|Anonymous (edited by Beatrice Sparks)
|Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
|Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
Jay's Journal is a 1979 book that was published in a diary format. The book is presented as an autobiographical account of a depressed teenage boy who becomes involved with a Satanic group. After participating in several occult rituals, Jay believes he is being haunted by a demon named "Raul." The book was edited and written by Beatrice Sparks, and is based partly on the life of 16-year-old Alden Barrett from Pleasant Grove, Utah, who died by suicide in 1971. Critics allege Sparks misrepresented Barrett's life and experiences.
In the mid-to-late 1970s, Jay is a religious, depressed teenager who begins a journal after being persuaded by his Sunday School teachers. Jay nicknames his diary Judas and begins writing poetry venting his feelings about conformity, and discusses his parents, who he frequently gets in trouble with. He is friends with two boys named Brad and Dell, who he frequently discusses in his entries.
Jay falls in love with a girl named Debbie Dale, and begins writing odes to her in his journal. Brad and Dell discourage his crush on Debbie, though, because she is known to have dated a lot of boys. Regardless, his crush becomes gradually more intense, to the point where Jay copes with weed when Debbie goes to Phoenix with her parents for her birthday.
For his fifteenth birthday, Jay's dad gives him a job at a pharmacy he works at. When Debbie returns from Phoenix, Jay begins a relationship with her and his infatuation grows. Debbie begins to ask him to lend her amphetamines from the pharmacy that he works at, and makes him cover up the theft by filling the capsules with powdered milk. Although feeling guilty about what he does, Jay is far too infatuated with Debbie to refuse, so he ignores his guilt and does so.
Jay's guilt begins to worsen when he imagines scenarios of people being given the false, ineffective capsules to help their intense pain. He especially feels guilty after hearing about his Aunt Laurel being in intense pain from cancer, to the point where she was "crying and begging him [Jay's dad] to give her something and make her die." His feelings towards Debbie become conflicted, and he tries to maintain his love for her.
Jay is caught stealing drugs by his dad, who angrily fires him on the spot. The pharmacy begins to get into legal trouble, and Jay's dad calls the police and has Jay sent to a juvenile detention center. Jay, who is still writing in his journal, expresses regret over his crimes and reminisces about life with Brad and Dell. He is delighted by the frequent letters that Debbie sends, but then Debbie stops writing to him and they break up, leaving Jay distraught.
Jay eventually meets Pete, who appears different to him. Pete introduces him to matters relating to the occult. In further detail, Jay writes,
"Pete’s into Astara and all forms of the occult. It’s so far out it shatters my wavelengths. He talks so easily about intuition, meditation, ESP, auras, life after death, the oversoul, how much karma a person must erase before they are liberated, how they can better influence the world in the new age, how they can recognize their soul mate, mysticism, esoteric science, hidden teachings of the ancients, the equations of life, etc."
Jay is confused by Pete, but eventually claims to witness Pete move a chair with "mental powers" and make a wart on his finger disappear. He finds himself drawn to Pete, who teaches him and some other boys about different aforementioned topics. He writes about liaisons between him and Pete in which they discuss auras and psychic selves. Eventually, Pete begins giving Jay herbs that make him have strange yet alluring dreams. Jay is upset when he is informed that he will soon be released from the detention center, but his perspective on his family soon improves, and he begins missing them and anticipating arriving home.
Jay is released into the custody of his parents, but finds that his home life is unexciting with all of the conditions. At a dinner with his cousins, he tries to explain the topics that Pete taught him about, but he is shut down. Upset, he renounces his faith and strives to see Pete again. He goes hitchhiking to meet Pete again, who tells him to invite his friends to a group that he's creating. Jay ends up grounded by his parents. At school, Jay tries to explain Pete's teachings to Brad and Dell, who laugh at him.
Jay becomes hypnotized by Pete's teachings, but decides that he needs to get his life together, beginning with getting a job. Jay's dad gives him a job at a stationary store, but Jay feels bored of his life. Jay, Brad, and Dell are eventually roped in by missionaries sent by Pete, who gives them a list of kids to try and bring into the cult. Jay begins to hang out with members of the cult, and has fun with them. Jay has many romantic interests throughout the story, particularly one with a girl named Janie, who spurns him after he doesn't agree to go to a dance with her.
Jay's faith becomes conflicted with the introduction of Satanism. He eventually meets a girl named Tina, who becomes interested in him. They begin having liaisons, and Jay begins to fall in love with her. Tina brings him further and further into the Satanic lifestyle, where she encourages him to take drugs and participate in orgies, often with animals. When Jay decides to step away from the rituals and break up with Tina, she convinces him with witchcraft to stay with her.
