Wonder – R J Palacio

Wonder

Published
01/03/2012

Publisher
Bodley Head Children’s Books

My Rating – 5 stars

I read quite a few children’s and Young Adult novels and it’s only rarely that one of them truly fits into the “crossover” category where I can truthfully say anyone of any age will enjoy this novel.  Wonder fits that niche perfectly, its deceptively simple narrative veiling a myriad of depths and insights.

Wonder is mostly about August (Auggie) Pullman, a 10 year old boy with severe facial disfigurement.  Auggie has already been through a multitude of painful operations but his latest experience could well be the most challenging – going to school.  He’s been home-schooled up until now and sheltered from the curious and insensitive eyes of society at large but hopefully the three mentors chosen by Mr Tushman, the principal, will ease his transition.

What follows, in a series of short chapters, is an account of Auggie’s experiences at Beecher Prep, narrated by Auggie himself and, in other sections, by his sister Olivia, his friend Summer, Olivia’s boyfriend Justin, her friend Miranda and Jack who was chosen to be a guide/mentor for Auggie.  The language is simple but the feelings examined are complex – what does it feel like to be different in a world which has such a limited view of beauty/attractiveness?  What is it like for the siblings of someone who doesn’t fit the norm?  Isn’t it really difficult to tread the “middle ground” and neither ignore nor stare?   Auggie represents anyone who doesn’t fit in and all our associated hang-ups when we strive to be politically correct but fail miserably.

There will be those who avoid this book as it sounds like some preachy manifesto and I fully understand their reticence.  Yes, there is a moral message, basically,  ”When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind” and yes, I know it sounds didactic but this isn’t Mitch Albom territory and there is no deliberate pulling on the heartstrings or straying into schmaltz.   Having said that,  we could all learn something by having this little peek into Auggie’s life, and perhaps adult readers have the most to learn from it.

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9 Comments

  1. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about this book. Great to see that you loved it too. I look forward to reading it later in the year.

  2. Vivienne says:

    I loved this book so much! It was definitely one of my favourite reads this year.

  3. admin says:

    It will be interesting to see what you make of it, Jackie. Perhaps you won’t like it at all!

  4. admin says:

    I’ve passed it onto my 12 year old son, Vivienne. It takes a lot to please him so we’ll see if it passes the test. ;-)

  5. I’ll have to keep an eye out for this one – it’s always difficult for novelists to deal with such a ‘visual’ concept as disfigurement and as you say it’s easy for them to come across all preachy. This has had excellent reviews though, it definitely sounds interesting!

  6. Ellie says:

    I did enjoy it though probably not as much as most. I did think that it was very much toned down as to the sort of things he would realisticly have to deal with. Understandably, it’s aimed at the younger end of YA and still has a strong moral message, but I think there were situations where people were too nice to be believable and the bullying, whilst awful to think about, probably wasn’t half as bad as a lot of kids get. Maybe I’m just reading lots of really harsh books!

  7. Annabel says:

    Glad you loved it too. I do think it is slightly sanitised, in that the bullying is toned down a little for the real audience of younger YA. However the message does come across strongly and that’s good.

  8. admin says:

    I think it is a bit sanitised but it still carries a strong message. My 12 year old son just finished it last night – he cried too! :-)

  9. Nikki-ann says:

    I think it’s a book all teenagers (and adults) would do well to read.

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