Book Review: Jay's Journal

6:00:00 PM

As I mentioned in my book review of Burned by Ellen Hopkins, I have recently started writing a free verse novel. So, I've been picking up novels that are written in a similar style from my middle school days, in hopes that they will help me get my format in order.

After a few months, I took a break from said novel and I started my reading research again. Shortly after, I decided to start a second free verse novel, this time with a male lead. Of course, being a female, I needed help finding my male voice. That's where Jay's Journal comes in!

Jay was a sweet, bright high school student who cared about his grades and his friends. He had ambitions. He was happy. And he thought he could handle anything.

He was wrong.

When Jay falls in with a crowd that's dabbling in drugs and the occult, he finds himself in over his head and doing things he never thought possible. Fascinated by the dark arts and in love with a dangerous girl, Jay falls deeper and deeper into a life he no longer recognizes...and sees no way out.

I had remembered Jay's Journal from middle school and I decided that I wanted to reread it. Of course, about halfway through, I realized I hadn't ever read it at all! I guess I just loved Go Ask Alice so much that I thought I had read Jay's Journal too! Little did I know, that I hadn't even set my hands on the book before! So, instead of comparing my thoughts on the two readings, you'll just be getting my thoughts on the book now.

To begin with, I'm still a pretty big fan of the cover. As I've mentioned in past reviews, I tend to gravitate to books with black covers and that's abundantly clear on my bookshelves. Jay's Journal being no exception. The details in the photograph are pretty spectacular and the white and red text bring the whole image together.

As for the book's interior, it's set up as a journal full of diary entries. Each entry is titled with the accompanying date and some are even time stamped. Every once in a while, the entries contain poems, lists, and/or prayers.

While I enjoyed the book's set up, I couldn't stand the actual formatting of the diary entries. Personally, I would have preferred the entries be justified. Of course, the poems and other extra writing were fine as is, I just didn't like the bulk of the text being left-aligned.

When it comes to the content, I found it a little unbelievable. For one, Jay is supposed to have an IQ of 149, but that doesn't come across in his writing, nor in his life decisions. I know that humans make mistakes, but it seems like Jay made them constantly. According to his entries, he kept falling into the same pattern: make a mistake, realize how great he has it, aims to do better, does something stupid again. For me, it's hard to believe that he had so many epiphanies only to fall back into his old habits again.

After finishing the book, I started looking into the book a little more. Turns out, there's a lot of reports of the book's editor, Dr. Beatrice Sparks, fabricating a lot of the book. I had a feeling, but I had no idea just how far the "editor" had taken it.

Now knowing the truth, I have to look at the piece as a work of fiction and frankly, it's a bad one. Yes, the parts about the occult kept me intrigued, but really it wasn't a great book. It appears that Dr. Beatrice Sparks cared more about getting her opinions out into the world and scaring teens straight, then actually sharing "Jay's" story or developing a good plot line. Either way, she does not have a fan in me.

The Truth:
After finding out the truth about Jay's Journal, I felt the need to look deeper. It wasn't just about the research anymore, I actually began to care about the person behind the journal. Through my research, I learned a lot and I felt it necessary to share it with you.

To begin with, "Jay" is actually Alden Barrett. And although his mother had the best intentions at heart, Jay's Journal did more harm than good. In the end, the backlash from the book lead to the family moving, Alden's grave dececrated, and his parents splitting.

In an effort to bring the truth to light, Alden's brother, Scott Barrett, has put in the work to share the real story with the world. Here's what he has to say:

"In 1971, the close-knit community of Pleasant Grove, Utah was rocked by the suicide of Alden Barrett, the teen-aged son of a prominent doctor, and a member of a religious family.

The shock and grief experienced by my family was a heavy burden for my mother, Marcella. In an attempt to understand the tragedy, and with hope of sparing other families the same great loss, she enlisted the aid of a successful author. Beatrice Sparks (Go Ask Alice), after reading Alden's personal journal, would soon write and release the book, “Jay's Journal”.

The intent of my mother was to heal the wounds of the loss we had suffered, and possibly help other families dealing with similar circumstances. “Jay's Journal”, written in journal style to add authenticity, adds insult to injury by claiming the main character gets increasingly involved with a witch’s coven and ultimately takes his own life because he is possessed by a demon. It is labeled as "non-fiction". The book, along with articles in local newspapers, leads people to believe that Alden’s experiences and Jay’s writings are one and the same.

In my own attempt to help my family heal from this tragedy, I have conducted interviews with my family and Alden’s closest friends and compiled them, along with the complete, photocopied, unretouched, handwritten journal Alden left behind. From there it is up to you to examine and come to your own conclusion.

Was he possessed or was he depressed?"

Since doing this, Scott has released the book A Place in the Sun: The Truth Behind "Jay's Journal". After selling out of the original printed copies and gaining additional interest, Scott has decided to conduct additional interviews and update the original book.

Upon learning this, I have spoken with Scott and he plans to keep everyone updated on his most recent progress. To stay updated, you can follow the official Facebook page here.

If you're interested in purchasing Jay's Journal, you can find it here

Have you read either of these books? I'd love to read what you thought about them in the comments!

* This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I'll receive some type of commission. For more information, you can read our full disclosure here. *

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