Review: Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon

Title: Flowers for Algernon
Author: Daniel Keyes
Type: Fiction
Genre: Science Fiction
Date published: March 1966
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 216

Rating: 5/5

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?


Written in series of journal entries and progress reports, Flowers for Algernon a story about a man named Charlie Gordon who went through an experiment to make him smart.

The books starts off with Charlie’s “progris riports” where he introduces himself. The first several reports are filled with grammatical and spelling errors, and take a while to read. But it begins to change after he has his “operashun”. As he becomes increasingly smarter, Charlie’s writing becomes so perfect, that if read next to each other, it’s almost impossible to believe that it’s the same Charlie writing the entries. But the transition over the thirty or so pages is so flawless that his transformation is so credible and undeniable.

However, this story is so much more than a man with an IQ of 68 becoming smarter than everyone in the world. Behind all the intelligence and science behind the book, we see the enlightenment and unraveling that occurs in Charlie’s mind. He realizes that not everything is better when he becomes smarter. It ultimately changes him and his perception of his world. As his IQ hitches above 170, he finds his intelligence driving a wedge between everyone he once loved and himself.

When Algernon’s intelligence begins to deteriorate, Charlie realizes that he will be met with the same fate. He hopelessly tries to hold on to the knowledge he’s obtained as he descends back into darkness.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It definitely took a while to get in there (with all the spelling errors) but I found myself more and more absorbed in the plot as I continued. It was so rich with insights and perspectives I’ve never considered before.

This novel is a heartbreaking story, but not in the way you’d think. It’s a brilliant piece that makes you think more deeply about the cost of intelligence. It’s a tragedy of a man who was brought into the light, and just as quickly, pulled back into the darkness. Although readers may not relate to Charlie, they are able to relate to some of the pains and losses that he faced.

“PS please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard.”

4 thoughts on “Review: Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

  1. I agree this book is really enjoyable, maybe a little hard to get into at first with the deliberate spelling errors! If you’ve seen the Simpsons episode where Homer gets intelligent when a crayon is stuck in his brain, it’s not a bad parody of the story 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I totally agree with you, it was so difficult getting past those first 30 or so pages!
      Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll definitely check out the episode 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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