Author: RJ Palacio
Series: Wonder #1
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
Publishing Date: February 14, 2012
About the Book:
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.
I first heard about the book Wonder when I saw a commercial for the movie. Being someone who refuses to watch a movie until I’ve read the book, it’s been on my TBR for a while now. Recently one of my sister-in-laws handed me her copy so I was finally able to dig into it. There’s so much I could say about this book. I believe it’s a powerful read for middle graders and a great tool in developing empathy, something sadly disappearing in our world.
One thing I was surprised by while reading the story, is that the point-of-view switches up between a number of characters. The story centers around August who is given the most voice, however there are several other characters who cross his path and share their sides to the experiences. I admit when I first noticed the change I wasn’t too thrilled about it, but shortly afterward I felt very differently. Why? Because the author did more than simply continue the story with each character– she gave each character their own voice and individual story. The ability to see from other’s points-of-view is becoming a lost art. We look at a story and hear the loudest voice or see the biggest story. Rarely do we stop and look at what each person brings to the table individually. Everyone has emotional struggles that they are facing that others cannot see. Everyone has battles both seen and unseen. We should always be kind to one another, because we can’t always know what another is going through.
Kids are egocentric. It’s in their nature and is a mindset they need to be trained to change. Sadly we live in a world that instead encourages an emphasis on “self” and the consequences are clearly visible in today’s youth. This story is about more than just a boy with deformities, but about several others whose lives cross paths with his. August is aware that he is different from the other kids at school physically speaking, but intellectually and emotionally he’s the same. He wants what so many other kids want– to be loved and accepted. Interestingly enough, this is what the other characters are seeking in their own pieces of the story as well. Same battle, different struggles.
The author used a very obvious deformity in August to get her points across, but in truth kids are picked on for far less. Glasses, weight, poverty, race, broken homes, and anything else you can think of are reasons that kids are made to feel less-than. I believe the author is trying to give a voice to them through this book. This is a story I would highly recommend schools do for reading groups with kids. It gets their minds thinking about how they treat others and how their words and actions can hurt others whether they intend them to or not. It’s a powerful message kids need to hear and learn.
As an adult I will admit I struggled with some of the flow of the story, however I credit that to the fact that it’s told in a diary-like way from the perspective of children. It’s written at a simple reading level and grammatically reads like the words of a child. While it made the story difficult to get into in some places, it also helped the reader get into the young mind of the characters. So while it wasn’t my personal style, I also wouldn’t change it. I recognize that the author created something unique and it’s intentional for a reason.
I really enjoyed this story and would easily recommend it to others. I would even require it of kids. It’s a powerful message they need to hear and understand. It’s a lesson in empathy and battles seen and unseen. It’s highly worth the read.
Age Appropriateness/Content warnings:
*PLEASE NOTE: This section may contain mild spoilers but I do my best to reveal the difficult and/or triggering content without giving away the story.
Recently I discovered a site dedicated to sharing the age appropriateness and content warnings of books. Unfortunately most of what I read isn’t posted on the site. Fortunately this book is listed, and I consider it a great tool so I will share here. It recommends the book for ages 9 and up and I would agree with that assessment. Click HERE for the review.