Critical Context (Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 235

Watson’s The Double Helix is a powerful presentation of the human side of science set within the context of one of the great scientific discoveries of all time. As such, it is a valuable book for young readers. While the book presents the social side of science, it also is a book of pure science, especially biochemistry and genetics. Watson presents the structure of DNA, which consists of two parallel chains of alternating sugars and phosphates, in between the sugars of which are located the genetic code determined by four nucleotides: adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine. Thus, the reader of this autobiography should have some knowledge of high-school biology.

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The Double Helix is a valuable historical book for younger and older adults alike. It can be considered a literary classic because it thoroughly addresses its topic, analyzes its characters in detail, and makes readers feel as if they are part of the action. Candid photographs and letters are included in a special section, including the famous photograph of Watson and Crick with their DNA model. Illustrations of DNA structure and the molecular composition of DNA nucleotides also are useful to the reader. Works by Nobel laureates usually are very popular, as they help the general public to see the mind of a great thinker, but Watson’s book goes beyond comparable efforts by other Nobel laureates and writers because he makes science come alive.

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