Book Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder (Wonder #1) by R.J. Palacio cover

by R.J. Palacio
Goodreads | Amazon
Series: Wonder #1
Published: February 14th 2012

Wonder by by R.J. Palacio is a book about August who is a boy with facial deformities going to school for the first time. Sixth grade is difficult enough without your face being the year's main topic of student and parent conversation Wonder is a feel good/cry book, but it isn't preachy or saccharine.  It is narrated chronologically in alternating sections, but August gets several of them.

This is a middle-level book and goes very fast. It is also a happy book. It is the exact opposite of those books that you read and then despaired about the state of the human race for next week. I have five-starred many of those books in my time this is just not that kind of book.   I finished this book and felt hopeful about humanity and energized to help the world.  

This is the second, maybe the third, time that I have read this book. But it was the first time that I have used it as a read aloud.  I am a special education teacher and have a pullout class for 80 minutes every other day.  So for ten to fifteen minutes most classes I read Wonder aloud. I have spent the last nine months talking about this book with twelve-year-olds who were related to August in all of the distinct ways that you would expect and in some beautifully subtle ways that surprised me. For example, they ended up have a very long discussion about choices and how those choices define us and also redeem us.  Reading it with them was like getting to experience it again for the first time.  

Here’s what I think: the only reason I’m not ordinary is that no one else sees me that way.

It has great characters.  If you don't walk away from this book loving Auggie, then you are some sort of hard hearted Scrooge. A Scrooge I tell you! He is a tricky character.  He has to be an every child but also exceptional enough that you want to read about him but also likable and kind.  He goes through a lot, but he can't be a victim either. This could lean perilously into Mary Stu territory. I, however, never read him that way which makes me appreciate R.J. Palacio's writing. I loved every moment I spent with him. My favorite part about his character is that he reads like a very good-hearted grade-six boy.   

I have read a couple of places that they think that the other children in this book are too kind to Auggie and that doesn't read as realistic. I have to disagree. Middle school doesn't have to be Hell, and the students don't have to be minions of Satan. I work in a private school in a huge city like the one that Auggie goes to.  I work with sixth and seventh graders every day, and they are far kinder and accepting than people give them credit for. I see it all the time.

I will probably reread this book again in the future either with students for just for my own enjoyment. If If you like ML or YA at all or are looking for the book equivalent of a hug, I would recommend Wonder.

From Goodreads:

I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.