Monday, January 14, 2013

Book Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Title: Wonder
Author: R.J. Palacio
Knopf Books
Release Date: Feb 14, 2012

Cover Impressions: I love the mysterious nature of the image here and the incorporation of the title. 

The Gist:
August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that invites stares and begs questions whenever he goes out in public.  Having been home-schooled for most of his life, Auggie is about to embark on his first year of middle school.  Wonder chronicles his year as a fifth grader as he tries to show is classmates that he is just an average kid, despite his appearance


Wonder is honest and thought provoking.  For a book that follows a fifth grader, albeit a very unique fifth grader, it has a remarkable level of depth.  It presents emotional moments, but in a way that is palatable for a general audience.  Perhaps my main criticism is that it did not go quite far enough.  I was waiting for the heart wrenching moment that would cement Wonder in my mind, but it never happened.  It was a sweet novel, with some sad moments and some insight into the world of a child that is just trying to fit it - but I don't really feel that I will remember this book in a year's time.

The novel was written in sections, each one from the perspective of a different character.  I enjoyed this, particularly when the sections over-lapped and was able to see the same actions through a different point of view.  The one caveat, was the section from Justin, Via's boyfriend.  There was a distinct lack of punctuation that I found frustrating (is the boy allergic to capital letters?) and distracting.  It left me wondering why his section was given this treatment when the chapters from the fifth grader's POVs were perfectly written?

To be honest, even despite these few flaws, Wonder was well on its way to a 5 star rating until I hit the ending.  In the last 1/4 of the novel, an incident occurs in which August's bullies come to his aid.  From this point on, everyone loves him (in a very patronizing, pat on the head kind of way).  Even his main tormenter is suddenly made unpopular and eventually changes schools.  It all seemed a little too sunshiney for me.   

No tears here, but I do admit it was a sweet, touching book that may convince the reader to take a look at how they can show kindness every day, and what a difference that kindness can make.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

12 and up
Gender:  Both
Sex:  None
Violence:  Kid Fighting:  Shoving, Punching
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Use/Abuse: Smoking

Notable Quotables:

When discussing whether or not they should be dating: "'Yeah, I agree,' said August. 'Which is kind of a shame, you know, what with all those babes who keep throwing themselves at me and stuff?'"

"Shall we make a new rule of life ... always to try to be a little kinder than necessary?"


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