Author: R.J. Palacio
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Release Date: January 2013
Length: 315 pages
Series?: Wonder #1
Genre: Contemporary YA, MG
You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.
My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.
August Pullman wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things. He eats ice cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary – inside.
But Auggie is far from ordinary. Ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go.
Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he’s being sent to a real school – and he’s dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted – but can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all?
Narrated by Auggie and the people around him whose lives he touches forever, Wonder is a funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.
Auggie Pullman is not your typical ten year old. He was born with facial deformities that have changed the course of his life. After many, many surgeries and necessary recovery time, Auggie is not like everyone else. He knows exactly how he looks, and he is very aware of how other people see him, which is why he has been home-schooled up until the fifth grade.
Now that his surgeries are finished, his parents believe he should attend school because one day he will be out in the world. Auggie is a wreck, but he has an out: he can quit at any time if it becomes too much. They select a local and prestigious private school and arrange for Auggie to go on a tour with hand-selected students to help acclimate him.
The rest of the story follows Auggie as he journeys through his first year at middle school. Along the way he meets some incredible friends who each have their own struggles, as well as unfortunate encounters with some truly horrendous adults. Auggie accepts it all and trudges on, gaining confidence as the year goes on.
Auggie – a 10 year old boy born with craniofacial abnormalities who is going to public school for the first time
Via – Auggie’s older overprotective sister who is starting her first year of high school
Mom – Auggie and Via’s overbearing, mother hen
Dad – Auggie and Via’s jokester dad who calls Auggie “Auggie Doggie”
Daisy – Auggie’s sweet dog
Miranda – Via’s best friend, she shares a few quirks with Auggie
Julian – a boy at Auggie’s new school who is two-faced
Jack Will – a boy at Auggie’s new school who befriends him
Summer – a girl at Auggie’s new school who befriends him
Justin – Via’s boy friend
When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.
The Highs and Lows
- The Reality. The thing that makes this book so relatable is the realness. Auggie is a kid who suffers the shocked looks, the dirty looks, the whispers, the mean comments. He understands people’s strange fascination with him, so he tries to hide it, always with his head down, hiding behind his bangs, only seeing the world through sidled eyes.
- The Writing. Overall, the chapters were fairly short. Palacio crafts such simple sentences with beautiful sentiment that penetrates the heart. The short chapters amplify the meaning behind each character’s perspective.
- The POVs. The amazing thing about this book is that Auggie is just one person, but he is loved by many. The book is broken into parts, and the parts further broken down into alternating character POVs, which makes this a character-driven story. The plot progresses because of the characters. There are six total: Auggie, Via, Jack Will, Summer, Justin, and Miranda. Each of these characters present their own individual struggles, but they are all tied to Auggie. Ultimately, they each tell the story of how Auggie has changed them, made them better people.
- Via – She is struggling starting her first year of high school without her best friends, who have abandoned her. She does not want to be known as the girl with the deformed brother, so she tries to separate her school life from her home life. This is her opportunity to make a new start where people don’t associate her with Auggie…becuase to them, he doesn’t exist.
- Jack Will – Jack is one of the first students Auggie ever meets, put together by his principal (Mr. Tushman). He is supposed to be nice to Auggie, but comes to find he actually likes Auggie, and befriends him. Jack gets swept up in the monster that is middle school and Auggie feels betrayed. For a long time they don’t speak to one another, and Jack Will feels lower than dirt about it.
- Justin – He is Via’s boy friend, who then becomes her boyfriend. They enjoy being in the theater club. Justin eventually gets to meet Via’s family, and he would much rather be with them than his own. He has a lot of issues going on at home and gravitates to the radiance that Auggie’s family gives off.
- Miranda – While she and Via were as thick as thieves, and she and Auggie had a special relationship, Miranda couldn’t be farther from that. She is spiraling down a black hole she can’t climb out of following her parents divorce. The summer preceding high school is where it starts – the lying. Miranda lies to her campmates and uses Auggie’s physicality as a freak show draw. Once you start lying, it’s hard to stop. She does something redeeming at the end of the book.
- The Heart. This book isn’t one of those tear-jerkers that makes you ugly cry. It does explore the depth of the characters and their relationship with Auggie and what happens because of it. This is a difficult issue that Palacio approaches with gusto and grace.
- The Deal. Auggie’s mother is the one who broaches the subject of Auggie going to school, and Auggie hates the idea, as does his dad. He goes on a tour of Beecher Prep and meets Julian, Charlotte, and Jack Will. After some incidents like the “Cheese Touch” game, Auggie wants to quit. That was always on the table – he could quit at any time. Surprisingly, his parents have switched sides on the matter, and his father pushes him to remain at school while his mother falls all over him with her mothering. Auggie is in it for the long haul.
- Auggie. He is such an incredible character. He is so insightful and profound for a 10 year old. While he is incredibly smart, there are many people who doubt that – because all they see is his face. While Auggie hides behind his hair, it is not a complete barrier between him and the world. He notices things around him, especially about people.
- Auggie’s Friendships. Jack Will was put up to befriending Auggie, but he realizes what Auggie really offers as a friend, and it becomes real. They are like PB&J. Summer is the first person at Beecher Prep who willingly approaches Auggie. Their friendship starts over something silly – the fact that they both have summer names.
- The Bully. Julian is one of those kids who has mastered the art of deception. He is sugar and sweet and the most absolutely amazing young boy to the faces of adults, but the moment there are none around he is the nasty slithering snake in the grass. Julian’s parents have some prominence, with his mother being on the school board, and she tries to use her power to influence some decisions regarding Auggie. Julian himself tries to get the entire fifth grade to ostracize Auggie, but things don’t always go according to plan.
- The Universal Truth. This is a book that everyone should read in their lifetime. I think it should be mandatory for 5th grade students, because they will be facing what Auggie and Via face as they proceed to middle school. The things that each of the characters shared during their chapters were so intimate. Palacio shares such a powerful message with this story: choose kindness, always. There are so many wonderful lessons about life that Auggie and his friends show readers.
I was laughing at many points, tearing up at others, boiling with anger at the injustice, and completely crying in certain spots. From beginning to end, I enjoyed everything about this book. I loved the side-characters who come to Auggie’s aid during the camp retreat. It shows that there is redemption in humanity.
Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip?
BUY IT. Buy it for yourself, your children, your siblings, your grandchildren, nieces/nephews, your neighbor. It is such an incredible story that everyone needs to hear.
R.J. Palacio lives in NYC with her husband, two sons, and two dogs. For more than twenty years, she was an art director and graphic designer, designing book jackets for other people while waiting for the perfect time in her life to start writing her own novel. But one day several years ago, a chance encounter with an extraordinary child in front of an ice cream store made R. J. realize that the perfect time to write that novel had finally come. Wonder is her first novel. She did not design the cover, but she sure does love it.
Raquel J. Palacio / R. J. Palacio is a pseudonym of: Raquel Jaramillo.