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on September 15, 1997
There are those who have attempted the topic before, to show the good or ill about artificially increasing a man's intelligence, and they have all fallen by the wayside, forgotten entries in the arena of literature, all because they forgot one factor: love.

In Flowers for Algernon, Keyes shows us a man who is jolted out of his comfortable world of stupidity and finds his friends who were not as good as he thought they were, that all he thought was nothing more than a veiled illusion. And he copes, as everyone must, he copes and finds love and comes to term with himself.

Just in time for him to realize that his intelligence is only temporary. In the most heart wrenching scenes of the novel, the reader must witness his intelligence fading rapidly, each journal entry a little less exact, the spelling a tiny bit worse, until the book comes full circle and he is back where he started from, only having a wisdom that he cannot understand, or comprehend.
Touching, moving, Flowers for Algernon is all that and more, it is an epic of emotion, an opera of getting what you want most and then realizing that you might have been better off.
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on September 26, 2005
This book was touching and meaningful. If you are a fan of faster paced books, this novel may not be for you. Flowers For Algernon moves relatively slowly, and readers grow attached to the main characters. Within the novel lies different messages concerning morals and everyday struggles.
Unique, and unlike any other books I have read before. You may want to pick it up and have a read.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon April 23, 2016
I've been hearing quite a bit about this book lately even though it is not new. Flowers for Algernon was written by Daniel Keyes, published in 1959, has sold over 5 million copies, won the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award, and inspired an Academy Award-winning movie called Charly. I had never read the book nor had I seen the movie but I was intrigued by everything I read and decided to read the book first.

Charlie Gordon has an unusually low IQ. He works at a bakery mopping up the kitchen, the store and the washrooms. He thinks his co-workers are his friends but they set him up for stupid pranks and then laugh at him. Charlie, however, always maintains an easy-going attitude. He hasn't seen his mother, father, or sister in many years; his parents put him in a home when he was a teenager because they couldn't deal with his lack of progress at school.

Professor Nemur and Dr. Strauss of the Beekman University have met Charlie through his night school teacher and think Charlie is the perfect candidate for an experiment based on their theory that a certain operation on the brain will enable anyone to improve their IQ markedly, even to that of genius. The other half of the experiment is Algernon, a lab mouse, who has the same operation and is able to perform exceptionally at racing through mazes to find the treat at the end.

We follow Charlie's amazing increase in IQ through the journal he keeps as part of the experiment. In the beginning, he writes simple sentences with phonetic spelling, low vocabulary, and almost no punctuation. As the story progresses, he becomes a fluent writer, an able linguist, and, indeed, goes beyond the level of those using him for their experiment. Along with his ability to sate his thirst for knowledge comes an awareness that he didn't really understand the people around him, hadn't grasped the fact that his so-called friends were really just using him as the butt of their jokes. He also comes to realize that he can't have relationships with people when his IQ went way beyond theirs any more than he could when his IQ was lower than those of the people around him. Each scenario carried its own curse.

Even as his IQ develops exponentially, Charlie's emotional state is still that of a child — he has never had any romantic encounters and has no idea of appropriate ways to show his feelings and woo a lady. His world begins to come crashing down when Algernon — and several other experimental mice in the lab — begins to exhibit erratic behaviours, loses interest in completing the maze, and becomes disoriented and lethargic. Charlie tries to use his now vast knowledge to help solve the dilemma of why the process begins to reverse. I don't want to spoil the story for you so I'll stop here.

This is more than just an interesting look at how science might help to solve social problems, it looks with sensitivity at how society treats the handicapped, and how they even treat people of lower intelligence differently than they would blind or crippled people. This is a book that leaves you with a lot to think about and perhaps more of an awareness of those we marginalize within our society by what we value and what we are prepared to overlook. If you've read this book, I'd love to hear your opinion of it, and how it impacted you.
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on January 21, 2015
I first read this as a short story in high school as a required reading material. I decided to read the novel version this year. I always had a soft spot for Charlie Gordon in my heart because of how he is - not because I pity him, but because he needs so much more understanding from the people around him but all they do is make fun of him--and he doesn't even know it.

Reading the Progress Reports made it seem like he was writing to me, like Anne Frank and her Diary. I actually cried a little when it ended. It made me want to meet him and hug him (but of course, that's not possible as this is fiction).

