Wonder by R. J. Palacio
12 November, 2014
My name is August.
I won’t describe what I look like.
Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.
Several months ago, my book group chose Wonder by R.J. Palacio as the monthly read. I couldn’t attend the discussion for some reason and somehow ended up not reading it. To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to read a novel that I was sure to be sad at the time. But I returned the following months to gushing adoration of the book. And month after month, I would see lots of wonderful reviews of Wonder online. And finally, my nephew lent me the book and I decided to give it a go. And I confess that I was wrong and should have listened to all of you when you told me it was a brilliant book. Because it is.
Told from the viewpoints of the various characters in the book, Wonder revolves around August ‘Auggie’ Pullman, born with severe craniofacial syndrome, and the people in his life. Home-schooled until the 5th grade, Auggie’s life has revolved around his mum and dad, big sister Via and dog Daisy and trips to the hospital for corrective surgery. However, his family have always treated Auggie as a normal boy. Perhps slightly overprotective but he has been cocooned by their love since birth. Until his parents enroll him in middle school for the first time. Via is also starting high school and both of them must navigate the battlefield of the school corridor, making new friends and experiencing the complexities of teenage social life and, in Auggie’s case, trying to come to terms with acceptance and building connections with his peers. There is Summer, a young girl trying to find her place in the social hierarchy who is the first to befriend Auggie from her own volition. Then there is Jack who feels he must befriend Auggie but is torn between his old friends and new. And then there is Julian, who covers up his fear of the unknown the only way he knows how.
What elevates Palacio’s tale is her story-telling skill. She pares it down to its simplest form and creates a warm, funny story about some really tough issues while keeping the focus on the children. It is from their point of view that she brings to life this story that is ultimately about kindness. And because August’s tale is also told from his family and friends’ viewpoints, you get a multi-faceted perspective of a complex life and identity. Reading Wonder makes you realise how kind people can be. And makes you want to be kinder too. And I have to confess welling up several times while reading this book. It’s a sweet story with a really powerful message written in an engaging way. I loved the fact that Palacio doesn’t throw in miracles or an ultimately happy ending. It is happy but you know that Auggie will face many battles in his road to adulthood but he will have his family and friends around him and we will cheer him on.
If you haven’t read Wonder, then I urge you to do so. It’s a beautiful story and will make you more conscious about being kinder.
There is also a new chapter which was published recently on Auggie’s nemesis Julian who learns a lesson of his own at the end of Wonder so do read that too.