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Wonder by R.J. Palacio (2012)
Wonder (2012)
by R.J. Palacio
Hardcover Edition
Publication Date: February 14th, 2012
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
buy a copy via Amazon.
synopsis via Goodreads.

Book Trailer:

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?

My Thoughts:
I’m usually not a middle-grade reader, but the cover caught my attention since the beginning of the year. I’ve seen a couple glowing reviews for it, but I didn’t think much about it until I saw it in the library last week, and I was like “why not?” I read the first few pages to test the book out, and I somehow ended reading thirty pages…and I still wasn’t sure what’s up with the main character, Auggie: from the first few pages, I knew he had something that set in apart, but I didn’t know what exactly–so I borrowed the book to sate my curiosity. And boy am I glad I did.

Wonder is the fascinating, inspiring story of Auggie who is born with a severe Treacher-Collin’s syndrome, making his face almost hideous to strangers. He attends school for the first time in fifth grade, and he struggles to fit into the school environment. But he is not the only one with problems as his friends and family also struggle to adapt to him. The story, theme may be predictable, but it’s the execution that makes Wonder special. Each character has their own engaging, heartfelt story to tell. Wonder is definitely one of my favorite, thought-provoking reads this year. It opens itself to many discussions, and I wish I read it when I was in fifth grade.

So What Does August Look Like?
Admittedly I had a hard time picturing August (Auggie) since the descriptions made him sound like everything that could possibly go wrong–went wrong on his face. What in the world are cauliflower ears? And no jaw? bulging eyes?
So I Googled. And it was just heartbreaking. Though maybe I’ve seen my share of not-so-normal things, it didn’t surprise me. I can see why kids would be horrified though.

Fifth Graders Can Be Mean:
What stood out for me was Palacio’s uncanny ability to capture the feeling of being ostracized in school. I had a nostalgic feeling of being back in fifth grade (even if it has been nine years ago) and I had my share of unwelcome peers–and I wasn’t even suffering from Treacher-Collins syndrome. Like Auggie, I’ve dealt with “The Plague,” friends who didn’t stand up for me, and knowing telling the teacher is pretty useless (even if you can live down being a tattleteller.) Fifth-grade was serious business, and I was glad I missed the last week of school for a trip–I was eager to get away from my peers.
The thing that hurt most was the realization that the 10-year old me would probably not stand up for Auggie. Instead I would be grateful that it wasn’t me that they were picking on. Not having a partner for field trips or group projects was not on my list of priorities. Hey! I was ten, stuff like that matters.

I was pleasantly surprised with Palacio’s wide spectrum of characters and how the voices still remained distinguishable. Wonder is composed with several points of view from Auggie, Jack, Summer, Via, Miranda, and even Justin. They may be all kids, but they speak volumes. I was delighted with their complexity, and I ended up loving each character for being themselves. I was disappointed I didn’t get Julian (the head bully)’s viewpoint though, I was convinced he had more depth–beyond the influence of his stuck-up, rich parents. What I really wanted to see was Julian’s parents being taught a lesson.

August (Auggie)
I have mixed feelings about him. Throughout the novel I see him grow-up, and not use his appearance as an excuse: when he goes to sleep by himself without being told and when he leaves his stuffed animal behind. But even at the end of the novel, I can’t help feeling like he hasn’t changed that much. There’s a scene where he hopes that he will be handsome man in his next life, and his dependency on the astronaut helmet–both of these scenes make me feel Auggie is still the kid in the beginning of the novel. Rather, I think it’s the people around him that deserve more credit.
However, I still admire this kid. Never did he feel sorry for himself, or wonder out of the probabilities–why was he chosen like the people around him do.)

Olivia (Via)
My favorite character, and arguably the most realistic one. August’s older sister who is starting high school. She’s my favorite character for she embodies so many conflicts, but yet still remain in control of her emotions. She is a wonderful older sister. Via is also a heart-wrenching character because she loves Auggie, but she hates herself for the less-than-nice thoughts she has of her brother. At times Via shows signs of sibling jealousy–but yet she restrains herself. She constantly debates what’s best for her brother: if they should make him feel normal (and if that would be lying to him), or teach him how to deal with being abnormal.

Via’s boyfriend. He is the passive observer who at first doesn’t know how to react to Auggie. I had my reservations since his lack of capitalization irked me, reminding me of Omegle conversations with illiterate people (I imagine him talking in slurs.) He also seemed like a very reserved character. But even he does some surprising things that made me like him instantly.

One of Auggie’s friends. Honestly, I find her the most unrealistic character. Not being she’s super nice (which she is), but because her actions are idealized. Why would you sit down and immediately start making a list of names with a kid you just met? I am not sure how good of a conversation started that is in real life.

I was bracing myself for a happy, cheesy ending–and I got the unrealistic, happy, cheesy ending I secretly didn’t want. Oh well, at least it tied well to Auggie’s belief that “everyone deserves a standing ovation.”

Despite the cheesy ending, I fell in love with Wonder. There are points in the book I wasn’t a big fan of such as the whole precept idea. I just thought that was unnecessary and even slightly lame. But I loved the multiple perspectives, and the astronaut helmet. A brilliant novel, and an inspiring story.

Rating: A

Spoilery Thoughts I Need To Get Out of My System
The ending: I know it’s to wrap up the “everyone should get a standing ovation” idea, but I rather have Jack (or even Amos) get the award. He seemed to rise to the occasion much better than Auggie did. Auggie himself acknowledges he got the award like other people get awards for “being in a wheelchair,” which I just think is a twisted reason to get an award.