Friday, September 20, 2013

Wonder - R.J. Palacio

SummaryI 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.
  (Image from  and summary from

My Review: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be that person, the one who visually isn't typical--actually, more than that, jaw-droppingly atypical?  I can imagine, pretend I know what it would be like.  But, I truly wouldn't know.  I also wouldn't know what it would be like to be his or her parent or sister.  Wonder takes you into this world and does so in a touching, honest way.

Auggie is physically different to say the least.  I liked how Palacio doesn't paint a full picture all at once.  In fact, the first chapter, from August's perspective states it well enough: "I won't describe what I look like.  Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse."  By the middle of the book you have a fairly clear picture, but Palacio allows you to get to know Auggie first.  And, isn't that the way we all wish to be treated?  To be given a fair chance without any preconceived notions, prejudices, or biases?  I love how this allows a young reader to give Auggie a chance as well.

Wonder takes you into Auggie's world, and at a particularly difficult time: moving from homeschooling to middle school. Instead of only showing the vantage point of Auggie, you get to see this transition from the very realistic perspectives of those around him: his sister, his friends, his sister's friend and boyfriend.  Life isn't a vacuum and difficulties aren't isolated to just one person.  Wonder portrays how life is a struggle in different ways for everyone.  Sometimes books about a very specific issue only allow that one character to have difficulties.  I appreciate that Wonder allows more characters to have depth.

Heartwarming, touching, authentic, painful, and endearing, I would recommend this book to anyone.  I would hope that all people, regardless of race, gender, age, doesn't-matter-the-background, read this book and take away a little piece of humanity.  It's told in a simplistic way, so it should be accessible to all.

For the sensitive reader:  There are depictions of bullying, but they are portrayed correctly as offensive and wrong.  There are also depictions of the imperfections of adults and children, but they are realistic, sad as they are.

Rating: 4.5 stars--5 stars for a children's book, but as an adult I was craving just a little more.

Sum it up:  A heart-warming story about appearance and love.


JoanneMarie Faust said...

Great review. I really liked this book, too. I think it should be put in the hands of all middle grade readers.

Jocelyn said...

I loved this book and how it encouraged people to be kinder to others. I want my kids to read it before they enter middle school!

Heather said...

This was a really wonderful book. Certainly 5 stars for me. What I really loved about it is that the author doesn't just give Auggie's perspective but choices to include the voices of those around him, such as his sister and friends. The honesty in their accounts is outstanding. This gives the reader a more rounded view of Auggie's world.


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