The Best Assigned Novel I’ve Ever Read (Book Review: Flowers For Algernon)

“I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone.”

–  Charlie Gordon, Flowers For Algernon


Flowers For Algernon coverIn 8th grade, my last day of school before Spring Break was a Thursday.

Stick with me! This does have a point. I remember that it was a Thursday because I went to a private school, and our last day was on Holy Thursday. And I remember that last day very clearly, because we did quite a few fantastically fun things. But the best was when our class watched the movie adaption of Flowers For Algernon, the book we’d been reading for the past two months. I was reminded of that when hearing from all my eighth grade friends, who got out of school today. This book still sticks out at me as being one of the first ones I’d been assigned to read and actually enjoyed.

For anyone who’s been living under a rock and isn’t familiar with Flowers For Algernon, here’s the concept: a mentally challenged man, Charlie Gordon, writes journal entries about how he was selected by his teacher, Mrs. Kinnian, to undergo an operation that could raise his IQ and give him the intelligence of a normal person. So far, it’s only worked on a lab mouse called Algernon. The procedure is successful, and soon Charlie is even smarter than the professors who orchestrated the surgery. In the course of his development, he learns what it feels like to fall in love, have his emotions catch up with his mind, find the parents who gave him up, and possibly uncover a flaw in his surgery that could have a fatal consequence.

Okay, I dramatized that a teensy bit, but that’s the premise of the book. I hope that’s enough to hook the majority of readers, but if it isn’t, here’s more positive rambling about it.

First of all, the plot is engrossing. Seriously. The actual surgery happens within the first forty pages, and the book focuses on Charlie’s development after that. When I started reading, I immediately noticed Daniel Keyes’s masterful styling, how the page was littered with misspelled words and grammatical errors and had the complete feel of a journal entry from a mentally challenged man. I was eager to see how Charlie’s increasing intelligence would be reflected in his writing style, and Keyes pulls it off perfectly. I know that’s a strong word, and I rarely use it. The writing style of this book is perfect.

Who here liked The Avengers? I did, and one of my favorite things about it (other than seeing Iron Man blow up everything) was the clever interactions in specific scenes. Pick the wittiest conversation from that movie, and you have the dialogue from this entire book. Smart-Charlie, albeit being arrogant, is hilarious and thrilling to read about in his interactions with people.

My favorite part of the book, by far, is…well, it’s…

Okay, I can’t do this. I literally love the whole thing. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read, including all of the Harry Potter’s, Percy Jackson’s, Artemis Fowl’s, and all of the classic literature novels I’ve read in my literature classes.

I don’t know why. I’ll admit a small part of that stems from the fact that I read it in 8th grade, the most light and fun year of school I’ve ever had (so far, anyway, though senior year is pretty darn close) and I had a fantastic teacher who made it enjoyable to talk about.

But most of it is the book itself, which I still re-read to this day. The plot is enticing, the characters are incredibly human—not to mention well-developed—but more than anything, the text is dripping with emotion. It didn’t make me cry, but very few books have, and this one came pretty darn close.

As a side note, the beloved but little-known movie adaption (the one with Matthew Modine) is one of the best adaptions I’ve seen, and if you’ve read the book but haven’t seen this movie, please go do it. And if you haven’t read the book, do that first! I promise you won’t regret it.

Before I close, I just want to end on the note that some books are so unique, pulled off in exactly the right, unique way, that you have to read them. It doesn’t matter if you’re interested in literature, chemistry or basket weaving…this is just one of those texts that it’s a crime not to have experienced.

In Conclusion: There are very few books I’ve read that I consider pure perfection. This is one of them.

Happy Thursday, everyone.

Rate: 10 out of 10.


7 thoughts on “The Best Assigned Novel I’ve Ever Read (Book Review: Flowers For Algernon)

  1. I love teaching Flowers for Algernon! It’s always been one of my favorites. But I do have to ask… was the version you read in 8th grade abridged? I’ve taught excerpts to younger grades, but I wouldn’t hand the whole book to anyone still in middle school. Some of Charlie’s more mature struggles are awesome for high school class discussions, but I’d be surprised if any middle school teacher wanted to take on those themes!

  2. speakerforte says:

    I read an excerpt of “Flowers for Algernon” in my literature class. It seemed to be an excellent read, although I didn’t realize it was a whole book!

  3. Amanda Fabri says:

    which page does this quote come from? “I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone.”

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