Alice begins her diary because she has no one else to talk to, and she spends her energy searching not for drugs, but for someone who understands her. The drugs only create the temporary illusion that she is in touch with nature and people. Fortunately, Alice is a gifted writer, lacing her unhappy vision of the world with poetic, sensitive language. Her diary becomes the personified "Diary," and Alice feels only Diary knows who she is underneath her social posture. Her string of friendships—Greta, Beth, Chris—are ongoing attempts to find a best friend, each time believing this person is the one who will truly know Alice (ultimately, Joel fulfills this role). Her inability to share herself completely with them, let alone her family, is the greatest factor in Alice's descent into drugs. Even throughout her various recoveries, Alice cannot open up fully to her parents. Her discussions with teen runaways and experiences in group therapy at the mental hospital help Alice learn about the difficulty of communication, and galvanizes her dreams of becoming a social worker. As the therapy leaders put it, when thoughts are kept inside they are "magnified" and "distorted." Alice has reservations about prying into the teens' lives, but her discomfort is a sign that she understands how difficult, and precious, open communication can be. Through small steps—opening up to Joel about her past, for example—Alice gains the trust in others that she formerly put in her diary and is able to discard her literary life for an interpersonal one.
Alice's problems are as relevant today as in the 1960s. She begins as an insecure girl who worries about sex and popularity, and, to an extent, these anxieties persist throughout her diary; sex continually plays on her mind, whether through her fear of pregnancy or dependency on men, and she remains concerned with what others think of her, especially when she goes "straight." Her sexual maturation is too quick: her schoolgirl crush on Roger turns quickly into a drug-dealing affair with Richie and later devolves into prostitution for drugs. Only with Joel does she develop a mature, fulfilling relationship.
The deeper problem for Alice, though, is the adolescent cliché of not knowing who she is. She observes the social stratification at school (divisions between drug users and others) and feels that she does not belong in any group. She is lonely no matter where she is, with reprieves from drugs coming less frequently the more she sinks into addiction. She reads an article about the problems that develop when children make too many or too few decisions while growing up. She thinks she doesn't fall under either category, but throughout her diary she balances precariously between adulthood and childhood, feeling at times independent and at other times homesick. Her strengthened relationship with her family affords Alice the opportunity to grow into a new person with a commitment to a responsible, mature life—as an older sister to her siblings, a peer to her father and mother, and a future social worker to others who have suffered the same pains she has.