R.J. Palacio's Wonder
Book review by Rosalyne Bowmile
The first day of school can be unsettling even for the most seasoned, popular student. For August (Auggie) Pullman it’s worse; he’s always been homeschooled.
Now ten, Auggie’s about to face his biggest challenge, and reluctantly agrees to attend Beecher Prep.
With bountiful courage and a giant size leap, Auggie prepares himself for school. He knows without a doubt what reaction he’ll receive. He encounters the same reaction every time he steps away from the house. People stop and stare with shocked expressions at the sight of his face.
Auggie’s face is horribly disfigured, the result of a gene deficiency at birth. He has undergone 27 reconstructive plastic surgeries; still his face is grotesque, his features distorted.
"I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse."
Auggie hopes that some will look beyond his face and see the real him: a funny kid who is quick-witted and smart. He like many boys his age is a Star Wars fan, awesome video gamer, and a whiz on the computer.
He is not disabled, or restricted from activities children his own age participate in.
The first day of school is much what he expected. As the months pass, Auggie faces exclusion, bullying, but also friendship.
Auggie is resilient and courageous, but most of all not a quitter. Faced with many obstacles and barriers, he fights his way through and in the end succeeds. Auggie’s positive outlook and winning attitude filter to those around him, changing their lives forever.
Wonder is a complex story told through many viewpoints. Auggie, the central character, glues it all together.
Auggie’s presence throughout the book affects everyone, especially his sister Via, and his school friend Jack.
Older sister Via feels like second fiddle in the family. She shares a close bond with her brother, but at times dreams of being free, known only as Via, rather than the sister of a disfigured boy.
She too faces many personal struggles--loss of friendship, feelings of guilt--and longs for acceptance and attention. Via grows as a character throughout the story, finding the importance of family, friendship, and finally forgiveness.
Like Via, Jack struggles with his relationship with Auggie. Torn by peer pressure and the desire to fit in, he finds himself caught in a difficult situation. Standing huddled with a group of boys at school, Jack finds himself caught up in the conversation. He speaks without thought, his cruel words overheard by Auggie, which nearly costs him their friendship.
Jack realizes that Auggie’s friendship is much more important to him than pleasing any bully.
Wonder is a novel that will stick with you long after reading the final page. Auggie is a character who immediately draws in the reader, a lovable child who is courageous and resilient. His inner strength pushes him to succeed, and to triumph in the end.
Augie's story is a story of aspirations and growth, overcoming prejudice and peer pressure. The characters struggle with issues, both externally and internally, but in the end learn what is important. Wonder is a story rich in family values, support and friendship.
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