I must admit that despite not wanting to read any other books “edited” by Beatrice Sparks, I did do a bit more research into her other works, and let me tell you, I got PISSED.
First of all, I want to address that I know that this is what publishers and editors do. They spin the story and books in such a way that will make a profit. And I know that the more relateable the story, the more it sells. So when a person finds a book that it based on a true story or is supposedly true, they will feel it more personally. That said, I am appalled that Sparks got away with it for so long. Or at least no one took legal action against her.
Her second book Jay’s Journal is one such work. Alden Barrett was a 16 year old boy who was depressed ad as a result committed suicide. Sparks apparently got in touch with the family and somehow convinced them to let her publish a book about Alden. They gave Sparks his journal and she edited and published it into Jay’s Journal. Except that it wasn’t truly his story. Out of about 200 entries of his journal, Sparks used only 20 of them in the book. The rest of the diary, she claimed, were accounts from his friends. Sparks invented the 60-odd other entries and the “Jay’s” decent into satanism.
She must have told Alden’s parents that their identities would be completely anonymous as to protect them, unfortunately, it was either a clever lie or Sparks just couldn’t be bothered to protect them from the backlash. After the book came out the family was ostracized and Alden’s grave vandalized and even stolen multiple times. It got so bad, they felt they had to move. Alden’s brother published his own book about his brother and Spark’s book in an attempt to get the truth out.
I’m not here to get into a big debate about religion, because that’s just not how I roll. I also understand that a person’s morels is not completely based on religion. Every religion has their share of bad seeds. But I do find it horrendously despicable that Sparks would use her religion and her profession to spin lies of this proportion and with these consequences. Don’t get me wrong, I do think that she may have, on some level, had her heart in the right place, but maybe she just wanted a way to get some fast cash. I don’t know. I can’t speak for her. But I do think that in the 33 years since the book came out, she not once owned up to what her book caused the Barrett family to go through. Again, I don’t know if she did or not, that is only speculation, but there is no evidence that she tried to contact the family. That could be because of them though. We may never know. Sparks died earlier this year, so unless anything crops up posthumously, the truth of her side has died with her.
All I can say with certainty is that I am not going to seek out Spark’s books, and after learning that she could do this to a family, seemingly with no remorse, I’m somewhat ashamed for reading Go ask Alice.