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Flowers for Algernon Paperback – May 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews Review

Daniel Keyes wrote little SF but is highly regarded for one classic, Flowers for Algernon. As a 1959 novella it won a Hugo Award; the 1966 novel-length expansion won a Nebula. The Oscar-winning movie adaptation Charly (1968) also spawned a 1980 Broadway musical.

Following his doctor's instructions, engaging simpleton Charlie Gordon tells his own story in semi-literate "progris riports." He dimly wants to better himself, but with an IQ of 68 can't even beat the laboratory mouse Algernon at maze-solving:

I dint feel bad because I watched Algernon and I lernd how to finish the amaze even if it takes me along time.

I dint know mice were so smart.

Algernon is extra-clever thanks to an experimental brain operation so far tried only on animals. Charlie eagerly volunteers as the first human subject. After frustrating delays and agonies of concentration, the effects begin to show and the reports steadily improve: "Punctuation, is? fun!" But getting smarter brings cruel shocks, as Charlie realizes that his merry "friends" at the bakery where he sweeps the floor have all along been laughing at him, never with him. The IQ rise continues, taking him steadily past the human average to genius level and beyond, until he's as intellectually alone as the old, foolish Charlie ever was--and now painfully aware of it. Then, ominously, the smart mouse Algernon begins to deteriorate...

Flowers for Algernon is a timeless tear-jerker with a terrific emotional impact. --David Langford --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A tale that is convincing, suspenseful and touching."--The New York Times
"An ingeniously touching story . . . Moving . . . Intensely real."--The Baltimore Sun

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 4.1.2005 edition (May 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156030306
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156030304
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,002 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

It is such a touching, wonderfully written story.
The book is written in the form of Charlie's "progress reports," and is a very original and emotional story.
I like how as Charlie learned about himself by the end of the book.
Fuzzy Lizard

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

145 of 149 people found the following review helpful By shel99 on August 11, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this book for school when I was in 7th grade, and just finished re-reading it ten years and a degree in biology later. I loved it when I was a teen, and (after forcing myself to ignore my instinctive scientific skepticism) still love it today.
It's a very thought-provoking story, all the more so when you consider that it was written about 40 years ago when society was a bit less tolerant of the mentally retarded than it is now. Charlie is a man in his 30s with an IQ of 68 when the book starts; through a controversial experimental operation, his IQ gets higher and higher until it soars at one point to 185. The story is told through the journal entries that he is told to keep for the researchers in charge of the study. Through Charlie's words, you can see how sharply his intellect grows and how difficult it is for him because as smart as he becomes, his *emotional* intelligence is still that of a child.
Charlie's emergence from ignorance is painful for him; imagine learning all of life's hard truth's in a matter of weeks rather than the normal development from innocent child to worldly adult. And the ending of the book is heartwrenching. Everyone should read "Flowers for Algernon" at some point in their life. It's a classic.
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69 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Chris Howard on May 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
I was so surprised by this book. Flowers For Algernon was one of the best books I've read this year and I really wasn't expecting it.

It is the story of Charlie Gordon, a man in his thirties with mental retardation. Charlie is the subject of a psychological research project at a university that is examining the effects of a new surgical procedure on mental retardation. Charlie's estranged sister gives the university permission to perform the procedure on Charlie. The procedure proves to be at least a temporary success and Charlie goes from having mental retardation to having an IQ of 185 in a manner of weeks.

The experiment is initially tried on a white mouse named Algernon. Algernon is tested through a complex maze where he is rewarded by food after reaching the end. Charlie races Algernon with a maze of his own and receives a shock if he goes the wrong way. At the beginning of the book, Algernon beats Charlie to the finish line every time. But Charlie soon soars past Algernon and through the process grows close to the mouse.

The book is written in the form of journal entries kept by Charlie for the experiment. At the beginning of the book, words are misspelled, ideas are vague, and relationships are simple. As the book progresses, so does Charlie's thought process and so do his relationships. Charlie learns what true love is as he falls in love with his teacher, Alice. He learns what physical love is as he comes into contact with his artistic and eccentric neighbor, Fay. And he learns the pains of relational love as he relives memories of his family and friends.

What was most touching to me about this book were these flashbacks and moments of recognition.
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61 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Lawyeraau HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 13, 2004
Format: Library Binding
This is a wonderful and highly original novel about a mentally challenged man named Charlie who wanted to be smart. One day, his wish was granted. A group of scientists selected him for an experimental operation which would to raise his intelligence to genius level. Suddenly, Charlie found himself transformed, and life, as he knew it, changed.

His story is told entirely through Charlie's eyes and perceptions in the form of progress reports. The reader actually sees the change in Charlie take place, as his progress reports become more complex, well written, and filled with the angst of personal discovery and growth, as well as with his gradual awareness of his amazing and accelerated intellectual development.

The progress reports are a wonderful contrivance for facilitating the story, and the reader is one with Charlie on his voyage of self-discovery. What happens to Charlie in the long run is profoundly moving and thought provoking. It is no wonder that this author was the recipient of the Nebula Award, which is given by the Science Fiction Writers of America for having written the Best Novel of the Year. This is definitely a book well worth reading and having in one's personal collection. Bravo!
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Julie Lortz on October 17, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Charlie Gordon's "progris riports" make up the majority of the text in Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon. In his early thirties, mentally challenged Charlie works at a bakery, cleaning up and running errands. The only thing that Charlie has ever wanted in life is for people to like him. He thinks that if he were smart, people would want to be his friend. Charlie tries hard to learn how to read and write, but it is a long, ongoing process. Charlie decides to take part in a study conducted by some professors at the school he attends. The experiment involves Charlie's having an extraordinary brain operation that will help him to become extremely intelligent. After the operation, Charlie's new IQ helps him to understand how common it is for people to be cruel to others. Charlie soon realizes that all his life, people have been laughing at him, not with him. As Charlie becomes smarter, vivid memories of his childhood begin to disturb him. Unfortunately, after a few months Charlie's intelligence begins to fade and he regresses to a worse mental state than before the experiment.
This book truthfully portrays how people treat others different from themselves and how unkind we can be to each other. We are able to get a glimpse of what it feels like to be made fun of and looked down upon by others.
Unfortunately, this book is on the Banned Book List. Censors claim that "explicit love scenes were distasteful." It also contains limited profanity and references to drinking. I believe that these scenes are essential to understanding how Charlie is progressing mentally as well as emotionally. They also are necessary to help us understand the characters' personalities. I feel certain that eight graders and above would be able to handle this book. I would certainly recommend it to adults as well as young people.
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