is no exception, because I was approved for this ARC on Netgalley in July of 2020, this book released in January 2021, and here we are in October 2022 and I am finally posting my review. My apologies.

But I loved this book, okay? I think I’d probably love anything Emma Lord writes. I even love her Twitter feed! I love her love of Taylor Swift and fanfiction and her sense of humor. I love the stories she comes up with, her characters, her dialogue, all of it. So the fact that I loved You Have a Match is probably not very surprising.

There’s a lot to love about this book. Emma Lord’s writing style is so… charming. I don’t know if that’s the right word, but her books give me this warm, fuzzy feeling. In this book, family relationships take center stage as our main character finds out through a DNA test that she has a sister she didn’t know about. I’ll do a little digression here and say that I have done a DNA test and, given that I was never that close with my dad’s side of the family, I’m always paranoid that I’m going to find out I have a secret sibling! Up to this point, though, the closest relative I’ve found is a second cousin.

In addition to the whole sister thing, there’s a cute little friends-to-lovers romance on the side. We all know how I feel about those, so that was just a little added bonus.

All in all, You Have a Match is another great book from Emma Lord, and it’s cemented her place on my list of auto-read authors.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the free ARC of You Have a Match in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read You Have a Match? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Weekly Update

In case you missed it, here are this week’s blog posts:

I’ve been reading:

Recently acquired:

  • Nothing this week!

1 thing this week:

  • Taylor Swift released Midnights and it’s so good. It’s all I’m listening to now.

How was your week? What’s the best thing you read or listened to? Anything interesting happening in your life? Let’s talk in the comments!

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