Flowers for Algernon – thought-provoking and engaging

Flowers-for-Algernon-_book_coverTitle: Flowers for Algernon

Author: Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes, is the story of a man named Charlie Gordon. Charlie was born with a brain disorder that caused him to have an IQ of just 68. However, Charlie has just been approved to pilot a radical operation that will turn him into a genius. Well, human pilot. It’s already been tried on a rat named Algernon, and it was an unqualified success. The story is told as a series of “progress reports” written by Charlie after the operation, for the purpose of documenting the effects of the operation for science. The operation is a fast success, and soon Charlie has an IQ of 185 and is an expert in every subject. But can his humanity survive the change?

For me, Flowers for Algernon was an extremely engaging and thought-provoking book. The book starts out with a quote from Plato comparing visual impairment with mental impairment, and admonishing anyone who would laugh at those with either. This seems like a straightforward thing to do. Only a deeply cruel person would laugh at a disabled person. But Flowers shows us that even our most well intentioned acts can carry unconscious cruelty. The scientists who design the operation, the medical community, even his own mother are all trying to “fix” Charlie. But, as Plato said, “the bewilderments of the eyes are two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light.” At the beginning of the story, Charlie was entirely in the dark, the worlds of politics, academics, and religion closed off to him because of his illness. Yet, when he comes into the light, is he not equally blinded?

As he gains intelligence, Charlie very quickly realizes that most of those whom he thought of as friends were actually laughing at him, patronizing him to feel better about themselves. He starts to see people for who they really are, frauds trying to navigate their way through life. As he surpasses everyone in intelligence, people start to resent him, and his social relationships suffer. He finds himself no more a part of the world than he was before. I was absolutely absorbed by Charlie’s transformation, from what was essentially a small child to an adult. The characters in this book are very believable, from the scientists that designed the procedure, Dr. Strauss and Dr. Neimar, to Charlie’s former teacher and current love interest, Miss Alice Kinnian. Everyone had a different, unique reaction to Charlie’s change, and they all teach him something about what it is to be human. This was probably my favorite part of the story, during his transition from “idiot” to genius.

There are too many themes in this story to count: The benefits of innocence, the insecurity of mankind, the limits of intelligence, the allegory of life. Yet what remains most striking is the emotional attachment that we feel for Charlie during the course of the novel. One of the things that makes me personally feel the most emotional is when someone who clearly is in a terrible situation nonetheless maintains a positive attitude. Charlie, and we imagine Algernon as well, don’t want people to feel sorry for them. All they really want is to impress their families and peers. In my opinion, Keyes is telling us that we have no obligation to do so. Charlie so desperately wanted to be smart, he never realized that what he had – his innocence, his kindness, his drive, and his love of people – was worth more than that. Life isn’t a contest like Algernon’s maze, after all. No matter what you do, you’ll reach the end. The value comes from the relationships that you form in the somewhere in the middle. A lot of society’s ills come from people taking themselves too seriously, worrying too much about their own pride. As Charlie puts it, “Its easy to have frends if you let pepul laff at you. Im going to have lots of frends where I go.”

-Jacob, Greenwood, Teen Blogger

GWD

Free Music! Get It! Suffer in Peace by Tyler Farr

Tyler Farr

Want it?

Continue reading

Hiking in Washington

Upper Falls Wallace State Park

The Upper Falls

Over spring break, my friend and I took a road trip over to Wallace Falls in Goldbar, Washington, and then went on a hike. Wallace Falls is a Washington State Park, and thus we needed a Discover Pass to park there. The Discover Pass is this yellow slip that you hang on the front mirror in your car, which allows you to park at these state parks. The Discover Pass is $10 for a day, or $30 annually. We bought the annual pass, since we knew that we would be hiking at other state parks through the year.

Once we got to Wallace Falls state park, we zipped up our layers (for me, I wore 3 coats, including one fleece and one rain coat). On the first small part of the trail, you’re walking under large electrial towers. Before we entered the woods, we stopped at one viewpoint that looked towards mountains, though it was too cloudy to see the mountains. We then entered the forest, we were met with a William Wordsworth quote: “Come forth into the light of things. Let nature be your teacher.” After stopping to take a few pictures, we ventured on. We hiked up the Woody Trail, with the first 1/2 a mile being “easy”, according to the trail map. It had very little elevation gain, and took us on a muddy trail that was surrounded by moss-covered trees and ferns on the ground. We didn’t see anyone else on the trail at this point (around 10, on a Tuesday).

