children's fiction · contemporary · review

Wonder – R. J. Palacio

“My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

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Blurb: “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?”

Wonder is another one of those books that I’ve heard about on and off over the past few years but never really had any desire to delve into it… until I saw the trailer for the film adaptation.

The story follows ten year old August Pullman who has been living with a facial disfigurement from the day he was born. He’s been home-schooled but his mother can only teach him so much and decides to enrol him in fifth grade as August will not be the only new kid starting. August battles through stares, whispers and outright abuse while gaining true friends along the way.

I expected Wonder to be a really sad read – and in a lot of ways it is – but overall it’s a touching, uplifting book. Seeing August’s best friend Jack Will stand up for him reminded me about the importance of good friendships, and a girl called Summer actively sitting with August in the cafeteria highlights the effect that just being kind can have on someone’s day.

The book is told through different narratives: August, Jack Will, Viv (August’s sister), Miranda (Viv’s friend) and Julian (Viv’s boyfriend). Each perspective allows a different insight into what it means to be August or associated with August and really works well in showing the overall bigger picture as well as the scale of August’s influence. However, I did often find these jarring and that they disrupted the flow of the story. I also felt that Julian’s perspective wasn’t needed as he hadn’t been with Viv for that long.

Jack Will was the stand out character for him. He is a symbol of a true good kid and, while he made mistakes, his heart was really in the right place and I would love to read more about him.

If you’re looking for a book to lift your spirits and remind you of the good things in this world, make sure you pick up Wonder.

Wonder is…well… a wonder.

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