Tag Archives: interpersonal relationships

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


My Ethical Dilemma – Privacy and its Unwritten Rules

Privacy-Rights1To what extent is a private moment private? With so many cameras and phones around, pictures and videos have become a much larger part of our lives than before. Candid photos are taken, goofy videos are recorded, and then many of them are put on the Internet, or at least shared with friends. But do you think that you should still have control over what people see and what remains private in your life? Two of my good friends are currently in a fight because of the lax rules our society has surrounding photo privacy. For the sake of privacy (ironically) we will call them Bell and Bae.

Bell is my very best friend, and she has been for several years. We are always together, think with one mind and find each other hilarious. I can’t imagine my life without Bell. She recently started dating someone and he’s a pretty okay guy. They bonded over photos and so he has seen almost all of the horrible photos she has of me on her phone. Needless to say I wasn’t very happy about this, things like bad selfies and me making weird faces aren’t really things I want shown to anyone but her. But because I dislike confrontation I tried to repress my annoyance and move on with my life, which I did. Up until now… Continue reading

Bombay Blues – Dimple travels to Bombay, experiences life

Bombay BluesTitle:  Bombay Blues

Author: Tanuja Desai Hidier

Six Word Review: Dimple travels to Bombay, experiences life.

Summary: Dimple Lala is a college student and avid photographer living in New York City, with her boyfriend Karsh.  She travels to Bombay with Karsh to celebrate her cousin’s wedding.  Together they also plan to explore their homeland, each in search of questions about their heritage and themselves.  Dimple encounters many things during her summer in Bombay—most of which she was not expecting.  Karsh distances himself and her family is topsy-turvy with the wedding plans.  Dimple realizes she must explore Bombay on her own and she finds out more than she ever imagined about her culture, her family and love.

I started reading because: The cover looked really interesting (admit it, you judge books by their covers, too) and the first few pages were engaging.

I kept reading because: I hate to leave books unfinished.

I would give this book 5/10 stars, because the poetic, stream-of-consciousness writing style got monotonous halfway through, the plot didn’t seem to be going anywhere, and the dreamy quality of the storyline made it hard to follow.  However, I liked Dimple’s charming, determined and inquisitive personality.

I loved the detailed descriptions of Dimple’s family and life in colorful, exciting Bombay.

I hated the descriptions of everything when they became excessive and the stream-of-consciousness style.  The poetic style seemed more suited to a shorter story.

If the lead character Dimple were stuck on a deserted island, she would take pictures of everything because she sees the world through the eyes of her precious film camera.

Anything else we should know? This book is loooooooooong. It’s 550 pages of poetic rambling, which didn’t really work for me, but maybe it’s your thing.  If it is, you will really enjoy this book!  Also, dialogue is denoted by dashes, instead of the usual quotation marks, which can be confusing at first, but I got used to it.

–Gabriella, Ballard, Teen Blogger


…most professional writers suffer from impostor syndrome…

impostor syndromeA person with impostor syndrome would be writing this blog post the night before it was due.  Oh wait, that’s me.  You may be thinking, what is impostor syndrome?  Well allow me to shed some light on the subject. It is defined as “…a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true.  It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence” (The Impostor Syndrome).  When you read that definition you may realize that you knew what it was all along, you didn’t have a name for it.

For me, the tendency seems to be that I will do everything possible to avoid having to sit down and actually tackle a writing assignment.  Not because of laziness, but because of fear.  The unending fear that my work will never be good enough.  Which along with my intense perfectionism and self-doubt impair me from being able to simply sit down and write.  But eventually, it becomes midnight and I have to face the fact that it is time to write, because if I don’t I will have nothing to turn in.  As feelings of uncertainty fill my body, I nervously start to type out an opening sentence.  Then I usually erase what I have written a few dozen times before I find something that I can live with.  Once I get into the groove of the piece, I love writing.  But once I am out of that completely focused imagination zone, the fears and insecurities start screaming at me again.  As hard as it is for me to admit, I’m a pretty good student.  I usually get A’s in my classes and turn my work in on time.  Yet, I never feel like I am doing enough. I also feel like one day someone is going to find out that I have just been getting by on luck. Continue reading

Transparent: a good story about breaking free

transparentTitle: Transparent

Author: Natalie Whipple

Summary: In a world where people have mutant powers, courtesy of a drug called Radiasure (originally supposed to protect from radiation), Fiona McClean is invisible, the only such person in the world. Unfortunately, even that won’t protect her from her mob-boss father, who wants to use her for his own ends. When Fiona and her mother run away, Fiona must adjust to ordinary small-town life and make friends while confronting her past as an invisible thug, and leaving it behind.

Six-word summary: A good story about breaking free.

I started reading because it was about an invisible girl on the run from the mob. It seemed interesting.

I kept reading because of the exploration of how Fiona’s past (especially her father) scarred her and how she’s breaking free from that mold and learning what real friends are like, as well as the exploration of what it’s like to grow up invisible, with no one ever being able to see what you look like (Fiona bemoans that people always look past her, or look at her clothes, not at her, because they can’t see her).

