Wonder

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4.5 (2)
 
5.0 (3)
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Wonder
Author(s)
Publisher
Age Range
8+
Release Date
February 14, 2012
ISBN
0375869026
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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.

Editor reviews

2 reviews

Truly Wonderous
Overall rating 
 
4.5
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
4.0

Aiming on the younger end of the Middle Grade spectrum, Wonder is the story of a disfigured 5th grader named August, and his transition from homeschooling into the public school system.

On the surface, it may seem like just another learning-to-accept-differences theme. But the book has far more than that to offer. Yes, August’s life is the focalpoint, but we are also given the first-person perspectives of numerous other young people whose lives are impacted by Auggie and his struggles. Additional viewpoints include Auggie’s loving older sister Via—who often feels neglected by their parents, but tries not to resent their worry over her brother; His sister’s ex-best friend Miranda, who has always adored August and his family, but has lost herself in the new high school social strata; Summer, the first kid in Auggie’s grade to willingly sit by him at lunch in spite of social pressures; and Jack, a boy in Auggie’s class who was assigned to be a sort of good will ambassador for him, but who succumbs to the whims of a socially devious bully.

The prose is very simple, but appropriate to the target audience. The problems presented aren’t as simple, and neither are character motivations. All of our viewpoint characters are flawed—even Auggie, whose inward focus and past disappointment sometimes leaves him misjudging people’s intentions. And while Auggie and Via’s parents are wonderfully functional and deeply caring people, even they are perfectly imperfect—at odds with each other’s judgement of what’s best for Auggie and miscalculating how well their older daughter is coping with her own transition.
After about the halfway point the pacing started to feel a bit drawn-out, but the rapid shifting of viewpoints remedied some of this.

What really made this book for me was the realistic air of the ringleader antagonist, Julian. Julian is the kind of bully who never gets caught, because overt violence isn’t his tool of choice. Sporting sociopathic traits (and overindulgent parents who encourage and defend said traits), Julian flexes his power behind the social scenes—manipulating all weaker personalities around him into doing his bidding, isolating and intimidating any who resist. He makes Auggie’s life miserable through strategic use of rumors, anonymous notes, and social vendettas. (Anyone who thinks this sounds too clever and complicated a feat for a MG villain didn’t go to my middle school. Just be grateful you missed out on that particular joy. >.>)

Note: On a personal level, I have to admit I can’t be completely objective in my experience with this book. I selected it for two reasons. One, so that my own grade school children could be exposed to a quality, empathy-building story that would put them in the shoes of someone who has to live with being stared at and singled out for maltreatment. And two, because I had a friend in early grade school who had a facial disfigurement (severe cleft pallet/speech impediment/glass eye), and I wanted to see how true-to-life Auggie’s experiences might compare to what I saw with my friend.
On both counts, I’m satisfied with this book.
My 9-year-old son connected with Auggie on every level, and I loved the conversations this opened up between us. And while Auggie’s experiences realistically portray just how terrible kids can treat each other, his is ultimately a tale of hope, growth, and triumph. (Sadly, I didn’t see the same results for my elementary school friend. I wish this book had existed when we were still children.)

I do wish there’d been a bit more exploration of the medical side of Auggie’s condition. But as August has reached a stable point after a myriad of corrective surgeries, it’s understandable this wouldn’t really come into play for this book.
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One of the Year's Best Books
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
How can I ensure that everyone reads R.J. Palacio's amazing Wonder? It brings to mind the Marian Wright Edelman quote, "Service is the rent we pay for living on this planet." I want Wonder to be required reading for everyone, it's that good.

Auggie was born with facial anomalies and has spent most of his childhood getting surgeries which kept him out of school. At ten, his parents believe he is finally ready to go to a classroom and meet his peers. Since he describes himself by saying, "I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse," everyone knows that his transition into the daily life of a typical adolescent won't be easy.