The two of them decide to "get married" in a graveyard, where a kitten is strangled on the altar they use. After the wedding, Jay's lifestyle becomes more reckless when he and Tina begin attacking cattle and taking baths in blood to baptize themselves. Jay's writing and poems begin to become more and more unhinged.
Eventually, Jay decides to participate in his school's production of Barefoot In The Park. Another kid takes the role that Jay wanted, but then the kid's appendix bursts, leaving the role open. Jay suspects that Tina may have something to do with the incident, and eventually the two of them break up when one of Tina's ex-boyfriends contact her, which leaves Jay heartbroken once more.
Eventually, Jay has visions of a demon named Raul and believes he has been possessed by Raul. Tragically, both Brad and Dell die in car accidents, seemingly linked to the occult's practices, and Jay becomes sick when he goes to their funerals.
When Jay's little brother Chad becomes unnerved and tells Jay that he doesn't recognize him, Jay determines that he does not feel in control of his body. In one final attempt to save himself from Raul, he decides to contact the Bishop for an exorcism. He writes a note to his parents, requesting that all his possessions be given to Debbie as a wedding gift.
The story ends with an epilogue in the form of a letter written by Jay's mom addressed to Janie. She writes that they found Jay dead, having killed himself from a gun shot to the head. Devastated, she reflects on his life and celebrates the sixteen-and-a-half years he lived.
Some critics have challenged the authenticity of the story, noting that the editor of this book, Beatrice Sparks, has filled the same role on many other "actual, anonymous diaries of teenagers" that explore such sensational themes as drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, and prostitution. These books, the most well-known of which is Go Ask Alice, serve as cautionary tales.
According to a book written by Barrett's brother Scott (A Place in the Sun: The Truth Behind Jay's Journal) and interviews with the family, Sparks used 21 entries of 212 total from Barrett's actual journal. The other entries were fictional, with Sparks claiming they were based on case histories from other teenagers Sparks worked with and interviews of friends and acquaintances of Barrett.
Within the city of Pleasant Grove, Jay's Journal has been the source of many urban legends, including alleged locations where Jay performed actions described in the book, his home, the effect on his family after his death, and other rumors.
In 2004, a local Salt Lake City paper, City Weekly, ran a story containing interviews with the Barrett family and their friends. Apart from pointing out the book's untruths, its authors assert that, ironically, the book Jay's Journal actually inspired imitative acts of what readers took to be Satanic rituals.
Due to allegations of ritual cattle mutilation arising in Jay's Journal, the book came to the attention of Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers investigating reports of killed and mutilated cows in Alberta.
A rock opera titled A Place in the Sun was created and performed in 1997 and 1998 by Utah band Grain, led by Bryan Hall. According to some of Alden's family members, it was a more accurate portrayal and showed Sparks' alleged exploitation of the story.  
In 2022 and 2023, Hall and his band, Bay of Pigs, began live performances of another rock opera telling Alden Barrett's story. It is called Pleasant Grove and was performed as a work-in-progress in Utah at the Springville Utah Rivoli theater in two runs during 2023. The band at the heart of its creation, Bay of Pigs, has plans to continue developing the project for other performances.  
- "Mute Evidence", Kagan & Summer
- U.S. Copyright Office - Search Copyright Records
- Clark, Jonathan Russell Clark (5 July 2022). "Go Ask Alice Is a Lie. But Bookstores Won't Stop Selling It". Esquire. Retrieved 6 July 2022.
- "Jays Journal".
- Ben Dieterle (June 3, 2004). "Teen Death Diary". Salt Lake City Weekly. Archived from the original on July 23, 2004. Retrieved May 2, 2017.
- Salt Lake City Weekly editorial from 2004 accessed 2/19/2024.
- Teen Death Diary by Ben Dieterle in Salt Lake City Weekly, June 3, 2004, discusses the issues and controversies related to Barrett's death and Jay's Journal. Archive.org link access 4/27/2014.
- Pleasant Grove Rock Opera: About Information from the artist about the story of "A Place in the Sun". Link access 2/19/2024.
- Utah Rock Opera Holds Summer Preview Provo Magazine reporting from 2022 re: Pleasant Grove rock opera. Accessed 2/19/2024.
- Pleasant Grove Rock Opera Pleasant Grove rock opera website containing information about scheduled performances, the band Bay of Pigs, and the development of the show. Link accessed 2/19/2024.
- Salt Lake Tribune: How Utah Teen's Death Inspired... Salt Lake Tribune article from 2022 noting development of Pleasant Grove rock opera. Accessed 2/19/2024.