Reading the book made me realize a lot of other things and reminded me of what I used to do when I was younger (like how to remember your dreams right after waking up before it all slips away)

I really recommend reading Flowers for Algernon because of how the story progresses and just how the minute details in spelling and all catch you off guard and make you feel like you're actually in that world.
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on September 17, 2013
I guess the reason why I purchased this book in the first place is because I really liked the movie but the book was so much better. The movie leaves so much out and as good as it was, the part that was left out was the best part. This being the case,the book was a pleasant surprise. I can always tell when I read an exceptional book because it stays with me for a time after I read it, like an aftertaste. I have to tell you, the price was amazing and in no way reflects the quality of this book. Would I recomend this book to anyone? I already have. I even bought one for my daughter. It really earned the five stars I am giving it so let me take this opportunaty to suggest that you read it too. It is such a heartwarming story full of genuine emotion and self reflection. Written in first person, narrative, it makes you think, it makes you question things you might otherwise have never thought about, and it makes you feel like you have an emotional investment in the character from his rise to his greatest achievements to his eventual downfall. It's a page turner. If you have a heart, you'll love this book.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon February 18, 2013
Charlie Gordon is not very bright, but has a life that works for him. He does not understand the cruelty of his coworkers, so is able to see them as his friends. Because Charlie does not understand the limits of his mental handicap, he pursues adult education classes with hope of making himself smarter. His life seems sad to the reader, but Charlie is mercifully insulated from awareness of the world beyond his reach.

His life changes when Charlie participates in a surgical experiment designed to improve intelligence. The experiment succeeds, and Charlie quickly develops first ordinary, and then extraordinary intelligence. Readers see the results in Charlie's life and in his understanding of those around him. Some of these realizations are painful, for both Charlie and the reader. Charlie's life changes direction again when it becomes clear that his increased intelligence is temporary. Algernon, a lab rat that also benefitted from the experimental surgery, begins losing his abilities and soon dies. Charlie declines as well, descending back into the familiar mental fog of his former life. But now he carries the emotional burdens of self-awareness and memory of a more complex world.

This is classic science fiction and one of the most moving stories about mental handicaps ever written. Although it was originally banned from public school curricula, it is now widely recognized as a valuable part of children's emotional education. The book's painful emotions produce a worthwhile educational experience. I highly recommend Daniel Keyes' book to anyone who teaches and loves children, especially those with special needs.

Forgive a personal note: I gave a copy of this book to my wife, Lynnette, while we were dating in college. It was a rewarding bridge between her mature interests in special education and my lighthearted fondness for science fiction. Like Charlie Gordon, we build the bridges to others that we can. And remember them.
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on November 9, 2010
This is absolutely one of the best books I have ever read (twice). I first had to read it sometime in high school or junior high for English class and it is the first time I remember staying up almost all night to finish a book (literally "couldn't put it down" as they always say), and the first time I remember crying after reading a book (still doesn't happen often - see Steinbeck's 'East of Eden' for an exception!). I dared to pick it up again a couple years ago (while studying neuroscience no less) and found my childhood praise vindicated.

Briefly (others have summarized it well), the story follows Charlie Gordon, a mentally handicapped ('retarded' in the parlance of the time) man in his thirties, who becomes the subject of a radical neurological procedure which raises his IQ to normal levels - and then far, far beyond. A mouse (the eponymous 'Algernon') undergoes the same procedure simultaneously and the experimenters keep tabs on both of them.

The genius of the book is that it is told in first-person 'logs' that Charlie is made to keep by the experimenters. Thus, in a way we know only what Gordon knows (as per the first-person medium), but at the same time we know so much more (or less), and here the book succeeds very well on an intellectual and emotional level. Throughout the first part, we witness Charlie being taunted and abused and not even knowing it, and it's heart-wrenching. Later in the book he becomes a super-genius of sorts, and the reader can hardly keep up with his theories of brain function derived from the Japanese neurological community (all fictional of course - but, though I can't remember the scientific details anymore, for what it's worth it all seemed very interesting and even semi-plausible to me when I read it last and was in the midst of studying very similar research in school).

Besides being intellectually interesting and emotionally stimulating, we get the roller-coaster ride of a man waking up to the world in a matter of days, suddenly discovering art, music, women, science, and his own morbid past - to say nothing of his terrifying future.

The ending is heart-breaking and beautifully done, though I don't wish to spoil anything. Just writing this review I'm determined to find another copy of this book and read it again - I gave mine away to a friend.

