Alice begins as a typical adolescent whose insecurities about sex, her appearance, her parents, and her social standing are fairly common. She could be any middle-class girl from the 1960s, and her death, just one of thousands that year, drives this point home. However, her observations and emotions are filtered through her rather uncommon prose in her beloved diary. She seeks someone who will understand her, someone she can open up to and, finding it in no one, dives into the world of drugs and the counterculture. There, she is able to connect at times with others but only through the haze of drugs; more often, she is betrayed and victimized by cruel predators. With support from her family and Joel, she eventually learns to open up to others.

Alice also tries to find herself, a difficult job for an adolescent at any time, not least in the rebellious 1960s. Her initial decision to do drugs is rebellious and escapist, as much a push away from her parents as a pull towards the novelty of experience. As she suffers painful episode after painful episode, she realizes that drugs cause more hardship than they alleviate, especially when she becomes interested in what has caused her, and others, to run away from home. Notwithstanding a few lapses, she devotes herself to being good and joins her two former problems—that of communicating and of finding her own identity—in her dream to become a social worker. Her experience takes on a religious aspect, as she redeems herself with the desire to transform her own suffering into sacrifice for others.