Thursday, January 3, 2013

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a severe facial deformity.  Many surgeries later, Auggie is healthy, but will never look like other children.  Auggie has been home schooled his whole life, but now, as middle school and the 5th grade approach, his parents have decided it's time for him to go to school with other children.  Auggie is both excited and scared.  He knows it will be difficult for the other kids to see past his face and realize he's just an ordinary kid like them.

This was a wonderful, thoughtful, heartfelt book. It was full of wonderful hopefulness, but also the harsh realities of being different.

I loved how much Auggie's family was part of the story.  It wasn't just Auggie's story, it was about his mother and father and his older sister Olivia.  It's easy to just focus on Auggie, and all that he's been through, but Auggie's medical issues have had a serious impact on the entire family, that that doesn't get ignored.

While the majority of the story is told from Auggie's point of view, it's also told from the prospective of his friends Summer and Jack, Olivia, and Olivia's boyfriend Justin.  I found Olivia's point of view to especially interesting.  After hearing Auggie's voice for much of the story, and how he sees himself and thinks about what he's up against, it was fascinating to hear what his sister thinks.  Olivia fiercely loves Auggie, and wants to protect him.  But she also feels the lack of attention she gets from her parents.  She understands why this is, and she accepts it, but can't help feeling it anyway.  Olivia is now starting high school, having issues with people she's been friends with for years, meeting boys, finding out where she fits in and all the usual teen stuff. 

Thank goodness that there are people like Summer in the world.  Summer becomes Auggie's first true friend at school.  She genuinely doesn't care what Auggie looks like, isn't neither frightened nor disgusted by what she sees.  When she sees Auggie sitting alone at lunch on the first day of school, Summer sits with him because she's a nice person and feels bad for him.  But they quickly become true friends, and she remains a steadfast friend, even when others try to sway her away from him.  Auggie comes up against a lot of jerks.  There are some people who are just mean (we all know them).  And there are some people who are kind, but don't have as easy a time as Summer does ignoring what other people are saying.

The ending was tied up very tidily.  Perhaps unrealistically so.  Auggie faces a threat outside of his school, and the kids who previously teased him or ignored him stand up for him, and everything changes at school.  Also the kid who was meanest to him and got others to go along with it isn't coming back to the school next year.  Unrealistic?  Perhaps.  But I'm glad it ended with a feeling of warmth and hope.  People can change, and that when things get serious, people will find the good in them and will step in to help.  It was very nice.

The only thing I didn't like was that for some reason Justin's section had no capitalization and little punctuation.  I have no idea why.  None of the other sections switched style like that between characters.  The voice changed, of course, but that was it.  Why did it switch like that for Justin?  It was annoying and hard to read.  Was it supposed to reinforce that he was arty?  I don't know, and it was weird.

I think this is an important book.  There aren't many books out there that have a main character with a physical deformity, and that confront the issues such a person is going to face on a daily basis head on.  I really appreciate and respect this book.  And it was a great read.


  1. I've had my eye on this since I heard about it, and I really need to read it for the Carnegie Longlist. It's so refreshing to have MCs that don't fit today's vision of beauty. Thank you for the review.


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