Continue reading

Choosing a College: Teen Perspectives

College WheelIt’s just past the time that high school seniors have decided on their college, and juniors are looking ahead to applications. It’s nice being able to talk to someone who’s gone through the same process that many juniors will go through. There’s much to think about: the SAT, the ACT, good grades, finding a school that fits your interests, essays, applications, visits, and more.

We have the perspective of two high schoolers: Brooke who has been through the application and acceptance process, and Claire, who is just beginning it.

Brooke: Finding the right college is really difficult. My decision came down to two schools, and a lot of different things factored into my final choice. You have to consider location, class difficulty,cost, the “feel” of the school and it’s social aspects, and a ton of other stuff. With the two schools I had, one was much more prestigious but a lot more costly, and the other one had given me scholarship money, but wasn’t particularly well-known.

I had to weigh my options: would the more abundant opportunities at the one school outweigh its cost? Would I be happy in the towns the schools were in? Did I feel welcome and included by current and other prospective students? You may never have that moment where you just know, like a lot of people talk about. You have to trust you’ll make the right decison for you.

Continue reading

Thirteen Reasons Why – Filled with suspense, good life lessons

Title: Thirteen Reasons WhyThirteen Reasons Why

Author: Jay Asher

Summary: No one expected Hannah Baker’s death, but thirteen people would soon find out how their actions and words pushed Hannah off the edge. Clay Jensen is determined to listen to Hannah’s thirteen tapes to figure out her story, and why he is in it. These tapes show a side of Hannah that no one saw, and the truth about who she really was.

Gut Reaction: Filled with suspense, good life lessons.

I would give this book 8/10 stars because it was detailed and had a good plot, but was slow at times.

What I loved: I really liked how the book took the image of a perfect girl in high school and showed the reader that she has feelings and is just like everyone else.

Why: This book always keeps you guessing what will happen next and surprises you with each new tape. The characters are all distinct and have intriguing personalities that draw you in.

Websites of interest:

Thirteen Reasons Why website

-Afsara, Greenwood, Teen Adviser

GWD

Philosophy Class – questioning your surroundings is good for the soul

Philosophy Class Review

Plato

Plato

Philosophy…what does this word exactly mean? Well, it’s derived from the Greek roots Filo, meaning love, and Sofia, meaning wisdom. Thus creating the word φιλοσοφία (Philosophy), the love or pursuit of wisdom. I took this class at North Seattle Community College and initially it was just for the sake of earning the credit, but as the quarter progressed I grew to love the class and its mind boggling concepts. Philosophy 101 took a general view on various ideologies but ideally philosophy can be broken down to five specific branches:

 

  • Metaphysics: explores outside of physicality such as ideas and question about existence,
  • Epistemology: the theory of knowledge “What is Knowledge? Can I prove I have knowledge of anything?”,
  • Logic: reasoning and inference; a majority of people tend to have something called Dysrationalia which is when you’re unable to reasonably think through a situation or problem despite being an individual with a high I.Q. (Intelligence Quotient),
  • Ethics: Moral Dilemmas,
  • Aesthetics: questioning the benefits of experiences.

Continue reading

Pantomine – a tale of deceit, mystery & magic

PantomimeTitle: Pantomine

Author: Laura Lam

Summary: Micah Grey wants to get away from his life—and the circus seems to be just the right place to do that. He delves into the world of circus arts as a new trapeze artist, but soon learns that the circus may not be quite what it seems. As the story unfolds, more of just who Micah is gets revealed, and between Micah’s past, and Micah’s present, a tale of deceit, mystery, and magic is unveiled.

Quick review: Do you like magic, circuses, and stories where the main character isn’t who they say they are? Then you’ll probably like this book. Told in a flip-flopping style of one chapter in the past, and one in the present, Micah’s story quickly begins to unfold. As the reader, you get caught up immediately, because you can tell that there’s something about Micah that he’s not telling you yet.

I started reading because… I was told that it had good representation of characters who were learning more about their gender and their sexual identity, as well as having an engaging fantasy setting.

I would give this book8/10 stars. It’s engaging and exciting, although the language felt a bit simplistic at times. I found the flip-flopping story technique frustrating at times, when I just wanted to get back to the storyline I had been on, but ultimately it was, in my opinion, the best way to tell this story.

-Sofia, 16, Greenwood Teen Advisory Board

GWD