Wonder – R.J Palacio – Knopf – Published 14 February 2012
August Pullman wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things. He eats ice cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary – inside. But Auggie is far from ordinary. Ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go.
Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he’s being sent to a real school – and he’s dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted – but can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all?
I have to admit when I heard about the hype, the accolades surrounding Wonder I was a little sceptical. Sure, maybe it would be a good book, but really, that great? I am very happy to report that it deserves every kind word and more. I surprised myself by really, really liking it. I fell in love with the characters little by little, I got more involved in their stories with every page and I even teared up a few times and was celebrating at the end. This is a book that will become a class reader, be pushed by booksellers and librarians alike, and top best-seller lists. But it will also be enjoyed by the children for whom it was written, and that is most important of all.
This book is written in very short chapters, each spanning from only half a page to a few pages. The first section is told by Auggie himself, followed by shorter sections narrated by Auggie’s sister and friends and other key players in Auggie’s life, before returning to Auggie. It is very much narrated by these characters and the book almost feels like a diary, insightful but still connected to the events as they happen. These honest, relatable voices are what drew me into the story – although I have to admit the section by Auggie’s sister’s boyfriend, with no capital letters or quotation marks, drove me nuts. Fortunately it was short, but perhaps it will be effective for impressing upon students the importance of punctuation.
Of course the brilliance of this book lies in its message of courage, family, kindness and friendship. But it is the way in which it does this, slowly without preaching, that sneaks into your heart, much like Auggie and his family and friends do.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Children’s fiction, middle grade fiction.
Themes: School, middle school, family, friendship, bullying, social issues, deformity, special needs, courage.
Reading age guide: Ages 9 and up.
Advisory: Mild violence, fist fights. Bullying and use of harsh words, no coarse language.
Published: 12 February 2012 by Knopf.
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. 315 pages.