I reread RJ Palacio’s Wonder last night, in preparation for reviewing it today. No matter how many times I read it (and it has been a lot), my reaction never changes. I cried throughout. Great, flooding tears. No sobs, just fat tears rolling down my face, soaking me.
Wonder follows the story of August (Auggie) Pullman. After spending the first years of his life being homeschooled, the 10 year old boy is going to a real school for the first time, entering Grade 5 at Beecher Prep. There he meets new people, adults and children, who, over the course of the school year, grow and change with him.
Auggie was born with a severe facial deformity, and his life was touch and go for several years. He lives daily with the stares and pointing and muttered words and horrified looks, but he has never had to face it alone, day after day, at school.
Palacio uses different voices to talk about the year in Auggie’s life: Auggie himself narrates several times, along with his sister Via (her chapters are incredible, you will cry, such an honest portrayal of a young teen entering high school), her new boyfriend Justin (what a sweetheart!), and Auggie’s friends Jack (a boy who realized what he had when it was gone) and Summer (an instinctively lovely and caring girl, without pity).
The amazing thing about Wonder is the sheer reality of the feeling and relationships Palacio explores. Via’s voice is SO true, as is Auggie’s and the other childrens’. The reactions of adults seem especially vivd and accurate; perhaps because we see them through the eyes of the children. Auggie’s mom and dad display the unconditional love you expect, but they are not saints, there is yelling and anger and heartbreak and normal everyday frustrations to go along with the patience and acceptance.
This story, written for the 9-11 year old, is a lesson in kindness and strength for everyone. Make sure you have a box of tissues beside you. Maybe two boxes, just to be safe.
You will fist-pump at the end, I promise.
Wonder is published by Alfred A. Knopf.