Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Books have that amazing power to shape how we see the world.  They put us in other peoples’ shoes so that we can see the world from different points of view.  The books I read while I was in high school were some of those that had the greatest affect on me and taught me a lot about the world.  They taught me about empathy because there seemed to be plenty of teenagers with lives that were completely different and far worse than mine.  All these years later I still discover books that have a real effect on me and make me look at the world differently.  R.J. Palacio’s new book Wonder is one of those books.

August Pullman (or Auggie to his friends and family) wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old.  He does ordinary things like eating ice cream, riding a bike, and playing Xbox.  He feels like an ordinary kid on the inside, but outside he’s very different.  He was born with a facial abnormality and he says ‘I won’t describe what I look like.  Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.’  Auggie has been home-schooled for most of his life but now he’s being sent to a real school, and he’s petrified of it.  Some kids will be kind, some will be horrible, but will they accept August for who he is, a normal kid just like them?

Wonder is a funny, touching, and thought-provoking story of an extraordinary boy who just wants to fit in.  The majority of the story is narrated by August who is a really cool kid.  R.J. Palacio has got the voice of a 10-year-old boy spot on and he comes out with some interesting observations.  Through August’s eyes you see what life is like for a boy who looks very different from those around him, even though he’s just a normal kid on the inside.  You experience August’s pain, anger and humiliation, as well as joy and laughter.  The thing I liked most about Wonder is that, as well as August’s perspective, you also get the perspective of some of the other characters, including August’s sister Olivia (or Via) and his friend’s Summer and Jack.  R.J. uses lots of foreshadowing, so something that August might mention in passing is a significant event to one of the other characters, or you’ll notice little details that make more sense later in the story.  The different perspectives also helped to explain a character’s behaviour, especially in the case of August’s friend, Jack Will.  I also really liked the way that adults were portrayed in the book.  August’s parents were very caring and loving, and so were the teachers at his school, but some of the other parents had quite different attitudes.

Wonder is a book that everyone should read and that everyone will take something different from.  It should come with one warning though – have a box of tissues close at hand while reading.  It would also make a great read-aloud to share with an intermediate class and would lead to lots of discussion.

5 out of 5 stars

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