Although “Wonder” is a book targeted for children, adults can appreciate its messages and characters. “Wonder” discusses important topics, like acceptance and judgement, in an honest and innocent way.
R. J. Palacio’s debut novel follows Auggie, short for August, Pullman on his adventure into the fifth grade. This task would not seem so daunting to Auggie if he wasn’t going to be the new kid, hadn’t been homeschooled his entire life, and didn’t have a severe facial deformity.
Auggie and other integral characters like his sister Olivia narrate the book. Palacio’s format beautifully adds perspective to a sensitive topic. Readers not only experience Auggie’s encounters through his own narration, but through the eyes of other characters. This allows readers to identify with multiple characters and better understand the complexity of Auggie’s situation.
Palacio’s narration is convincing and heartfelt. Each narrator has a strong voice and unique opinions, which seamlessly create a dynamic story. The plot progresses through these altering narrations and is easy to follow. The book embodies a youthful spirit and has the right amount of humor, such as in the principal Mr. Tushman.
The strong sense of family adds to the book’s appeal. Auggie’s parents and sister support him through his journey and help him gain a unique perspective of his situation and the people he meets. They understand the uncomfortable encounters Auggie has when he first meets people but push him out of his comfort zone in a safe way.
Auggie’s entrance also challenges the school dynamic of Beecher Prep, the small middle school with helicopter parents and predictable social circles. As an outsider, Auggie has an interesting view on the school community and the popular kids, who aren’t very kind to him. His arrival tests the entire school community and helps the kids truly learn how to appreciate difference.
By the end of the book, readers can see an intricate scenario from multiple angles and appreciate each character’s respective growth. The reader grows with the characters as they try to understand how to properly treat Auggie.
Auggie’s facial condition speaks to adolescent awkwardness and, therefore, makes the book relatable. However, Auggie’s view of the world is enviable and proves that integrity of one’s character trumps an appealing appearance.
Featured Image: The sixth grade teacher Ms. Freiler holds “Wonder.” Photographer: Rosemary Pastron ’16