Book Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio (4/5)

9 Apr

This was a book I heard about but didn’t really intend to read. It was for people who had biases, and I didn’t have a bias, right? Right?! I finally decided to go ahead and read it when it was recommended by Will Schwalbe during his appearance at the Midwest Literary Walk last year. The book also appears in his book, Books for Living, which I read recently and was reminded that I needed to read this one.

Cover image via Goodreads

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Summary from Goodreads:

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

Overall, I have to say I liked this book. Auggie was well portrayed, a normal kid with an abnormal face. I liked how the book focused on those who loved him and cared about him, too, and how they were affected and dealt with Auggie’s deformity. I think his classmates were the best characters, though Via and Justin may have topped them. It was reassuring to read from Auggie’s point of view and see how he saw the world and how he coped with the reactions of those around him. He was very smart and resourceful.

I found the characters credible though someone closer to a family like the Pullman’s might feel differently. Not being a part of a family like that, I appreciated the insight to difficulties they faced as well as the normality of their lives. No matter what you look like, you have to deal with siblings fighting and parents disagreeing. Those are unavoidable. Miranda and Justin were great side characters to include. They believed in Auggie and stuck up for him when they weren’t obligated and you wouldn’t guess that they would. Auggie had people fighting for him all around him.

Jack was my favorite character. He messed up and admitted it, which was very brave. I understood why he felt he had to say that he did, but how he realized what he’d done, tried to atone for it, and confessed was very admirable. I liked how his friendship with Auggie grew through the year and how other kids came to accept Auggie in the same way.

I’m fortunate to come from a family unline Auggie’s, so I couldn’t relate to them because of his facial abnormality. It made that part of the story hard to relate to. But bullying is universal. There were people in my school who were bullied for any number of reasons. You were too smart, friends with the wrong people, wore the wrong clothes or talked the wrong way. The base story of how harmful bullying can be and how it can be stopped and turned around did speak to me. I work in an industry that is trying very hard to push beyond bias and hearing how it can be affected in young children was a great story.

R.J. Palacio
Image via the book’s website

I liked the chapters from Via, Justin, and Miranda. I was in high school more recently than middle school so I could relate to their stories better. I also did theater so that part of the story spoke to me, too. The four years between Via and Auggie was huge and the approach that her classmates had to Auggie was very different than his peers and I appreciated that other view.

As much as I appreciated them, I also disliked the chapters from Auggie’s point of view. I felt that it was written in a much more juvenile voice than any of the other characters, even Jack and Summer. Maybe it was from being homeschooled for so long, but he didn’t seem to catch on to things quickly and it was a bit frustrating. Those chapters read at a lower reading level than the rest in my mind.

This book was blessed with three narrators; Diana Steele, Nick Podehl, and Kate Rudd. I was glad for the multiple narrators when I realized there were chapters from a multitude of characters’ POVs. It was good to have Justin and Jack with a male voice while Summer and Miranda had female ones. I only disliked the voice of Auggie and I was glad the whole book wasn’t narrated in that voice. It seemed like one of the female narrators assumed the voice of someone who had trouble breathing properly. Maybe this was meant to mimic Auggie’s difficulties breathing and eating because of his deformity, but it seemed demeaning and it became annoying very quickly.

People’s appearances attract attention for a hundred different reasons. Auggie’s face is atypical so people stare. We might think someone like Auggie doesn’t notice but he clearly does. I read this right after finishing Roxane Gay’s memoir Hunger and she talks about being stared at because of her size. Her sentiments were the same in regards to people looking at her. Maybe we can’t help looking, but we need to learn to not say anything. The words of Auggie’s classmates hurt him much more than anyone staring at him would have.

Writer’s Takeaway: The other character’s taught me more about Auggie than Auggie did. The way they viewed him and how they loved him said a lot about who he was and how he treated others. I liked seeing him through their eyes. With my novel, I have two points of view and I should consider how one character can show the reader more about the other.

I enjoyed this book and what it had to say with my only reservation being Auggie’s narration. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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6 Responses to “Book Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio (4/5)”

  1. Smitten For Fiction April 9, 2019 at 1:10 PM #

    Thanks for the mention! Great review 🙂


    • Sam April 9, 2019 at 3:49 PM #

      Thanks for writing a good review yourself. Happy reading!


  2. Book Admirer April 9, 2019 at 2:16 PM #

    I think the issue with Auggie seeming like he was more juvenile than the others was because he was homeschooled until that very year. He didn’t know how to interact with the other kids and he was super self conscious about his deformity. Have you seen the movie? I actually saw it before I read the book (listened to the same audio version as you) so it helped me visualize the characters more. Well worth the watch.


    • Sam April 9, 2019 at 3:50 PM #

      I’ve seen the preview but not the entire movie. It’s on my ‘to watch’ list for sure, I heard it was great! Happy reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Saadia Peerzada July 1, 2019 at 6:00 PM #

    I gave it 4 stars too but unfortunately, I am from a family like Auggie’s so I relate to his experience and the family situation.
    The reason I docked 1 star is that the ending is too optimistic and 14 years of school showed me that though some people accepted you for your differences, almost 95% people were still jerks and apathetic. So the ending felt almost too good to be true.


    • Sam July 1, 2019 at 6:16 PM #

      I’m so sorry to hear that’s been your experience. It did seem really optimistic but I don’t have the same life experience so I couldn’t comment on the validity. Solid reason to dock a star, I’ve done it with books I could relate to more. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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