Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Review: "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio

"Wonder" by R.J. Palacio
First published in 2012
315 (very fast) pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

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August Pullman was born with a severe facial deformity that terrifies small children and causes adults to gape at him when they think he's not looking. He's always been homeschooled, but August and his parents decide that he should try attending a regular school for 5th grade, which in his New York City neighborhood means the dreaded... middle school.

Middle school is a tough time for every kid, but 10-year-old Auggie, with his strange face and Star Wars obsession, is bound to be teased, taunted and cast out. He is made of strong stuff, however, and he perseveres. And we readers cheer when a few kids courageously risk ostracism by befriending Auggie -- who is really a pretty cool guy when you look past the exterior.

The story of Auggie and his first year of private school is absorbing, and we celebrate every little victory, feel every insult and cry every tear right along with Auggie. Auggie's tale is mostly told from his point of view but also from a few different perspectives, including his older sister's and his two best friends at school, which I enjoyed.

"Wonder" really made me think about being kind to others, and also about how that guy we saw at our favorite barbecue restaurant the other week with his face completely tattooed over almost definitely noticed me elbowing my husband and whispering, "Did you see that guy!?" (Of course, he chose to do that to his face, whereas Auggie just got double-whammied in the gene pool.) Everyone has a story, everyone has a unique personality, and everyone can use a nice word and a friend from time to time.

This is a middle-grade book and I think it would make wonderful required reading. It's eye-opening to be skillfully set into the shoes of a sweet, bright and funny 10-year-old who is the victim of bullying as well as the recipient of kindness, love and admiration.

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