Monday, December 24, 2012

Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

5 Stars: Incredible / Keeper
Hardcover: 313 Pages
Publication: February 14, 2012 by Knpof Books for Young Readers

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I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

It's a rare and beautiful feeling when I close a book with a sense of completion. That's what Wonder is: rare and beautiful.

The language is simple, at a level that a ten-year-old child can easily read. It suits the book not only because that's how old Auggie' is but also because it lays everything bare to the reader. It isn't hiding anything. All the characters' emotions and actions are laid out for us, from superficial behavior to their innermost thoughts, from their doubts and guilt to their happiness and bliss. After all, it's not easy being around someone with such an obvious disfiguration even if it's someone as sweet as Auggie.

Auggie is a funny character. As in he's witty and says the funniest things ever in a matter-of-fact tone. It makes me wish I were his friend, so I can banter around with him. He lacks courage and self-esteem at the beginning of the novel because he knows how bad his facial deformities are. It's to the point that he grows out his bangs because if he can't see people's reactions, then he doesn't feel so bad. At least, that's what he tells himself. In truth, he can guess at what people think about him; he sees the whispers, gestures, and furtive looks. Then he makes friends--real friends that stick up for him--and he's able to open up and show his peers just what a wonderful kid he is. And it's so wonderful to see people grow to accept him.

I hadn't expected the multiple perspectives, and it was a wonderful surprise. I was glad to see that Auggie's perspective kep reappearing, but other people whose lives he touches jump in from time to time. And it's a great way to introduce things that we wouldn't have known if only Auggie's perspective was given. There is Summer, who joins him at lunch out of pity and grows to like him as a person. Jack, who first talks to him at the Mr. Tushman's request but also grows to cherish his friendship. Auggie's older sister Via, whose fierce protection over her little brother is something I can relate to. Her boyfriend Justin. Her friend, ex-friend, friend Miranda who loves Auggie as if he were her own brother. Auggie is surrounded by many loving people, and though his deformities make him look like a "freak," to quote idiots in the book, he has one of the kindest hearts out there. He makes me feel like I can be a better person.

This book really hits home because it makes you wonder what you would do if you went to school with a kid like Auggie. Would you go against the crowd to sit down with him and have a nice chat? Would you jeopardize your 'friendships' with other people to stand up for him or her? It's a lot easier for us when we're older to stay true to ourselves, though it's still not effortless. I don't want to admit this, but the ten-year-old me probably would have stuck with the neutral camp. I wouldn't want to be mean to him, but I wouldn't stand up for him either. Heck, the teenage me may not have had the courage to try to talk to him like a normal person. And that's why it's so horrible.

When I think about it, a bully is someone you can stand up to. Someone who ignores your existence is harder to push away because there's nothing there in the first place. I wouldn't want people to treat my existence like the Plague. What we need to remember is that sometimes it's not what we do but what we don't do that really hurts. Auggie wants to be accepted for himself, but there are kids who won't spend more time than necessary with him even if they're neutral and it really hurts him. At the same time, courage is necessary because Auggie needs to make the first step to help people acknowledge that he's a person--and a cool one at that. It takes going to middle school, speaking up to people, and standing up for his friends like they stand up for him.

This easily takes the spot of the middle grade book of the year for me. I recommend this for everyone.

A copy was provided by Random House for review.

5 comments:

  1. I've heard really good things about this read. The reviews have definitely been great. I've wanted to read this for a while now. I'll have to get my hands on it for sure!

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    1. It's amazing. I hope that you love it as much as I did.

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  2. This is definitely my most anticipated read. I cannot wait to pick it up and see what it's all about. I have heard sooo many amazing things about this and I'm glad I can add you to that list. I just simply can't wait to read it! Glad you enjoyed this! :D

    ~ Maida

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    1. Yay! I hope that you love this as much as I do!

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  3. This book reminds me of Mark Haddon's a Curious Case of a Dog at Nighttime which I really liked, so I might check this one.

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