Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Middle Grade Review: Wonder, by R.J. Palacio


Title: Wonder
Author: R. J. Palacio
Publishing info: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.  313 pages.

August Pullman was born with extreme facial deformities.  At age 10, after being homeschooled all his life (due to his medical issues), he enters school for the first time.  It's supposed to be easier because everyone is starting middle school together.   But things are never easy when you look different, especially when you look that different.  He and his family and classmates have a ways to travel before anyone can see Auggie as just another 5th-grader.
This is a moving and important book, less about disability (August doesn't have any lack of abilities, he just looks very, very unusual) than about difference.  Different is frankly the worst thing a kid can be after about age 6.  Using the start of Middle School (in his case, 5th grade) and the entrance into school for the first time makes for a convenient frame, as it's a time when kids struggle with all kinds of differences and realities.  But people of any age can go through a similar process of registering difference, dealing with it consciously and carefully (or reactively and hurtfully, as the case may be), until it ends up as the least important aspect of the person.

One of the things that makes this book so strong is that not only do we get Auggie's viewpoint, which says so much about how he copes with his looks and people's reactions, but sections of the book are written from other points of view as well.  In many ways, the best section is that told by Via, Auggie's older sister, who is just starting high school.  She is 4 years older than he is, so she doesn't really remember life without him, and she loves him dearly.  But she's human, and sometimes she wishes things were different.  Different so that she could be more important in the family, and (to her intense shame) so that she didn't have to let anyone at her new school know she has a little brother who is "disfigured," a word she hates.  The way Via and other characters talk about their divided feelings a mixed reactions to Auggie allows them to be real people, even while they are people who rise above themselves.  And, ultimately, the author lets almost all the kids rise above their initial rejection of anything different, which may not be completely realistic but is the model we all want.

Recommendation: For everyone.  Seriously.  We all need help in seeing the world through the eyes of others, and in dealing with differences.

Full Disclosure: I checked  Wonder out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


  1. We love this book. And it is partly epistolary! :)
    Fantastic book and I agree, all should read it.

  2. Beautiful review! I loved this book and think everyone should read it!!

  3. Thanks, guys. This one really moved me.


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