Wonder Review

Wonder: I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels. – Goodreads

Wonder Review

Wonder is a heart-warming book aimed at grades 5 and up. The main character, August, has a couple of severe genetic defects which have resulted in him being home-schooled due to surgeries and such. Finally, at the start of fifth grade, he enters school. It is a learning experience for everyone. Auggie is forced to face the cruelty of kids, and the kids get their first experience with someone who looks truly ‘different’. It’s a tumultuous experience to say the least.

What I liked most was the fact that the main point behind the book was that Auggie was normal, even if it he didn’t look it. He’s very matter of fact about the way he looks, and the way people tend to react to them. Even remarking at one point on how people don’t think they see him staring, but he does, and that he’s mostly okay with it. He understands why they do it.

“Hey, the truth is, if a Wookiee started going to the school all of a sudden, I’d be curious, I’d probably stare a bit! And if I was walking with Jack or Summer, I’d probably whisper to them: Hey, there’s the Wookiee. And if the Wookiee caught me saying that, he’d know I wasn’t trying to be mean. I was just pointing out the fact that he’s a Wookiee.”
R.J. Palacio, Wonder

and he’s definitely up for poking fun at himself.

“I think we’re too young to be dating. I mean I don’t see what the rush is.” Summer says.
“Yeah, I agree,” said August. “Which is kind of a shame, you know what with all those babes who keep throwing themselves at me and stuff?”
R.J. Palacio, Wonder

The quote that meant the most to me though was:

“the only reason I’m not ordinary is that no one else sees me that way.”
R.J. Palacio, Wonder

The mini-reviewer and I spent a few moments discussing that one. How Auggie looks different, but it’s only a physical presentation. How he’s just another kid on the inside. It lead to deeper discussions later on, too. Like how Auggie didn’t look nice at all, but was a nice person inside, whereas the one who was nice looking on the outside was ugly on the inside.

R.J. Palacio’s book doesn’t just give us the typical ‘be nice to everyone’ or ‘people are all different’ though. She also avoids the whole thing in literature where a character who is different serves as the springboard for some epic gooodness/understanding for the protagonist. August is the center point of this book. His journey isn’t some Disney-washed version of a Grimm’s tale. He can’t just have more surgeries or get a magic cure to make him fit in with those around them. He has to make it on personality and persistence alone. That’s not to say this isn’t a happily-ever-after book, because in some ways, it is.  But it’s a kids book. Let them have their happy ever afters. They need it.

I dreaded reading this book all the way through, early on, with the kiddo. It gave us some serious discussion time. It was an emotional sap for me at points. I hated Wonder opening her eyes to the fact that people could be toe-rags. (There’s a conversation Auggie and his mom have that made her so disappointed when she understood what they were talking about.)  But in the end? It was a nice overall experience for us. I never had to prod her to read this book. She was always willing and eager to read at least a few pages. That says something.

Wonder is an extremely character-driven book. Apart from August, it’s told from a few different character’s perspectives. You only see the viewpoints of those who are affected/changed in some way by what they experience with or around August. Minor characters stay minor. It’s also got a very nice, and strong, anti-bullying message to it.

Wonder is one of those books that will definitely affect parents more than it affects kids. However, it’s definitely a book that both kids and adults can enjoy.

Mini-Reviewer’s Thoughts:

Wonder is a really good book. I liked Auggie because he was really cool even though he had stuff wrong with his face like cleft palate. Even though he looked different, he still looked great. He was a good kid and he had a good attitude. I liked that he liked Star Wars, and I think he probably looked cool in his astronaut helmet. He wore it because he didn’t want people seeing his face. Summer was a good kid throughout the book. She was nice just because. I was happy that the other kids finally learned they couldn’t get Auggie’s broken pieces, because its not a virus or something. You can’t catch broken lungs or something. You are born with them like I was. I would give it 5 stars!!

  • Title: Wonder
  • Author: R.J. Palacio (site)
  • ISBN13: 9780375869020
  • Pub. Date: February 14, 2012
  • Rating: 5 out of 5
  • Source: Library
  • Note: This review originally appeared on Sci-Fi & Scary
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