Nov 8
2017

Wonder by R. J. Palacio – Book Review

Wonder-R-J-Palacio-Book-ReviewI have to admit that I normally don’t read a lot of middle grade, especially realistic fiction. If and when I do pick up middle-grade, it’s mostly fantasy, because let’s face it, there are some amazing reads in the genre. But this book piqued my curiosity, partly because of the relatively unique story line, and partly  because of all the hype surrounding it, so I just had to pick it up.

Wonder is the story of August (Auggie) Pullman, a 10 year old boy, with severe facial abnormalities, who lives with his parents & elder sister Olivia (Via) in North River Heights, New York. He has been home-schooled all his life (as his condition required several surgeries while he was growing up), but now is gearing up to attend Beecher Prep, a private middle school in North River Heights.

Considering the fact that he hasn’t ever gone to a mainstream school, and that his experiences around kids in general haven’t been too great (primarily because of how he looks), Auggie isn’t particularly excited to go to Beecher Prep. But he agrees anyway, because it’s what his parents want for him, and he knows that they only have his best interests at heart. Oh and his decision was probably influenced by the fact that his folks assured him that he can quit anytime he wants to, if he decides that school isn’t for him.

The many WONDERful narrators

So Wonder is essentially the story of Auggie’s 5th grade year, told mostly from his perspective, but also partly from the perspective of some other kids in his life, including  his sister, her boyfriend, her best friend, and Jack & Summer, the new friends Auggie makes at Beecher Prep.

Though normally I would consider 6 narrators to be way too many – in this case, it all flowed really well. In-fact for me, these other POV’s improved the reading experience, as it helped me to not only see the world from Auggie’s eyes, but also get an understanding of how it was for his sister and his peers to love & care about someone like Auggie.

Moreover, I feel like when kids closer to Auggie’s age will read this book, they will be able to relate to one or more of the other kids in there, even if they cannot always relate to Auggie, and it will show them how important it is to choose kindness, even if it is not always easy.

And while we are still on the subject of multiple POV’s, I must say that even though there were many different narratives, each and every one of them came across as authentic, as every narrator had a distinct, completely believable voice. And I feel like this is probably because this author really “gets” kids– how they think, how they behave, how they can be horribly mean at times, but also have the capacity to be incredibly kind.

Some WONDERful POVs

Auggie’s POV was brutally honest. He was well aware of how other people viewed him, and incredibly enough, was also able to empathize with them at times. Of-course no amount of awareness and empathy made him immune to the cruel stares and mean words of his peers, but the fact that he not only displayed tremendous courage, but also empathy for people who were (intentionally or unintentionally) mean to him, was inspiring.

I was also impressed with the raw honesty of his sister Via’s POV. Growing up with Auggie couldn’t have been easy, as she always came second to his needs. Her POV highlighted how she struggled with jealousy, resentment and guilt over having those feelings, as she truly loved her brother,  but also craved the attention of her parents as much as any other kid.

And speaking of Auggie’s parents, I must say that my heart went out to them, for everything they must have had to go through to do right by Auggie (and Via). Parenting is never easy, even when we are blessed with perfectly normal kids in every way, so I cannot even begin to imagine how it must have been for them to raise Auggie, whose needs were so very unique to him. But clearly, they did a stellar job, considering they raised not one, but two, kind, empathetic, resilient kids.

A WONDERful Message 

Wonder is a heartwarming  feel-good book with a message that we cannot hear enough number of times – when given a choice between being right or kind, choose kind. Always.

Or even better, as Mr. Tushman puts it… “Be kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than is needed. ” This really struck a chord with me. There is so much talk about ‘being kind’, but it’s a concept which is difficult to quantify. And so when I read about Mr. Tushman urging the kids to be kinder than is necessary, those lines stayed with me.

Because it implied two things, two very important things. Firstly that being kind is a necessity, and not an option, and secondly, that we must do more than we feel like we need to do, because who cares if it can be quantified or not, if everyone is kinder than is needed, this world will be a truly WONDERful place to live in.

And finally, Wonder is also a much needed reminder that even though many a times it’s much easier to look the other way, because of impatience, indifference, fear, or revulsion, whatever the case may be, sometimes reaching out to another human being can be a life-changing experience, for everyone concerned, because kindness doesn’t only impact the other person, it also changes you.

So needless to say, I recommend this book to everyone, irrespective of your age, read this book. But I especially recommend this book to kids (of all ages).

If you have a child around Auggie’s age or even older, have them read this book. This book will serve as a very important lesson in kindness & empathy, and we all need more of that in our lives. Also the short chapters, with alternating POVs make this a quick and easy read for kids, so even if they aren’t into reading, it will be a good way to ease them in.

Links: Wonder (Amazon) | Wonder (Movie Trailer)

That’s all from my end, folks. I would love to hear from you guys. Have you read Wonder? What did you think of it? Also, do you know that the movie adaptation is releasing on November 17th? After reading this book, I cannot wait to see it. I have a feeling that this movie is going to be as good as the book, if not better. Which if you know me, is a rare thing for me to say, because I firmly belong to the ‘book is always better than the movie’ club. But of-course there are always exceptions, and this might make for a WONDERful exception.

-Shantala

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Comments

  1. I want to read this book and haven’t got it cos it’s slightly expensive 😉
    Your review is exactly how I expected the book to be. Thoughtful and thought provoking. I’ll get the book.
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  2. Lovely, lovely post as ever. My 11-year-old nephew armtwisted me into reading this book, and I am glad he did. I am looking forward to watching the movie. And thank you for sharing the trailer. I just watched it. It looks WONDERful. 🙂

  3. Really nice and informative book review. Looks like an interesting book for kids to read, as well as for teachers and anyone who supports and encourages kids.

  4. You have given an excellent review. I think I should get it for my son.

  5. I read this book in the early part of this year and to say I loved it would be an understatement. I agree with you this is a book which everyone should read, children and adults to appreciate how important it is to be kind in this world. Kindness is increasingly becoming an extinct notion. I am looking forward to watching the movie and show it to D too because at his age he will not be able to understand the book.
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  6. What a heart warming story. It’s very difficult not to empathize with a book like this. Your choice of books is excellent. And the review is so well written.
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  7. After reading your review, I watched the trailer of the film. I had tears in my eyes by the end of it.
    It needs courage to go through what Auggie did at that tender age; it needs courage for parents to bring up such wonderful kids when one of them needs special care.
    I have heard about this movie, read the review too and now after reading your review, I feel I need to either read the book or watch the movie!
    True, it’s always better to be kind than be right. Kinder, as Mr. Tushman said!

    Love your reviews, Shantala!
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  8. Your review echoes my thoughts exactly. I have been and still am in love with this book. We read it together, the children and I, a few chapters a day. And it was one of the best reads for all of us. That message is so very valuable, isn’t it? I find myself repeating it to the children many times over because tweens have a way of being insensitive and focussing a lot on their feelings and needs only. Also, I felt it is an absolute parents’ handbook too. Many times in the narrative I’d wonder what Auggie’s parents would say or do and they’d come up with just the right thing. Oh I need to stop. We cannot wait to watch the film, though H is a little reluctant because as he says, “I’d be embarrassed to cry’.
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