“You really are a wonder, Auggie. You are a wonder.” (Palacio 2012)
Wonder by R.J. Palacio was published in 2012 by Random House Inc. It is a realistic fiction, young adult novel about a fifth grader named August. Auggie is a normal ten year old boy who loves Star Wars, video games, and his family. But there is one thing about Auggie that is not so normal: he has a significant facial deformity. Wonder is truly remarkable.
Auggie’s family consists of himself, his mother, father, older sister Olivia or “Via,” and his elderly dog named Daisy. Auggie’s extreme facial deformity and health issues have restricted him from going to regular school. He has been home schooled and is actually extremely bright. One day, Auggie’s mother and father decide it’s time for him to begin school at Beecher Prep just in time for his fifth grade school year. One can imagine how unbelievably nerve wracking going to a new school can be but can you imagine how terrifying it would be if you knew everyone would stare at you?
August understandably has a great deal of anxiety about his face and people staring at him. Most people scream in horror when they see him. Can you imagine? My heart breaks for him. But as he begins his first few weeks of school, the students and faculty get used to his face and Auggie begins to like school. One of August’s first friends is Jack Will who is a kind, honest boy that sits next to Auggie in most of their classes. They quickly become best friends. Another friend of Auggie’s is a beautiful girl named Summer who randomly starts sitting with him at lunch on his first day. She feels bad for Auggie and once she starts sitting with him at lunch she actually sees how wonderful he is. EVERYONE sees how great August is when they stop judging him by his face. However, August of course has an enemy also, named Julian who goes out of his way to be cruel to Auggie about his deformity as well as any friends of his.
The story is told from multiple points of view and each chapter is only a page or two. Part One’s perspective is of Auggie, Part Two is Via, Part Three is Summer, Part Four is Jack, Part Five is Justin (Via’s boyfriend), Part Six is Auggie again, Part Seven is Miranda, and Part Eight is Auggie. On the page for each new perspective, there is an illustration of the character’s head with their precepts or lyrics/quotes that relate to that person. Interestingly, August’s face changes a bit each time. It begins with nothing on him, then for Part Six we see Auggie with what appears to be his new hearing aids, and then in Part Eight he has his infamous space helmet on. The different points of view show interesting twists of what each person is thinking during the same event.
I don’t want to give away the entire story to anyone wanting to read this book. So let me just say that the story follows August, his family, and his group of friends through their struggles and victories this school year. I cannot pick a favorite line from the book because I have so many. My copy of Wonder is completely marked up in sticky notes but I think that says something. I know it is cliché to say, but this book made me laugh, it made me cry, and it really had an effect on me. Wonder is sure to touch your heart in every way.
I have an early childhood special education endorsement from my undergraduate teacher program. I spent many summers through college working with students with special needs of all kinds. There is a special place in my heart for people with disabilities, special needs, and deformities. Therefore, Wonder was especially wonderful to me. I will forever hold this book close to my heart and will someday share it with my own children. The themes of this book are kindness,being true to oneself, and friendship. I am a strong believer that kindness and empathy alone can save the world and Wonder is an example of that.
I saw on Amazon.com that R.J. Palacio is releasing The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story in May! I am THRILLED! He is by far the villain of the story and it really bugged me that Palacio didn't include a part on his perspective. I cannot wait to read Julian's chapter and I plan to blog and report back on how/if it has changed my view of Wonder.