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{February 20, 2014}   {Review} Wonder by R.J. Palacio

WonderFrom Goodreads: 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.

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Auggie is “different,” but only on the outside.  Since birth, he’s had a facial deformity that’s kept him secreted away within the confines of his own home, right where he wants to be.  He’s been out in public, he’s dealt with the stares, he’s seen the horror in people’s expressions when they catch sight of him, and he’s witnessed his sister’s anger over other people’s uncouth nature.  And he doesn’t like it.  It much safer at home.  It’s much nicer, too, with his mother all to himself and a safety net to allow him to just be without the stigma that comes with his appearance.  But all that changes as Auggie hits middle school, pushed into the main stream public school at the urging of his parents, even though he really doesn’t want to be there.  And it seems, no one wants him there, either, aside from the principal.

Told through multiple perspectives, readers bare witness to the real pain that Auggie undergoes in one of the most unforgiving settings known to mankind in the United States: Upper Elementary/Middle School.  A place where children pretend to be adults, looking to fit in and pulling anyone down they can as they strive to reach the top of the popular chain.  A place Auggie has just entered against his own volition.

Extremely well written, readers hear the sides of all the major players, Auggie, his sister Olivia (Via), her boyfriend Justin, and Auggie’s best friend Jack, allowing us to learn the intricate thoughts and feelings of all the characters as they intertwine with one another. Their struggles are all very real, and while at times their thought process and actions enflame the reader, Palacio presents this novel as a true testament to the human race. Via finally enjoys anonymity at her new school, where no one associates her with her deformed brother and struggles with the idea of letting her new friends know of his existence. Auggie struggles to fit in, tired of the stares and the “plague” that seems to follow him throughout the school as he attempts to assimilate and loses the only friend he thought he had. Jack struggles to do what’s right, looking for friendships in the wrong places, finally being true to himself, and it’s just a beautiful compilation.

Overall, this novel is a great read for all ages–easy enough for MG readers and powerful enough that adults need to read it.  Four stars.

4 stars

I borrowed this novel from the library.

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The precepts (rules to live by) within Wonder

  1. “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”   —Dr. Wayne Dyer
  2. “Your deeds are your monuments.”   —Inscription on ancient Egyptian tomb
  3. “Have no friends not equal to yourself.”   —Confucius
  4. “Fortune favors the bold.”   —Virgil
  5. “No man is an island, entire of itself.”   —John Donne
  6. “It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.”   —James Thurber
  7. “Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.”   —Blaise Pascal
  8. “What is beautiful is good, and who is good will soon be beautiful.”   —Sappho
  9. “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.”   —John Wesley
  10. “Just follow the day and reach for the sun.”   —The Polyphonic Spree
  11. “Everyone deserves a standing ovation because we all overcometh the world.”   —Auggie Pullman

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