Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 320
Publication Date: February 2012
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: I read an e-galley through NetGalley.
Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Description (from the publisher):
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.

Although we encourage our kids to embrace their uniqueness and accept other peoples' differences, there is also a steady current in our society that celebrates conformity. But what if no matter what you did, you would always stand out as being very different from everyone else? What is it like to experience the staring, the prejudice, and the cruelty that others heap upon you as a child? This book is about a boy named Auggie who was born with a severe facial deformity. Through many surgeries and hospital stays Auggie was homeschooled. But when he reaches the age for middle school, he and his family decided to give public school a try.

It's a difficult experience for him. He is used to the stares and the comments that his facial deformity brings, but going into the school environment brings a whole new set of challenges. Auggie has to deal with bullying and try to make friends with kids who have a very hard time seeing past his face. Some of his experiences are so heartwrenching that I wanted to reach into the book and give the poor kid a hug. But through it all, he stays true to himself and wins people over by the goodness of his heart.

The book is told from several different points of view, in first person. You hear Auggie's story from his own POV, then you get to see how the people around him are affected by him being in their lives. I don't always like it when books are written in this way, but it worked really well for me here. I really liked it. It brought another dimension to the story--you find out what his high schooler sister is going through, what her boyfriend thinks, and what Auggie's friends go through in befriending the outcast kid. The story is complex and satisfying.

This was a fantastic book with an effective and moving message about the ways we treat each other and how the heart of one person can so utterly change us. I highly recommend it for young and old alike.

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