By WILLIAM BENAC
One boy worshipped the devil, the other struggled with depression. Both committed suicide.
Largely because of the book “Jay’s Journal,” the first boy, fictional, has long been thought to be the second boy, who truly lived in Pleasant Grove, Utah. A new book, “A Place in the Sun: The Truth Behind Jay’s Journal,” tries to correct popular misconceptions by using both the real boy’s real journal and interviews with those who knew him.
“Jay’s Journal,” by Beatrice Sparks, has long been popular among those loving or fearing Satanism in Utah because it was presented as non-fiction, so readers viewed it as a credible source of examples of Satanism. Nearly 100,000 copies are in circulation.
“A Place in the Sun” is written by Scott Barrett, brother to Alden, the Pleasant Grove suicide victim. It tries to prove the true character of Alden by painting a broad picture of him.
According to Barrett’s book, Alden was nothing more extraordinary than a friendly boy who fought depression but lost. Of the many things he may have been, Satanic was not one.
The bulk of the book is Alden’s own engaging journal. The format includes a reduced image of the journal on one side of the page, a transcription on the other. This allows readers to better feel the emotion and personality of his journal.
The dominant topic in Alden’s writing is romantic love — a longing for a savior to lift him from his depression.
He does make references to drugs, but they hardly rule his life. For a period of his writing, he was avoiding drug use.
Also included is religious and social commentary. Following the journal are several of Alden’s poems.
To illuminate what Alden was actually like exterior to his personal journal, Barrett interviews Alden’s former associates. These include his family members, schoolmates, girlfriend, and teachers.
To dispel rumors, these interviews pay particularly attention to probe areas of Jay’s life assumed to be shared by Alden. Few parallels exist.
Barrett, who found Alden’s body after the suicide, includes his own account of the events at and surrounding Alden’s suicide.
Jay and Alden are far from similar, as “A Place in the Sun” makes clear.
“A Place in the Sun” is engaging because of its diverse style and its personal nature. The reader will feel as though he or she is within the heart of the speaker whether it be while reading Alden’s journal or while hearing the voices of those close to Alden.
True to its intent, the book conveys messages highlighting relationship problems and ways of dealing with them. Because of the varied perspectives conveyed in the book, these can carry to parents and youths.
Books are not currently available at mainstream bookstores. Crandall Audio, in Orem, sells “A Place in the Sun” and will have a book signing Saturday from 2-5 p.m.