Book Review: Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Wonder is like holding up a cut crystal to the light—from each angle it reflects and refracts differently. In Wonder, 10-year-old Auggie Pullman’s experience is refracted through his own point of view and those of people close to him: his sister Via, his friends Summer and Jack, Via’s boyfriend Justin, and Miranda (Via’s friend). In this edition (Borzoi 2012) there is also ‘The Julian Chapter’ written from the point of view of Auggie’s enemy.

Oh yeah, you should know: Auggie has serious facial abnormalities.

The first person crafting of several points of view was really interesting—Via may as well have thrown a pair of her sneakers at me and asked me to lace ‘em up and walk a while. Auggie’s disfigurement causes her as much pain as it does him. My heart broke when Via’s grandmother whispers to her that she is her favorite. For once, she is seen.

Grandmothers aren’t supposed to have favorites. Everyone knows that. But after she died, I held on to that secret and let it cover me like a blanket (87).

Palacio was inspired by Natalie Merchant's amazing song, Wonder.

Palacio was inspired by Natalie Merchant’s amazing song, Wonder.

If I think about it, Auggie’s disfigurement had a profound effect on everyone around him. More specifically, his looks cause people to behave in ways they wouldn’t usually, both positive and negative. He is a line in the sand. Which side will you choose?

Wonder cover

‘The Julian Chapter,’ released after the original text, throws our cut crystal back up to the light, reflecting a deep, sad violet light. Poor, flawed Julian.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle—Ian Maclaren (313)

Julian’s story is a reminder not to let our kids off the hook and to make them accountable, no matter how young they are. Hopefully, if you remind them enough times not to stare, or giggle at others’ misfortune or difference, one day it will become part of who they are. ‘The Julian Chapter’ reminds parents to play nicely and to lead by example. Choose kind. Don’t judge. And for goodness’ sake, don’t cover your kids’ badly-behaved little butts if you want them to learn anything.

One mistake does not define you, Julian. Do you understand me? You must simply act better next time (392).

The only criticism I have is more about perception by different age groups. I see such value in Wonder and want my children to read it when they are old enough. What I want to know is, is this a book adults want their children to like, or do children actually like it? What did you and your 8-16 year old children think of Wonder?

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