Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Nancy  Werlin

Samantha  Vogt 
James Watson and the Double Helix

Nancy Werlin: Discovering Self-Acceptance during Adolescence

The molecule of DNA is a very complicated, delicate structure that few people can easily understand. James Watson and Francis Crick however, achieved something outstanding; they described the structure of DNA. In order to describe the shape of DNA, Watson and Crick gathered information on earlier experiments on chromosomes, genes, and DNA performed by other scientists. Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins developed a technique using X-Ray diffractions which allowed Watson and Crick to see inside cells. Together they described the Double Helix structure of deoxyribonucleic acid. The Double Helix name came from the basic shape of the structure. Crick and Watson, along with other talented scientists such as Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins figured out that DNA lies within a person’s genes and is made up of different proteins that are bonded together to make us all unique. Crick, Watson and Wilkins each received the Nobel Prize for their contributions to the discovery of DNA.

The Double Helix is a topic at the center of Nancy Werlin’s novel of the same name. Each of Werlin’s novels depict the conflicts and struggles of the teenage experience. Werlin’s teenage protagonists undergo dramatic changes within their lives that influence their character and have an effect on their future. Werlin’s topics range from bullying which results in a lack of self confidence to a drug overdose that is revealed to be a murder. Each of Werlin’s novels is based on a mystery which parallels the confusion of adolescence. The uniqueness of every person comes from their DNA which Werlin reflects in the adolescent embracing his own individuality. The characters grow and develop according to how they deal with different situations. In order to find oneself, a person must first learn from his past and acknowledge what the future holds for him and requires of him. Just as Watson and Crick learned from the past and looked towards the future, Werlin’s protagonists learn that in order to achieve self acceptance, they must do the same.

Major Works Consulted:

Bladwin, Joyce. DNA Pioneer James Watson and the Double Helix . New York: Walker, 1994.
Watson, James D. DNA The Secrets of Life. New York: Knopf, 2003.
Werlin, Nancy. Black Mirror. New York: Penguin, 2003.
--- Double Helix. New York: Penguin, 2005.
Photo Credit: Drew, Bernard A. 100 More Popular young Adult Authors. Greenwood Village: Libraries Unlimited, 2002.