Monday, April 11, 2016

Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Title: Wonder
Author: R.J. Palacio
Publisher: Corgi Children's
Publication Date: 3 January 2013
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

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.
(summary from Goodreads)

Wonder is something truly special.

An inspiring story, Wonder is told through multiple points of view. Not only do we get to know Auggie as he sees the world, but we see him through the eyes of other children too - his older sister, Via; her oldest friend, Miranda; and her new boyfriend, Justin; and Auggie's new school friends, Jack and Summer. Palacio's characters each have very distinct voices and personalities - differentiated too through style choices, such as font, grammar, and so on - and I enjoyed each of them. I think what works so well is that it helps to have had those multiple sides of the same story. Palacio also cleverly reveals the full extent of Auggie's condition a little bit at a time this way. Some narrations were very minor compared to others but I found each had a necessary impact. Miranda shows us how family is more than blood, for example, and Justin's narration portrays the true scope of acceptance. Outside of Auggie's, Via's narration resonated the most with me. Via has her own struggles but feels they're not important in light of her brother's condition and I think readers are more likely to easily empathise with Via. Wonder details how everyone faces tough times, and Palacio's story is truly genuine in that way. It's so much more than just a story about a boy with facial deformities. It's a story about growing up, being true to yourself, and about how the people that surround us shape our identities. 

Wonder is a really lighthearted read, for the most part. I've read reviews where others expected a darker and more gritty read, but me, I love this book for being fun and light. Auggie and those around him face some tough issues, there's no denying that, but the fact is, having a disability or a serious condition as Auggie does does not automatically mean life is always hard and a constant struggle. Auggie's family is well off, supportive and caring as you'd expect, and Wonder reflects the reality of that. Other than how he looks Auggie is just your average 10 year old boy - which is the heart of Wonder. Where it counts he's no different than anyone else. Wonder is also a lesson in kindness. That's all it takes for us to see beyond our differences, as Palacio illustrates beautifully. This book runs the emotional gamut. Reading it you're sure to experience some extreme feelings - love, awe, disgust, fury, heartbreak, sadness, joy. It's all there and I outwardly portrayed all, laughing, growling and bawling my eyes out a number of times. I don't see how anyone could read Wonder and not feel it all or be forever touched. It's definitely one of those books.

Wonder is the kind of book that could spark a change if every single person in the world could read it. 

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