Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON is a novel by award-winning author Daniel Keyes. This is his most well-known novel (and for good reason). This book follows Charlie Gordon, a mentally disabled man with big ambitions to be smart. Charlie has the drive to be intelligent, and he is given the opportunity to attain this dream. He undergoes an operation that is intended to raise his IQ significantly. The experiment and operation are based on a previous operation done on a mouse named Algernon, the first mouse to not deteriorate rapidly after undergoing the operation. After the operation, Charlie becomes a genius. However, they soon see that Algernon is deteriorating. This begs the question: What will happen to Charlie?

This novel is another great one to make you think. Is intelligence worth losing people who care about you (even if you didn't realize they were actually making fun of you)? Is it fair to lay claim to a person just because they were a part of an experiment? Is a person of less intelligence less of a human? Keyes weaves these questions into the story, addressing them both directly and indirectly. Furthermore, even if the reader doesn't realize it, they are thinking about these questions all the way through. The reader is forced to form an opinion on what happens to Charlie because we feel for him.

I loved the complexity of this novel. It was such an abstract idea, and Keyes answers its questions beautifully. The characters are top-notch. Keyes is even able to give Algernon a life of his own, without overdoing it. He doesn't take away from the fact that the story is Charlie's.

The book is told from Charlie's point of view in the form of his progress reports, which I thought was absolutely perfect. We see at the beginning that Charlie has trouble writing and understanding things. He has many spelling mistakes and practically no punctuation. The reader is able to watch as Charlie's language and writing progress rapidly throughout the story.

I also enjoyed the ending. I appreciated that it wasn't a romantic type of ending. It was realistic. Don't get me wrong, I love happy endings. But there's something to be said when an author isn't afraid to take a more realistic approach, especially with a story like this.

Rating: 4/5 for a brilliant novel that takes the reader on an intellectual journey. Keyes weaves an intricate story full of rich characters, tough questions, and a heart-wrenching ending that leaves the reader intrigued and satisfied all the way through.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD is a novel by Truman Capote fellow Ava Dellaira. This beautiful debut novel follows Laurel, a freshman in high school trying to come to terms with her older sister, May's, death. Told in the form of letters to famous dead people (like Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Judy Garland, and Amelia Earhart, to name a few), the reader is taken on a captivating journey that everyone who's been to high school can relate to. Although not everyone, myself included, has lost someone that we admire as much as Laurel admires May, there is such raw emotion in Dellaira's words that we can all feel what Laurel goes through.

Dellaira's poetic writing style is so pleasing. Nothing captures emotion like a good poem, and these letters are no exception. I could feel everything that Laurel goes through - the heartbreak, the anger, the frustration, and even the acceptance. 

After reading the novel, I read many comments about how
much this story helped readers that had lost someone close to them. I understand why. Dellaira creates such a realistic character in Laurel. She experiences not only sadness for losing May, but also anger at her sister for leaving her. She is left to deal with her mother leaving, her father not being overly involved, as well as her own grief.

I have a sister. She's my best friend. This story hit so close to home for me. It made me think about how I would feel if I lost her. It made me tear up, and any book that's able to touch me so personally will always be a favorite of mine.

Rating: 5/5 for a heartfelt, coming-of-age story that so many can relate to. Dellaira's poetic writing style and raw emotion provide a story that is heartbreaking and heart-healing. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

ZOO is a novel co-written by bestselling author James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge. It follows Oz, a biologist, as he tries to warn the world about HAC (Human Animal Conflict). All across the globe, increasingly aggressive animal attacks have been occurring. Oz tries to convince people that the animals are out for human blood. However, it isn't until he goes to Africa and witnesses a coordinated lion attack and obtains video footage, that the world is ready to listen. After this, world leaders and scientists race to find answers to save the human race. But is it too late?
This novel is compelling, thrilling, and thought-provoking. I was literally on the edge of my seat. Patterson and Ledwidge's vivid descriptions (although sometimes pretty graphic) made me feel like I was in the middle of this crisis, alongside Oz. I felt his frustration and anger as people ignored his warnings. I felt his hope and devastation as they finally listened. Additionally, it made me think, which is very important to me when I read a book. It had me asking questions. What would happen if the wild did inherit the Earth? Would humans stand a chance? Where would humans go?
I loved how different the storyline was. Yes, it's a sort of coming-to-the-end-of-the-world novel, but it's different. Animals taking back the Earth from humans? Pretty great. And, if I do say so, not so far-fetched.
I also enjoyed how the story, which focused mainly on Oz's journey, did include others' points of view as well. Patterson and Ledwidge brought in other people's perspectives, as well as some animals' (including Oz's pet chimpanzee, Attila).
Patterson and Ledgwidge's characters in this story are also pretty great. I think we can all relate to Oz. We see something wrong in the world and no one wants to listen. I mean, we may not be noticing the end of the world, but we all see things that others ignore. It's frustrating! Other interesting characters include Attila and Chloe, Oz's wife.
However, the ending, though sufficient and probably right given the premise, left me with many questions. I like open-ended books, and this one definitely left room for interpretation. I won't say anymore, because I don't want to ruin it!
Definitely a good read, especially if you like books that make you think and keep you racing until the very end.
Rating: 3.5/5 for a different kind of end-of-the-world story. Patterson and Ledwidge create a story with great content and storyline, intriguing characters, and vivid details.