Go Ask Alice was originally promoted as nonfiction and was published under the byline "Anonymous." However, not long after its publication, Beatrice Sparks, a psychologist, began making media appearances presenting herself as the book's editor.
Searches at the U.S. Copyright Office show that Sparks is the sole copyright holder for Go Ask Alice. Furthermore, she is listed on the copyright record as the book's author — not as the editor, compiler, or executor, which would be more usual for someone publishing the diary of a deceased person. (According to the book itself, the sole copyright is owned by Prentice-Hall.)
In an October 1979, essay by Alleen Pace Nilsen for School Library Journal, Nilsen surmised that Sparks partially based Go Ask Alice on the diary of one of her patients, but that she had added various fictional incidents. Sparks told Nilsen that she could not produce the original diary, because she had destroyed part of it after transcribing it and the rest was locked away in the publisher's vault. Nilsen wrote, "The question of how much of Go Ask Alice was written by the real Alice and how much by Beatrice Sparks can only be conjectured."
Sparks' second "diary" project, Jay's Journal, gave rise to a controversy that cast further doubt on Go Ask Alice's veracity. Jay's Journal was allegedly the diary of a boy who committed suicide after becoming involved with the occult. Again, Sparks claimed to have based it on the diary of a patient. However, the family of the boy in question, Alden Barrett, disowned the book. They claimed that Sparks had used only a handful of the actual diary entries, and had invented the great majority of the book, including the entire occult angle. This led many to speculate that "Alice's" diary—if indeed it existed—had received similar treatment. No one claiming to have known the real "Alice" has ever come forward.
Sparks went on to produce several other alleged diaries dealing with various problems faced by teenagers. These include Treacherous Love: The Diary of an Anonymous Teenager, Almost Lost: The True Story of an Anonymous Teenager's Life on the Streets, Annie's Baby: The Diary of Anonymous, a Pregnant Teenager and It Happened to Nancy: By an Anonymous Teenager. Although billed as "real diaries," these do not appear to have been received by readers or reviewers as anything other than fiction.
There have more recently been hints that at least one other author was involved in the creation of Go Ask Alice. In an essay entitled "Just Say Uh-Oh", published in the New York Times Book Review on November 5, 1998, Mark Oppenheimer identified Linda Glovach, an author of young-adult novels, as "one of the 'preparers'—let's call them forgers—of Go Ask Alice", although he did not give his source for this claim. Amazon.com's listing for Glovach's novel Beauty Queen also states that Glovach is "a co-author" of Alice.
In an article on the Urban Legends Reference Pages (snopes.com), urban folklore expert Barbara Mikkelson points out that even before the revelations about Go Ask Alice 's authorship, there was ample internal evidence that the book was not an actual diary. The lengthy, detailed passages about the harmful effects of illicit drugs and the relatively small amount of space dedicated to relationships and social gossip seem uncharacteristic of a teenage girl’s diary. In addition, the article mentions the disclaimer in the book's copyright notice page, which states: "This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental."