Sunday, May 9, 2010

Satan + Teens = Good Times

I first read Jay's Journal when I was like 11 or 12 because it seemed like a pretty badass thing to do, like wearing Megadeth t-shirts to school and flipping off my gym teacher (when he wasn't looking). This book seemed like it was the ultimate taboo: drugs, sex, alcohol, and SATAN!!! And it was someone's personal true diary so reading it was like extra naughty.
Now, nearly two decades later, I decided to give the book another try as crossed by my desk on its way out of our library collection. Jay's Journal is supposedly the "true" story of a 16-year-old boy who committed suicide in 1971, based off his diary discovered by "Dr." Beatrice Sparks who just so happened to come across another shocking teen diary, the more popular Go Ask Alice, another "true" story of a teen girl who gets involved with drugs and prostitution. This cautionary tale starts off with 14-year-old Jay starting high school and scribbling in his diary lots of stuff a 14-year-old boy would never say, not in the 1970's, not now. The language is probably one of the things that bothered me the most, in that it comes across as so unauthentic and reads exactly like a phony doctor trying to sound like a teen - can you dig it?
Jay's life is full of ups and downs: Jay hates his parents, Jay loves his two best friends, Jay gets a girlfriend, Jay's girlfriend is addicted to amphetamines, Jay gets a job in his dad's pharmacy, Jay steals drugs for his girlfriend, Jay has sex, Jay drinks and uses drugs, Jay gets sent to bad boys town type place, Jay gets introduced to psychic powers by a weirdo staff member who later molests another boy, Jay becomes religious, Jay gets another girlfriend, Jay plays with a ouija board, Jay plays with crystals, Jay joins the debate team -- you know, typical teen stuff. Except, oh yeah Jay learns to levitate things (he does this a lot in the book), uses PCP, has his girlfriend cut her fingers and bleed into his mouth and call him "master," practices hexes and voodoo, sacrifices animals, gets married, has a demon named "Raul" haunting him, and watches his friends die as they try to turn their backs on Satan! Rereading Jay's Journal made me feel like Sparks had some serious problems with editing, as each scene is just one over the top moment over the next. And let's not forget the poetry scattered throughout:
Golly Gee I'm glad I'm me/There's no one else I'd rather be./I smile on every bird and tree./Life is a ball. I'm in love with me!/And the music is great too!
Uh, yeah. Reportedly, the book is based on a real teen who did commit suicide and had a diary, but only 25 of the total 221 entries are from his diary, and none of them were about the occult, which he wasn't into. RUH ROH! Sparks filled in the rest herself based on experiences working with other teens, while she didn't bother changing enough details so that people recognized the real teen and terrorized his Utah family. The book has been described as a "Mormon Horror Fiction" because Sparks the book uses church scare tactics to serve as a cautionary tale. Apparently she didn't stop there, her other titles include: It Happened to Nancy (she's dying of AIDS), Annie's Baby: The Diary of Anonymous, a Pregnant Teenager, Treacherous Love: The Diary of an Anonymous Teenager (teen gets involved with her teacher), Kim: Empty Inside: The Diary of an Anonymous Teenager (eating disorders). "Dr." Sparks was sure lucky she kept coming across all these troubled teen diaries!
On the scale of Satanic Teen Fun, I would rank Jay's Journal's spook factor higher than any of the Harry Potter series or listening to KISS records, but less than watching Paranormal Activity or saying "Bloody Mary" 13 times in front of a mirror. Recommended for 11 or 12-year-olds who like wearing metal t-shirts to school and flipping off their gym teacher.

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