8.5 stars out of 10, because it’s a good story, but the science is sketchy. Invisibility should render you blind, as light doesn’t interact with the optic nerves, and a lot of the other ‘mutations’ really don’t make scientific sense, although some are more plausible than others. There’s also a bit too much angst, and the pacing is a bit weird.

I loved the characters, and their interplay. Fiona is a scared, emotionally abused girl, forced to be a thug for her father, who controlled her and her mother through use of his special pheromones, which enslave women to him. She doesn’t know what it’s like outside the mob, and her trust issues form most of the plot, but oh glory does she have reason for them!

Her mother Lauren is also scared and abused, but she’s always trying to get away. She made the wrong choice of who to love (Fiona’s father), when she was young, and has been paying for it ever since. She always looks out for her children first, and her first duty is as a mother.

Then there’s Bea, from Madison, the town Fiona moves to. She’s friendly and open, and is the first person to have motives that are exactly what they seem to be. Due to her ability, she is ostracized, and so she approaches Fiona, another outcast. She teaches Fiona the important lesson that not everybody is out to get her.

Jonas O’Conell, Fiona’s father, leads a Syndicate (read: mafia), and is an utter control freak. Although he isn’t much seen, he casts his shadow over every page, and he is the one who must be overcome at the end. He is arrogant in his power, and his effects on everyone’s heads are hard to get over.

Miles, Fiona’s brother, is easy-going and friendly. As his power (scent imitation) isn’t very useful to a mob boss, he is ignored, but he’s more dangerous than he appears. One should never underestimate the ability to make easy friends with anyone.

Brady, a relative of Bea (I think), is a nice guy who has to hold back with a lot of things due to his super strength (when he was young, his tantrums were more like war zones). He acts as the nice boy-next door and as the “nice” choice in the love triangle.

Seth, Fiona’s math teacher, is a bit of a jerk, but, as with most of his kind, that’s a facade that hides some good reasons for it. He is patient, and helps Fiona with her math, even though she isn’t cooperative.

I didn’t really hate anything, but I was annoyed by Fiona’s continuing refusal to trust anyone. I understand why she’s that way, but it’s still annoying. A little pet peeve of mine is the misuse of science, and mutations do not work that way.

I couldn’t get enough of Miles. That guy is awesome!

If Fiona was in a high school yearbook, she’d be voted most likely to die a virgin, due to issues with trust, her invisibility, and the fact that she’s the child of the boss of a Syndicate, making her hated by association.

On a deserted island, Fiona would probably start doing whatever she could to ensure survival (you know, find food, build a shelter, that sort of thing). She’s a self-sufficient person.

Anything else: It’s sort of a blend of The Godfather and X-Men.

By Thea, 16, Douglass-Truth – Teen Volunteer


Bone – Start with the conclusion and end at the beginning.

n130605Title: Bone

Author:  Fae Myenne Ng

This book was a little hard for me to get into, due to the fact that it goes backwards.  It starts with the conclusion and ends with the beginning , if that makes any sense.  It took me 5 chapters to get into the book and it was great to read.  I thought that the book was moving, sweet, and nicely written.

This book follows three sisters Leila, Ona, and Nina.  Leila is narrating the story.   This book is basically about figuring out why Ona, the middle sister, decided to commit suicide by jumping off a building.  It reveals in the first chapter that Ona has committed suicide and as each chapter goes by, we get closer and closer to figuring out why she did.  It’s kind of like playing a puzzle game, each piece gets you closer and closer to figuring out what the picture is going to look like and that’s how the book is kind of interpreted with Ona’s death.  This book also features the relationship problems of Mah and Leon.  Leon is Leila and Ona’s stepfather and Nina’s real dad.  Mah and Leon have a lot of complications going on in their relationship that affect the lives of the three sisters.

I thought that the book was good and it gave me more insight on the Chinatown in San Francisco.  I really liked how some the of the writing in the book would always go back to the title.  This book was interesting and I recommend people to read it.

–Friyad, Columbia, Teen Blogger

Teen Reviewed: And We Stay

And We StayTitle:  And We Stay

Author:  Jenny Hubbard

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Emily Beam is sent away to a boarding school in Massachusetts after her boyfriend shoots himself in the school library.  When she gets to Amherst School for Girls, she finds out that the town of Amherst is where Emily Dickinson spent much of her life. In the spirit of the woman who shares her name and birthday, Emily starts to write poems herself as she tries to cope with what she has been through.  Slowly, she begins to find her sea legs as she gradually develops new relationships and explores her changed existence through writing.

I started reading because:  I liked the concept, and I liked the idea of a novel written in half prose, half poetry.

I kept reading because:  the writing was incredible.  Every word was beautiful and used very intentionally.  I also loved how the characters slowly unfolded themselves throughout the book.

If Emily were in a yearbook, she would be voted:  Most Talented.

I would recommend this book to poetry lovers, and anyone who would like to do some contemplating of the big questions. While this book did make me laugh at times, it should be noted that it deals with some heavy subject matter and controversial issues, so it is not suitable for everyone.

–Hannah, Greenwood, Teen Blogger