Wonder (Wonder, #1)by Published 14 Feb 2012
|Wonder (Wonder, #1).pdf|
Alternate Cover Edition ISBN 0375869026 (ISBN13: 9780375869020)
I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.
August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.
"Wonder (Wonder, #1)" Reviews
Wonder is one of those rare books that makes you want to hug everyone in it so tightly that they’ll have no doubt about how much you love them…and beyond that, it also makes you want to reach out and hug the whole world. It’s an upbeat, humorous, life-affirming story that deserves to be read—and it’s one that may just change its readers, too.
If you remember how terrifying it was to be a kid on a day to day basis, you’ll appreciate August’s story. 10-year-old Auggie is going to school for the first time in his life, and he has to navigate new rules, learn to interact with teachers, and figure out how to make new friends. In addition, he also has a severe facial deformity that stops strangers in their tracks, so all the usual perils of the fifth grade take on even more heightened stakes.
With the matter-of-fact wisdom that warmed Beverly Cleary’s books, this story about growing up is full of heart and humor, and written with a clear-eyed intelligence that never descends into cynicism. Auggie’s smart, funny personality will win over readers who will agonize with him over the complicated web of friendships and family even as they cheer for him as he learns some of life’s big and scary lessons.
It’s okay, I know I’m weird-looking, take a look, I don’t bite. Hey, the truth is, if a wookie started going to 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 wookie. And if the wookie 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 wookie.
Even with a positive attitude and smart, loving parents, however, Auggie’s story is not an easy one to read, and my emotions ran wildly from sadness to hilarity to terrible anger at what happens to him. Not all kids are nice. Some kids behave one way in front of adults and another way in front of kids. Some adults are downright cruel. And just when you think life can’t possibly get any harder or more challenging, sometimes it does.
Although the book is primarily told from Auggie’s perspective, it was a surprise to me when it switched to a few other points of view. With a total of six different voices, I would normally say this is far too many, but in this particular case every person offered an insight into August’s beautiful personality and amazing life in a way that would be impossible to otherwise know. Reading about Auggie’s 27 surgeries, rejoicing at his vibrant inner life, hurting for him when he felt lonely or misunderstood, and seeing his life from various different perspectives, it’s impossible not to be moved by his story. And how can you not love a boy who understands that sometimes his mom might need his precious teddy bear more than he does?
Not entirely random side note: [spoilers removed]
Tears were streaming down my face as I finished this book—and the funny thing is, they were primarily tears of joy. Wonder is written with the kind of sensitivity and insight that I had hoped for when I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and it went the extra mile to be an uplifting story that made me want to embrace life and the people in it, too. I also very much appreciate that this middle grade book is written for its intended age group, not just a book for adults in the guise of a children’s book, even though it’s certainly one that can be enjoyed by readers of any age.
“There are always going to be jerks in the world, Auggie,” she said, looking at me. “But I really believe, and Daddy really believes, that there are more good people on this earth than bad people, and the good people watch out for each other and take care of each other.”
A story like this comes along just a few times in a lifetime, and I fervently hope that readers will find their way to it. This short book that doesn’t waste a single page in squeezing your emotions so tightly you feel like you can't breathe, but when they're finally released, you may find that your heart is full of even more empathy, compassion, and love than you thought possible. We expect to be surprised by cruelty, but how wonderful it is to also be surprised by kindness.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
About the Inspiration Behind the Story
The ice cream incident in this story actually happened, but perhaps not in the way you might think. Learn about the surprising inspiration behind this story on the RJ Palcio's website. She's definitely an author to watch.
Ye gods, what a wonderful book! I don't read a lot of realistic middle grade fiction. I tend to gravitate toward fantasy. But this is probably the best such book I've read since Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
The main character August (Auggie) Pullman is a ten-year-old boy with severe facial abnormalities. Little kids scream when they see him. Older kids make fun of him and call him a freak. Auggie is home-schooled through grade four, but for middle school his parents decide to send him to a private school, Beecher Prep, in New York City. Wonder is the story of his fifth grade year, told partly from Auggie's perspective, and partly from the other kids in his life -- his sister Via, her oldest friend Miranda, Via's boyfriend Justin, and Jack and Summer, Auggie's new friends at Beecher Prep. Each narrator has a distinct, completely believable voice. Palacio writes with just the right balance of humor and pathos, making each character both flawed and sympathetic. She "gets" kids -- how they think, how they talk, how they have the capacity to be both horribly mean and incredibly brave and kind. I recognize these characters from my years of teaching middle school, and I'm sure young readers will recognize them too. The book rings with authenticity. The short chapters and shifting narrative make this a quick, easy read. It's a feel-good book with a great message, and the ending is a tearjerker in the best possible way. I'd recommend it without hesitation to most middle grade readers, girls or boys, even those who may not normally pick up realistic fiction.
Watch my review & discussion here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txeTr...
What a WONDERful first book of the year! I read this book almost too quickly, I wanted it to last longer. This might be technically a children's book, but it really was such a special and meaningful read and I highly recommend that everyone read this once in their lives!
I feel like I want to attach a giant asterisk to those two stars up there:
*I acknowledge that this opinion will not be shared by 90% or more of readers.
I know that most everyone is going to love this book: it’s a very sweet, heartwarming story. And on top of that – it’s well written and flows really nicely. I finished it in one afternoon. For a really well thought-out, positive review I would read Flannery’s. If you insist on staying here – be prepared for dissent and lot of middle-school reminiscing on my part. You’ve been warned. And now to the task at hand!
