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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.

Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes

Initial Thoughts: This book is a 20th century classic. I had no clue what it was about, and I didn’t know anyone in my friend circle who has read it. All I knew is that there was a mouse on the cover. Intuitively, I knew that the mouse was Algernon. Why do we need to buy flowers for Algernon? You’ll find out if you read the book.


The story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie’s intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration. Will the same happen to Charlie?

The Review

Are you looking for a book that will break your heart? If yes, then look no further than Flowers for Algernon.

I had seen this book featured on many lists and heard the title in passing. I figured that it must be the story of a little mouse (most of the book covers feature a mouse). I also knew that this book was supposed to be sad. So, I figured that Flowers for Algernon was the tragic tale of a little mouse.

Instead, the story is about a mentally disabled man named Charlie who becomes part of an experiment designed to make people smart. Charlie is encouraged to keep a journal describing how he feels about the experiments being done to him. As Charlie’s IQ increases, he begins to understand the world in a completely different way. The memories he supressed as a child begins to flood his brain, and the mistreatment he received from others due to his mental disability begins to make him question his friendships.

Not only was this book heart breaking to read, it also reveals a lot about the way we treat others based on their intelligence. When Charlie is first introduced, his “friends” at the bakery constantly mock him believing that they could get away with it. Despite this mistreatment, Charlie believes that his friends are laughing with him instead of at him. Once Charlie’s intelligence surpasses that of an average human being, he becomes alienated from others because his intelligence sets him apart. He also is painfully aware of others’ perceptions of him causing further alienation. All of this begs the question as to whether being overly intelligent or unintelligent produces similar results of alienation from others.

The writing style is absolutely genius. It is told through diary entries. The first entries are written sloppily with a bunch of grammar and spelling mistakes. At first, I thought that I wouldn’t be able to finish the book if its entirety was written in this fashion. As time goes on, and Charlie’s intelligence increases, his writing skills increase as well. You really get a sense of progression in Charlie’s mind and feel as if he is a real character.

Flowers for Algernon was a fascinating read and gave me a lot to think about.

Final Rating:

About the Book

Title: Flowers for Algernon

Author: Daniel Keyes

Year Published: 1959

Pages: 216

Genres & Subjects: Fiction, classics, science fiction, psychology

Until next time,