August Pullman is about to start fifth grade, but it’ll be his first time in a school; before that, he was homeschooled. Homeschool seemed more practical given the number of times Auggie was in the hospital, or recover. A one-in-four-million combination of genetic conditions has left Auggie with an unusual face and caused doctors to have a gloomy outlook on his chances of surviving. However, numerous surgeries down the line, and used to the looks he gets from strangers, August is ready to start his greatest challenge yet – middle school.
August tells his family that he is ready, and considers himself prepared for whatever school can throw at him, but he slowly learns that middle school was nothing like he imagined. It is infinitely more nuanced; a million times better and desperately worse than he thought.
Wonder depicts the tightrope act that is modern childhood; a balancing act between immense (ignorant) cruelty and a mind-blowing ability to love. Children are often considered blank canvases, yet mimicry of peers is also a starkly highlighted characteristic of most children. August is exposed to both immense cruelty from children and parents alike, and yet he also experiences immense love and true friendship.
While it’s absolutely true that I had several “I’m not crying – you’re crying!” moments with words blurred by tears, I was equally enthralled by Wonder, and unable to put it down, even to wipe away tears. August is literally the embodiment of beauty being in the eye of the beholder. In a world where appearances are so critical, August shatters the mould and R.J. Palacio that the heart and human kindness know no bounds. Simply put, Wonder is mesmerizing and devastatingly beautiful. It is an easy but powerful read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind being seen crying with a book. Bring tissues.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio is published by Puffin Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.