This is the story of August, a ten year old boy who’s attending school for the first time. He was born with major facial deformities, and has been homeschooled from early childhood. His parents think it’s time for him to attempt a real school environment, but he isn’t sure. In public, he’s often greeted by curious stares or even open revulsion. Will he be able to survive middle school?
This book got under my skin a lot more than I ever expected it to. I thought that my major complaint (if any) would be that it was too light, too sweet. But this book has a lot of depth. It contains six (or more – I kind of lost track) points of view. The narrative is handed off relay-style from one pair of eyes to another, starting with August and moving forward to his sister Via and then to his friends. I think this was largely successful; although, (and this is just my opinion) I think that if you need to distinguish multiple POV’s using differences in spelling/capitalizations/fonts then you probably shouldn’t be writing multiple POV’s. Justin’s chapter (written in present tense and with no capitalizations) and the emails/texts between Auggie and Jack (which were horrific in their spelling, even though the two boys have perfect spelling in their respective sections) felt distracting. But for the most part I found this to be a very engrossing, intelligent, thoughtful read. I related really strongly to the chapters from Via and Summer, in particular.
However, I think that the main reason that I just could not connect with this book is that I fundamentally disagree with its central lesson, which boils down to: “be kind.” To explain myself properly, I need to relate a little history of my own (and this is where this review gets personal).
One of my best friends for the past (almost) seventeen years is disabled. I don’t like saying that, because she hates that word. I can hear her voice in my head right now, doing an exaggerated parody of the word handicapped: “hayun-d-CAPPED!”, which she also hates. We met in 8th grade French class and quickly bonded over a shared love of movies and just about everything else. We were practically joined hip-to-wheel (she would totally laugh at that) from grades 8-11, when I tragically had to move to another state. Even so, we’ve remained close. I attended her wedding three years ago and we’ve commiserated over the “newborn phase” now that she’s had her first child.
My friend has very limited mobility on the entire right side of her body. As a small child, she walked using a walker, but made the decision as she got older to start using a wheelchair. People often stared when she walked – she moved so differently than everyone else. They stared less when she was in a chair. But there’s one thing that my friend has always hated even more than curious or disgusted stares: when people asked her why she needed a wheelchair. I don’t know how many times a well-meaning friend or adult sat down with her and asked – all concern, all solicitude – for “her story.”
She got so tired of it that she started making up fake answers. This one was my favorite: “I-I-I don’t know, man! I was f-fine yesterday! I could walk! Y-you gotta help me! I think it’s contagious!” And then she would proceed to clutch at whoever was asking.
When we were fifteen, we spent one day together going around the mall and her neighborhood in wheelchairs. I used one of her older ones. It wasn’t like some sophisticated attempt at a social experiment on my part – I just wanted to get a small glimpse of what it was like for her. In hindsight, I think that I could probably be accused of the kind of arrogant curiosity that she hated – but she was forgiving enough to go along with my idea and if it bothered her, she never mentioned it. What I remember most was how kind everyone was. How solicitous. How they looked at us with soft gazes, as they said things like, “do you girls need any help today?
I finally got a small inkling of what it must be like to deal with that for your entire life: a constant wave of kind smiles and soft voices and helpfulness; a constant blindness to everything about you. It says: you are not someone to be taken seriously, to be respected. You are someone to be pitied.
A few of the many reasons that I love my friend so much are that she’s outspoken, blunt, honest, and bold. When we were teenagers, she would go right up to boys and flirt shamelessly with them. She would state her opinions loudly with no apologies. It was like a dare. It was like she was saying: I dare you to disagree with me, hate me, lust after me. My friend didn’t want to be treated with kindness; she wanted to be treated like a person. She wanted to be loved, hated, desired, or ignored just like everyone else.
And now I finally come to the point: why I couldn’t possibly connect with this book (some spoilers follow). I don’t think that I’m giving too much away when I say that Auggie gets a happy ending. Or at least, it’s supposed to be. Auggie the character seems over the moon about it all. He just loves it when the former bullies in his class start patting him on the back and calling him “little dude” like he’s their special mascot. That’s what real friends do! He’s just so happy – as his friends are growing up and discovering the opposite sex, as his beautiful friends Summer and Jack seem destined to be a couple. It’s so great! Good thing he doesn’t want any of that! Nope. He’s just content to remain the asexual third wheel forever. And he’s ecstatic to receive an award – for kindness! – that even he acknowledges was given to him because he’s the kid with the disability. And of course they all just cheer and cheer as he walks up to the podium – in front of everyone – so happy!! Even though he hates being in front of crowds. And, YAY!! It’s picture time! Even though he’s had a lifelong aversion to having his picture taken – let’s get a million! With all of his close, close (only started acknowledging him two seconds ago) friends.
Okay, so - sarcasm aside. I do realize that not every disabled experience is the same. Maybe Auggie would like to be acknowledged - I don't know. But when everyone’s congratulating themselves for being so kind to him, it makes me feel insulted on his behalf. Doesn’t he want to be taken seriously? Doesn’t he want to be seen as more than just the special kid? Doesn’t he want to be respected as a person? As a boy? All I have is my own experience, and it tells me that it’s better to treat people with dignity and respect than with kindness. And so the central point of this book (for all that it is very well-meaning) seems at best simplistic to me – and at worst – insulting.
"You really are a wonder, Auggie. You are a wonder."
I've read this book twice now, and it will definitely always have a special place in my heart. This is a book that makes me laugh, makes me cry, and gives me endless amounts of hope. I love this book, and will probably be giving out copies to my friends and family this Christmas.
first read in May 2013