Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Author: R.J. Palacio
Series: Wonder #1
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books
Publication Date: 2012
Age Group/Genre: Middle Grade/Contemporary
You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.
My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.
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?
Narrated by Auggie and the people around him whose lives he touches forever, Wonder is a funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page. (Cover and synopsis from Goodreads.)
I bought Wonder at the spring book fair at my son’s school this year. I had heard so many good things about it. Then, during the fall book fair in October, several students were buying the book. They told me that they were reading it in class and that they loved it so much. I was inspired by their love of the story to read it as soon as possible. So I ended up starting it on the last day of the book fair, and I was so glad I didn’t wait any longer.
I really loved Wonder. And I think it is fantastic that students are reading this book in school. I think it really helps students put themselves into other people’s shoes, and be more sympathetic and empathetic. I liked how not only did we see things from Auggie’s point of view, and how he is treated all the time, but we see from his sister Via’s point of view as well, and we see how she loves him unconditionally although she sometimes has a hard time being Auggie’s sister. There are some other points of view as well, those of Auggie’s friends, and while I think they add some depth to the story, I think it could have worked with just Auggie’s and Via’s POVs.
I also liked how it shows the reality that not only kids can be cruel, but adults can also be cruel, even to innocent children. I’m not talking about abuse or anything like that here, but the way that Auggie is treated because he has a physical deformity is not only coming from his peers. And while, yes, school ends and you don’t have to be around bullies all the time, the reality is that adults can be bullies, too. And I’m glad that it is addressed here.
And I cried a few times while reading Wonder. I hardly ever cry while reading. But this is just one of those books that hits you so hard, you know? And although the main message in this book is to put yourself in other people’s shoes–and I do feel that message comes across wide and clear–it doesn’t seem to condemn all the ableist things that other characters do or say. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, but there’s one part at then end that kind of made me think, “Huh? Why did they do that? That seems weird.” It made me think of this post that a friend of mine with a disabled son posted on Facebook a while back (my friend didn’t write the article, she just shared it): What You’re Really Saying When You Call Me “Inspirational.” It felt like a lot of the characters were calling Auggie inspirational, and while he was like, “Yeah, I don’t understand that,” he was also okay with it. Which could be the case with many people like Auggie, but other people might feel more like the woman who wrote that article. But other than that, I really, really loved Wonder.
R.J. Palacio gets some of my Bonus Points for the following reasons:
- Star Wars references = 50,000 points
- The Hobbit reference = 25,000 points
- Harry Potter reference = 50,000 points
- #GrandmotherGoals (The way Auggie’s grandmother is with him is how I want to be when I’m a grandmother–and how I’m going to try to be now, as a parent, honestly.) = 1,000,000 points
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe reference = 25,000 points
There were several quotes in Wonder that I enjoyed and wrote down, but I’ll just share my favorite one:
My rating for Wonder by R.J. Palacio:
5 huge stars. I had one issue with it, but I still loved it!