Review: WONDER

WonderWonder by R.J. Palacio
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

By R.J. Palacio

Reviewed by Jay Gilbertson

Funny. Not the book, but the age limit of the readers suggested; 8-12 years. I’m a tad older and got totally hooked. In fact, I have had my family read it and you should too! Well, only if you like a book that starts out with a kid getting piles of love from his family, then leaves the safe home-school nest to embark on journey in public schools. Namely, the 5th grade. There he meets the harsh reality of humans at their worst. Then the story gets…
Meet Auggie (August) Pullman. When our story opens he is ten years old and has had over 27 surgeries, mostly on his face. Born with a rare disease, he has had to endure stares from everyone meeting him for the first time. Some run from him screaming.
The disease he has is called mandibulofacial dysostosis or Treacher Collins Syndrome. One in 50,000 American births, which equals approximately 80 babies are born every year with it. The disease affects the development of bones and other facial tissues. Hallmarks of the syndrome are underdeveloped cheek bones, a small jaw and chin, a cleft pallet and eyes that slant downward, as well as an unusual ear formation.
Auggie was raised in the privileged, educated, upper-middle class neighborhood of Upper Manhattan. The book opens with him starting a new school that happens to be within walking distance from his swanky townhouse. Since he had been home-schooled, his world had been small and safe. Now, in this new and foreign place, his once contained life is blasted open in good as well as bad ways. The kids he encounters in classes and the lunchroom and even the restroom, are the backbone to what shapes the real guts of ‘Wonder.’
One clever and useful tool author Palacio uses is to have not only Auggie, but his sister and several of his close friends, narrate the story, all in first person, from their point of view. This paints a broader picture of the complex and oftentimes emotionally-charged relationships they have with one another as their lives intertwine with Auggie’s. The story takes a major jolt when Auggie’s class of fifth graders go away for an overnight school trip which goes horribly off the rails.
This story arc (not telling) culminates with Auggie moving from being shunned, avoided and sadly rejected, to stepping into something pretty darn wonder-full.
Today, more than EVER we need to be reminded that after all is said and done and undone and redone within the political web, we simply have to find a way to be kind again. Though this novel hit a slump in the middle with an unstintingly obsessive focus on Auggie’s struggles in school, one thing shined steady and true. The power of kindness. No matter what face you have been given—there is a heart inside that needs what you need: LOVE.

• Try kindness
• One size fits all
• You matter

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