I feel this review has been utterly insufficient, so let me just say that this is an exceptional book and should most definitely be given a read. I've looked at the negative reviews on here, they appear to all have been written by bored, boring high school students. 'Nuff said.
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on May 25, 2004
Along with John Updikes's "Rabbit Run" this is one of the great novels I have ever read. Period. Through the eyes and heart of Charlie Gordon, we see the best and the worst of humanity, we see a person with little resources available to him struggle with enormous challenges.
Thanks to a scientific invention that leads to a startling new procedure, Charlie's IQ raises from about 70 to over 300. It was interesting how getting smarter did not make Charlie any happier. He was probably happier mopping floors at the bakery than when he was able to understand "higher echelons" of society. The message of this book is that the goodness of the human heart can be pure regardless of educational level or intelligence.
I found most interesting how Charlie attempted to understand his earlier life as he gained more reflective abilities and how he attempted to understand his family. Also interesting...how he
attempted to understand women. As a lower functioning person, he barely grasped sexual politics if at all. When he is forced to understand, he still doesn't because he sees the old Charlie in himself no matter how smart he gets. He sees the old Charlie glaring at him in the mirror.
Even as he starts losing his intelligence because of a procedure that was not perfect, he still has the great desire to retain as much as he can, and to keep reading books, a brilliant way to say through a novel, that learning leads to more learning in life and you can never completely get back to where you were before, but hopefully always moving forward.
This, for me, made me more sure of my unconditional positive regard for humanity, especially the potential for learning and love that we all have. Charlie taught me a lot and I know he will teach you a lot too!(...)
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on April 1, 2004
Flowers For Algernon
By: Daniel Keyes
Reviewed by K. Wong
P.6
This book is about a 32 year old man named Charlie. He worked at a bakery. He wasn't like other people. Charlie wanted to learn how to read, write, and go to college. He would write in a journal everyday about what he's thinking. One day Charlie took a test to see if he can be operated on to be smarter. He did the operation and he tried doing some mazes with a mouse that had the same operation done to him. It took a long time to see if he was getting smarter. He still had to write in the journal everyday. Before the operation was done, his writing was weird but a few weeks after the operation was finished, his writing got better.
I like this book because it's about a person who really wants to learn something. He wanted to get smart and go to college. There was an operation done to him so he would get smarter. Everyday that he writes in his journal you can see he is getting smart because his spelling and grammar is improving. That was the first time that experiment has been done to a person.
"He sed sit down Charlie and make yourself cunfortible and relax." This is what Charlie wrote in his second entry before he was operated on. "As far as I can tell, in the daysbefore the operation, I never really understood what planes were." That was a quote after the operation was done.
My favorite part in the book is when they start doing the operation on him. A few days after he has to listen to a TV that helps you learn. It teaches you in your sleep too. I also like the part where his co-workers try to get Charlie in trouble with the boss. They try getting him in trouble by telling him to make dough when he isn't suppose to touch that machine to make dough. Charlie starts making the dough then Charlie's boss walks in and Charlie did a good job in making dough.
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on April 1, 2004
Flowers For Algernon
By: Daniel Keyes
Reviewed by K. Wong
P.6
This book is about a 32 year old man named Charlie. He worked at a bakery. He wasn't like other people. Charlie wanted to learn how to read, write, and go to college. He would write in a journal everyday about what he's thinking. One day Charlie took a test to see if he can be operated on to be smarter. He did the operation and he tried doing some mazes with a mouse that had the same operation done to him. It took a long time to see if he was getting smarter. He still had to write in the journal everyday. Before the operation was done, his writing was weird but a few weeks after the operation was finished, his writing got better.
I like this book because it's about a person who really wants to learn something. He wanted to get smart and go to college. There was an operation done to him so he would get smarter. Everyday that he writes in his journal you can see he is getting smart because his spelling and grammar is improving. That was the first time that experiment has been done to a person.
"He sed sit down Charlie and make yourself cunfortible and relax." This is what Charlie wrote in his second entry before he was operated on. "As far as I can tell, in the daysbefore the operation, I never really understood what planes were." That was a quote after the operation was done.
My favorite part in the book is when they start doing the operation on him. A few days after he has to listen to a TV that helps you learn. It teaches you in your sleep too. I also like the part where his co-workers try to get Charlie in trouble with the boss. They try getting him in trouble by telling him to make dough when he isn't suppose to touch that machine to make dough. Charlie starts making the dough then Charlie's boss walks in and Charlie did a good job in making dough.
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