Friday, May 11, 2012

'Wonder" by R.J. Palacio

Reviewer: Stephanie

Summary from 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.

I absolutely love Auggie’s story! He is such a sweet 10 year old, I just want to give him a huge hug. And I don’t know why, but I also thought about The Scoot from Gae Polisner’s The Pull of Gravity when I was reading about him. This book tells the story of Auggie and his family. He has a severe facial deformity. It’s something that happened in utero and only happens to one in a million people. He’s had over 20 surgeries in his short life to improve his appearance. But as he says in the book – “Whatever you think I look like, I promise it’s much worse”. Despite this, his parents encourage him to start 5th grade at a local private school. (He’s only ever been home-schooled up until that point). He has a big sister (who’s completely normal-looking) named Via who will be starting a new high school.

The book is a chronicle of his year at Beecher Prep. What is most interesting is that although the book begins with Auggie as the narrator, each of the other main characters (besides the mom and dad) get their own section to narrate. It was so awesome to hear the same events being retold through the other characters voices, and I think R.J. Palacio did a fantastic job with that. It was exactly what the book needed so it didn’t devolve into something ordinary.

Of course, Auggie is going to experience some hardships going to this new school. We all know how 5th graders are, and you can imagine the struggles that a 5th grader who looks normal would have at school. Auggie, though, has to deal with The Plague game (if kids accidentally touch Auggie, they have 30 seconds to wash their hands or they’ll get “The Plague”) and being called “zombie boy” among other things. There are bright spots for sure. He does make some friends, and he’s a really smart kid who excels academically.
But there are some heartbreaking moments.

I really love Auggie’s family. His parents are so great. Even other kids think that Auggie’s parents are great. I also enjoyed reading about Via’s point of view regarding her brother. As you can imagine, she doesn’t get nearly as much attention as Auggie so that definitely plays a part in her relationship with her parents.

I laughed. I cried. I cheered. I really loved this book! My book club had a great discussion about it and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the book. I’ll definitely be recommending this book to everyone.

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