The power of a children’s book: ‘Wonder’ by R.J. Palacio

10-year-old August Pullman was born with grave genetic abnormalities, resulting in an extreme facial deformity. The doctors didn’t expect him to survive after birth, but he did. Until the beginning of our story, when he enters 5th grade at a private middle school in Manhattan, he has been home-schooled because of all the surgeries he had to go through. Thus, we follow Auggie’s adventures in his very first year of school ever, for better or for worse.

Auggie, as different as he is from other children, comes across numerous obstacles when trying to make friends at his new school. Eventually, he manages to find a place in the group. However, numerous obstacles complicate his integration, proving just how mean 10-year-old children can be. When a Halloween party is hosted at school, August is wearing a mask as a part of his costume. He’s thrilled – Halloween has always been one of his favourite nights of the year, because he gets to have one night where he feels like everyone else – for nobody recognizes him or stares at his face. One can imagine Auggie’s disappointment when this night is ruined as he overhears a few of his classmates discussing how they don’t actually like Auggie but only pretend to do so out of pity.

Wonder tells a tale as old as time, and yet, it is unique. Maybe because the story is told from the point of view of a child, rendering the whole of it so much more pure and remarkable. Or maybe because it is written so gracefully, or because it feels so personal. In any case, this book is definitely something special.

Originally, Wonder is a book about children, for children. Hence the large typeface and modest vocabulary. The story, however, is universal and appeals to all. Even though it is indeed told from a kid’s points of view, it is not necessarily exclusively for kids.

It is thought-provoking, resonant and extraordinary. RJ Palacio captures the world of a 10-year-old (in Auggie’s and his friends’ case) but also puts down the world of a 14-year-old (in Via’s and her friends’ case) perfectly accurately. You easily relate to what the characters are going through. This feeling is intensified by the structure of the book – writing not only from the main character’s point of view, but from the point of view of all other characters with an input in Auggie’s life, diversifies and enriches the novel. You get inside everyone’s head and get different sides of every event and/or story.

Wonder is one of those books that really get to you. Palacio has a knack for writing realistic conversations and describing the thoughts and emotions of the characters. Every single one of them grows and develops as the story progresses, especially the middle school students. The combination of an emotional rollercoaster, strong writing and a convincing anti-bullying message make this novel a tale with the power to open one’s eyes and make them see the world differently. It is definitely worth a read.

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