Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Another author recommended I read this charming middle grade book, and I was pleased the library had it available right away.
After years of home schooling, August will attend fifth grade at a private school. All he wants is to be accepted for the Star Wars-loving Xbox champion he is, but he was born with a facial abnormality he describes as “Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” Can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them?
Smart, funny, and just the right amount of quirky, “Auggie” stole my heart from the first page. He takes everything in stride and is quick to forgive, as children often are. Adults could learn a few things from him.
The story follows Auggie’s journey through the fifth grade, but it rotates perspectives to include his family members, friends, and even his sister’s boyfriend. Auggie’s situation affects all of them in different ways, and each character presents an honest account of their experiences.
I love that the author didn’t overdramatize everything. Even the “villains” behave like normal human beings you’d expect to meet on the street. As I read, I kept thinking, “Yep, I’ve met parents like that.” This book isn’t a soap opera; nor is it a portal to another dimension. It’s a mirror, and I saw myself reflected in every character, even when they didn’t respond as they should.
Auggie faces all the typical middle-school trials: making new friends, misunderstanding said friends, dealing with bullies . . . even a trip away from home. These trials, however, are exacerbated by his situation, which brings out the best, and worst, in his classmates.
Palacio writes with a clean, simple style in short chapters appropriate for a middle grade audience. Each perspective character is unique, and she makes some additional stylistic choices (like not capitalizing) to add further distinction. The book was partially inspired by a song, so the author sprinkled song lyrics and quotations throughout the prose.
During what are already some of the toughest years of human development, Auggie faces the additional challenge of being labelled “different.” This heartwarming story relates the trials he overcomes as well as the effect he has on others. Auggie may be an ordinary kid on the inside, but the impact he has on his family, classmates, and the school staff make him a true wonder. A quick, charming read, I would recommend Wonder for all ages.
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