So, I’ve been holding off on reviews lately as I have a stack to read, and I wanted to review a load of titles all at once. However, the best laid plans and all that, and I ended up reading a fantastical little book called Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and I absolutely had to shout about it just a little bit.
It’s the first day of middle school for August “Auggie” Pullman. A stressful time for any young kid, just beginning the road to adulthood, starting to finally settle in on the person they’re to become. However, for August, this is his first day of school ever, and he’s especially nervous. You see, August was born with a facial birth defect. Not a little one, but a whole host of genetic abnormalities that mean for most of his life, other children have cried or even run away screaming. Life hasn’t been kind to Auggie. He’s spent his life so far, being home-schooled by his Mum and living with her, his Dad, his sister Olivia (or Via for short) and their little old dog Daisy, and he’s been happy like this, but when his Mum and Dad decide he needs to start interacting with others his age, August knows they’re right. So begins the story of his first year making friends, losing friends, making enemies and finding out that some of the most important lessons you learn at school happen in between classes.
Wonder is a fantastic book. Whilst it might be a bit too sweet for some, for me it was just the right level of warmth in the bottom of my stomach. The first and most important thing to note about Wonder is its delightful narrative style. The book’s story is narrated in very short chunks of internal monologue from several characters, including August, his sister Via, and various others who are affected by the events in the story, often overlapping so we get a great view of an events from two angles. Some characters only get one run at telling it how they see it, but in a book which deals with how different people react to and interpret August’s face, it makes for an excellent insight into the inner-workings of reactions and prejudice based on something as simple as someone’s appearance. It’s all done in first person, so it really is like hopping from one character’s head into another, and I found that very refreshing.
The characters, helped by this internal monologue, are sometimes brutally honest with their feelings and attitudes, but they’re also painfully sincere in their regrets, and this helps to flesh each and every one of them out into brilliantly flawed and instantly relatable people. Many of them are sweet and troubled, and this is reflected brilliantly in the way they interact with the world, and especially August. It’s almost like, because of August’s face, other characters get the chance to see themselves clearly, reflected in him, and sometimes they come face to face with faults, but ultimately, they realise that no matter what’s on someone’s face, the person inside is just the same.
The plot is great, it runs through the standard day to day life we expect, and covers all the trials and tribulations we would expect someone in August’s position to go through getting to grips with social life in the everyday world. There are no surprises in the plot, but it’s still endearing and heartfelt. August’s outlook on life is so touching; it inspires a feeling of warmth inside and it did make me smile from ear to ear most of the way through. It also managed to grab some tears from me too.
All in all, Wonder is charming, sweet and beautiful, I’d strongly recommend it if you need an uplifting read to warm you on these increasingly cold nights.