Tag Archives: 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


We Were Liars – Summer story with an agonizing twist

wewereliarsTitle:  We Were Liars

Author:  E. Lockhart

Summary:  Cadence Sinclair has a perfect family.  So perfect, in fact, that when something goes wrong, the unspoken rule is to smile and pretend it never happened.  Then one summer, during her annual stay with her aunts and cousins on her rich grandfather’s private island, Cadence has an accident that causes her to have serious amnesia.  She returns to the island two summers later, but nobody will tell her the circumstances of the incident on the doctor’s orders that it will be better for her to rediscover what happened by herself.  Cadence struggles to reconnect with her family and best friends – her cousins and love interest, Gat – while we as readers are slowly immersed into the complicated, not-so-perfect world of the Sinclairs and, as time goes on, the details of that fateful summer begin to return to Cadence’s mind.

I started reading it because it was recommended to me.

I kept reading because I enjoyed learning about the intricacies and strained relationships of the Sinclair family and I loved reading about the vivid descriptions of Cadence’s friendships with her cousins and the growth of her relationship with Gat. The writing style was also very interesting and unconventional with charming pockets of line breaks and poetic language.

If Cadence was in a yearbook, she would be voted:  “Best Friend.”

Six word summary:  Summer story with an agonizing twist.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes reading fun chick flicks and then UNEXPECTEDLY GETTING THEIR HEART TORN INTO TINY SHREDS BY TALONS OF PAIN.

–Hannah, 16, Greenwood