My rating ★★★★☆
Flowers for Algernon is a novel about a mentally disabled young man Charlie who desperately wants to be smart. He undergoes a risky surgery and becomes a genius.
The story is heartwrenching and emotional. One of the main problems throughout the book is that having a high IQ is not enough to make you a functional part of the society. Being emotionally mature is also extremely important for the person to be happy and know one’s own place in the world.
Smarter Charlie finds it harder to be friends with people. They don’t like him that way. Some if not all of them are even scared of the genius. People who knew him before the surgery now view Charlie as a threat. They feel inferior to him and are afraid that he might reveal their own flaws, break their mighty exteriors and make them seem worthless.
This part of the story I found surprisingly relatable, because I also thought that smart Charlie was not a likable character. I didn’t like the parts where he’s at the highest level of his capability, as opposed to his growth at the beginning of the story and the inevitable decline in the end. Maybe that's because perfect stories and perfect people are not really that interesting. Flaws are what makes us like the character and feel for him. They make the story and his struggles seem relatable.
I liked how the novel was written in the form of journal entries. You can really follow the changes in Charlie’s intellectual abilities and even mindset. This made me think of the novel Push by Sapphire, which is realistic fiction but also shows the progress of the main character through his writing. I’ve read Flowers for Algernon in Russian, compared it to the Ukrainian translation, and I’m now curious to re-read it in English. I think these types of books are especially interesting for non-English speakers or those who study linguistics.
One more thing I liked was the relationship between Charlie and Algernon, the laboratory mouse who had the same surgery. It was heartwarming to see him relating to the little creature so much.
There were some parts of the book that I didn’t like, but they didn’t have that much of an influence on my opinion of the book.