Review by Fatima Bheekoo-Shah
Wonder by RJ Palacio
Today, we live in a world that when you look like this:
life in terms of friendships tend to be little easier. At school you able to befriend other kids fairly quickly, people want to know you and you able to have a smooth schooling career. But, what happens when you look like this?
Are people or children willing to know you just as quickly? Do they flock around you, or shout your name when they see you coming up the steps at school? ‘Wonder‘ tells the story of ten year old August, who to most people looks anything but ordinary.
I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year old kid. I mean, sure, I do ordinary things. I eat ice cream. I ride my bike. I play ball. I have an XBox. Stuff like that me ordinary. I guess. And I feel ordinary. Inside. But I know ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go. (excerpt from book Wonder)
We follow August (Auggie) as he is about to enter 5th Grade. He will be attending school for the first time. Due to his facial difference, he had to have numerous surgeries and thus had to be home schooled up until now. While Auggie is nervous about attending school, he is also excited to go to school with other kids. During his year he will meet a variety of characters. The bully, who doesn’t bother to get to know him, but bullies him because he wants to. The girl who goes out of her way and has the courage to be kind to him despite what others may think and say. And the boy who genuinely like Auggie, wants to be friends with him but loses his way for while during that time.
My eight year old son and I read this book together on the recommendation of my nephew. In my nephew’s words; “It was the best book I have ever read”. There was no way I couldn’t take his advice (even if he is eleven years old) and I am so glad I did. Wonder is one of those books that can be read across the ages. There is no one particular age group that it is meant for. Anyone who reads this book, will either be inspired by it or can relate to it in some way or the other. I love the fact that the author does not give a description of Auggie, instead you are told you can never imagine what he looks like.
‘My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.’
The book is written in the first person from our main character Auggie. I cannot begin to explain how much I adored his character. While you brutally aware of his facial difference, he is so confident in himself. He is witty, smart, funny and unbelievably kind and strong in character. While his family worries about him, they never try to fight his battles for him, yet at the same time continually support him. They handle the difficult situations with such dignity, it is impossible not to feel awestruck or uplifted.
The main theme of the book is ‘kindness before being right.’ As a parent, while reading this book, I began to think back on all those ‘awkward’ situations I came across with my kids. What did I do when my kids first came across someone in a wheelchair and started shouting in a sing song voice “why is he in that?” Did I pull them along and run? or did I use the opportunity to teach them by speaking to him kindly and showing them he is the same like us but can’t use his legs? When asking my son about his thoughts, he told me he hopes he will always remembers to be kind and to be able look past what people look like.
As it is said by The Independent, R.J Palacio has written a book that ‘wreaks emotional havoc.’ While she continually makes you question your own kindness and dignity, she also shows and reminds us that we all were ‘an Auggie’ in some point or form in our lives, and that it was okay to be that way.
Every person needs to read this book.
An emotional 5 stars.