As a teacher who sees the way that middle school students can teach each other, I wanted to wrap Auggie up and protect him. I could relate to how his parents and older sister Via felt when they took him out in public. Auggie is an incredible character, sweet and hopeful, and above all, courageous. In the annotations section of her website, Palacio writes, "I wasn't born with what he has, and I don't know anyone who was. In that way Auggie is unlike anyone I've ever known. And yet in just about every other way he's like every other child in the world. So while I can't know what it's really like to walk in Auggie's shoes, I can try and put myself in his situation, and that of his sister and his parents and his friends. I've always loved the underdogs of the world. And I've always admired those who can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and march on. I love Auggie's pluck most of all." So do I.

I love books that are written from multiple perspectives, so I was thrilled when the narrative switched from Auggie to Via, to several classmates and friends of Via's, always shifting back to Auggie. There's so much to learn from this book, about what it means to be a good person, about bravery, and most of all, about kindness. Please read Wonder and then pass it on to everyone you know.
Good Points
The writing, the characters, the narration...everything is perfect.
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User reviews

3 reviews

Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0  (3)
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A  (0)
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Easy favorite
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Wonder quickly become of my favorite reads, not only of this year but of all times and it’s easy to see why. The narrative of this story can be kind of childish for some people since it’s very straight forward, doesn’t make very turns to make things more pretty and also this story has a lot of show and not tell which usually bothers the hell out of me, but I only noticed it 20% into the book! This really shows how effective this narrative was in make me get into the story and connect with these characters and their feelings.

About the characters, it was a surprise to me when I looked inside the book and saw there was different POV’s and at first I thought it would make hard to get to know anyone but really it wasn’t, like I said the narrative is very simple making the feelings and personalities of each of this narrators really get out of the pages – all of them are so realistic and still so different. I think the narrative I most connect with was Via’s, she really got me teared up at so much times.

Also, this book is a lot more positive than I first expected, I mean I knew that it would end on a lighter tone but still I’m a big crier so expected to have some sobbing moments but no, I cried but always just a little bit – the narrative often goes from sad to lighter and funny. What made these turns so easy were the very short chapters, not making them weird turns.

Anyway, I loved this book with all my soul, it carries an amazing message about bullying to kids, but I think adults/young adults also can get great things from this book. It’s an easy read, that really makes you think about people and the world around you and how you perceive it.

Recommended to: everyone really, it’s one of these books that I just want to push on everyone because I think every single people can take a message from it.
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The 'Wonder' of the Little Guy
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
For those of us who love a good cry, I recently read R.J. Palacio’s "Wonder," which left me being one of the main consumers keeping Kleenex in business.

While the book centers on the emotional story of August, a boy with an indescribably severe facial deformity, what really brings the tears in Wonder is how beautifully Palacio depicts how Auggie’s condition affects those in his life. Palacio doesn’t shy away from the fact that as humans we have some nasty instincts; namely, flinching away from others who society would deem ugly. She also doesn’t make people feel bad for doing this. It’s only natural, and she describes it through the brutally honest thoughts of Auggie’s best friend, sister, even his sister’s boyfriend, among others. The way in which these characters divulge their nastiest feelings regarding this kindhearted boy doesn’t make you like them any less. Rather it helps you bond with them as you reflect on how you personally would react upon seeing such a person.

Ultimately it’s the “minor” characters who highlight the most amazing things about Auggie and why judging him on his deformed cover is the worst mistake you could make. Palacio’s writing just goes to show the wonder in all characters of a book, even the small ones.

I’m not sorry for the wonder pun :)
Good Points
Minor characters that are as developed as the main character.
Ability to make readers reflect on how they would react in a similar situation.
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The Wonderment of R.J Palacio
(Updated: February 22, 2012)
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Wonder is the debut novel by R.J. Palacio, a former art director and book jacket designer. With more than twenty years in the publishing industry, Palacio always dreamt of writing a novel of her own.

After an encounter with a little girl, much like Auggie, at the park with her sons, the story of Wonder began to take form. She set out to write a book about empathy and tolerance. What evolved was an endearing tale of family, friendships, resiliency of the human spirit and the power of kindness.

Palacio’s graceful and witty prose takes readers on a journey of emotions, conjuring both tears and laughter. Auggie’s voyage from sheltered child to confident middle-schooler proves that being different isn’t a bad thing, it’s an opportunity to inspire.
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