Wednesday 28 March 2012

Wonder, R. J. Palacio

I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.
Ten-year-old August Pullman is off to school for the first time, after being taught at home all his life. It would be a scary time for anyone, but Auggie draws attention. He has severe facial disfigurements that no one can help noticing. And for the first time, he will be constantly surrounded by people noticing, or trying very hard not to notice how he doesn't look like the other kids. Wonder is a simple, heartwarming story that follows Auggie and his friends and family through his first year at Beecher Prep School.

I defy anyone to read this book and not love Auggie. He is a bright spark, a good-natured and generally optimistic kid, although of course his situation gets him down at times. But with the support of a loving family, kind teacher and good friends, he gets through fifth grade and comes out the other side. Wonder is told from multiple viewpoints, a character-driven rather than action-filled novel that portrays the ups and downs of being ten - a ten-year-old with a particular and unusual set of difficulties, certainly, but one that can resonate with anyone who's been ten. I remember vividly the woes of still being a child when my classmates fancied themselves all-grown-up, just like Auggie and his friend Summer:
One of the things I'm not loving about this year is how a lot of the kids are acting like they're too grown-up to play things anymore. All they want to do is 'hang out' and 'talk' at recess.
After a lifetime of putting Auggie first, saying to herself, "hey, at least I don't have things as bad as him," his sister Via has her own worries. She, too is struggling with life at a new school, with friends who have drifted apart, a new boyfriend, and trying to find her own identity away from being "Auggie's sister."

Wonder is a superb book, and I would recommend it to anyone from about ten years old upwards. Although it shows that kids can be thoughtless, and adults can be ignorant - which is worse - it also reveals the best in human nature: kindness, family, friendship and loyalty. We can all learn a lot about acceptance and tolerance - not just from the characters around Auggie, but also in his attitudes to them. He is wise and forgiving, aware that people will double-take when they see him, no matter how kind they might be.
Like, it's okay, I know I'm weird looking, take a look, I don't bite. Hey, the truth is, if a Wookiee started going to school, I'd probably stare a bit! 
It was easy to love Auggie by reading about him on the page - but I was challenged to think about how I would treat him or think about him if I were to meet him in the street, or interact with him on a daily basis. Because, after all, Auggie is just a kid like anyone else. He may face challenges that others don't have to deal with, and that's not fair, but behind his face, he's just a ten-year-old boy with a Star Wars obsession.
To me, though, I'm just me. An ordinary kid.But hey, if they want to give me a medal for being me, that's okay. I'll take it. I didn't destroy a Death Star or anything like that, but I did just get through the fifth grade. And that's not easy, even if you're not me.

I was sent this book by Ellie from Musings of a Bookshop Girl. Thanks Ellie! :)

1 comment:

  1. Ellie sent me this book as well, bless her cotton socks :)

    I haven't read it yet though - I know it's meant to be amazing but... SO MANY REVIEW BOOKS! I'm determined to get to it soon though, I can't wait.


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