Review Blog

Feb 22 2012

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

cover image

Random House Australia, 2012. ISBN 9780370332291.
(Ages: 10+) Warmly recommended. With a face that through some of his younger years he keeps hidden from others with a helmet, August is home schooled, partly because the countless operations on his facial deformities necessitating weeks away for school, but also because of the need for the family to protect him from prying eyes and cruel comments. His face is lop sided, his ears jut out badly, he has some difficulty eating and his eyes are a little odd. In a society obsessed with appearance, his looks draw comments, and sometimes shock and derision.
But when he approaches middle school, the family decides that he needs to go to school, and so he is set along a path that forces him to deal with bullying and cruel laughter, but also companionship and friendship, support and encouragement.
His first year at middle school is beset with problems. The staff, in an attempt to ease this clever boy into their school, ask some to befriend him, causing problems later on Some obviously avoid him, and when an incident occurs which causes some to take sides, the nastier group within the school set out to alienate him even further. But several kids shine through in their friendship with Auggie and it is them who help the lad cope with the bullying that he receives.
At a school camp, a group from another school take exception to this oddly faced boy and in setting him apart for some more violent treatment, incur the wrath of many of the others at Auggie's school, suddenly protective of him.
With chapters given from Auggie's point of view, alongside chapters giving his sister's perspective, his friend, Jack, his sister's friend, Miranda and several others of his group, the story builds to a climax, with each set of chapters filling in the background to one boy's life.
This is a warm, sensitive and engrossing read. We are astounded at Auggie's matte of fact way in dealing with the others in the school, disheartened when some bully him, alarmed when his friend, Jack reveals why he is friendly and cheered by the support shown by the others in his year at the school camp. At some points the story is a little overstated, but the whole is an enlightening, warm hearted story of one boy coping in his first year at school, carrying a disability many would find alarming.
For middle school readers this will prove a story to make them think about our society's stress on how we look, and of how they react to someone's disability, and above all of acceptance and friendship and courage.
Fran Knight

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