Monday, August 6, 2012

Book Review: Flowers For Algernon

I recently read a book that I'd been wanting to for quite some time. I'd heard a lot about it, yet I still wasn't completely sure what it was about. Out of curiosity, I purchased Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

This book starts off with a mouse named Algernon who has had surgery on his brain to make him smarter. Before, Algernon could not make it through a maze successfully, but after the surgery, he can run it quickly to get his prize. The scientists are pleased with their experiment, and they want to conduct the same one on a human being despite not knowing the long-term success rate or side effects. 

That is where we meet Charlie Gordon, an adult man who is mentally retarded, having an IQ of just 68. Although he functions and works in a bakery, he does things incorrectly and thinks everyone he nows is laughing WITH him, not at him. He is naive, but he is happy. 

Charlie's teacher, Alice, recommends him for the surgery, and he is chosen as the test subject. The operation is successful, and he begins learning new things right away at a rapid rate. The one thing he doesn't know how to handle, however, is being aware of what everyone around him is thinking. He now knows how others view him and how they did in the past. He begins to develop a crush on his teacher, Alice, but it's difficult for him to express how he feels. Just because his IQ has gone up substantially does not mean that he developed social skills at the same rate.

And then something happens to Algernon. He becomes lethargic and quits running through the maze. Charlie knows what is happening, but the scientists working on the experiment do not want to admit it.

Without giving anything away, this book was very slow for. It took me a couple weeks to read it, and I usually fly through books at a rate of one a week. The beginning was extremely difficult to read because it was Charlie's journal, which meant stream-of-consciousness writing with far too many spelling/grammar mistakes for my brain to take in. Yes, it was necessary to make the reader understand Charlie, but it made my head hurt. I do think the plot of this novel is something EVERYONE should read, but I will not give it 5/5 stars. To me, this novel is 3/5, although the topic is important and still relevant. Should we be able to play God? Should we take matters into our own hands? Flowers For Algernon reminded me of one of my favorite novels, My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. 

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