Don’t judge a book boy by its cover his face: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Alfred A. Knopf. 310 pp.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Alfred A. Knopf. 310 pp.

Houston, we have a problem: I’ve been reading so many good books lately that I want to describe them all as “one of the best books I’ve read.” I’m afraid that if I do that, you won’t take me seriously, because I mean, really: who says that about every book she reads? Someone with a short attention span who raves about everything. But that’s not me. (Okay, maybe the short attention span part is…) I’ve just been fortunate enough to read, say, four amazing books in a row. (Before that: I refused to finish one and dragged my way through a few slow others.)

I first heard about Wonder when Jojo Moyes recommended it on her blog. If you’ve been reading my blog for the past month or two, you know how much I’ve been enjoying Moyes’s stuff lately, and she made this book sound so appealing that I headed to the library specifically to pick it up. 

August Pullman is a shoo-in for my list of Most Memorable Characters of All Time. (I just made that list up, but now I think I’ll have to work on it. Future blog entry!) He is honest and straightforward; he doesn’t hide his pride or his pain. And he makes me want to give him a hug (which he would hate, because ten-year-old boys tend to protest mightily against physical displays of affection unless they involve throwing a ball at someone’s head or something.)

Let me tell you a little bit about Auggie: He was born with a severe facial deformity. Due to years of surgeries and hospitalizations to get his face to function at its best (which is still pretty bad), he’s been homeschooled for his entire life. Now he’s about to go into fifth grade, and his parents want him to give school a shot. Auggie refuses at first, but finally agrees to try.

Wonder follows Auggie through his first year at Beecher Prep. He learns a lot about kids, cruelty, and ultimately, acceptance. But the acceptance takes a lot of time, and I can guarantee you that your heart will break for Auggie over and over again as he struggles through the year. Kids can be horrible to each other, and even though the things that happen in this book are really no surprise, they’re still disappointing. The human race is both inspiring and prone to demolition, and this book provides a healthy serving of each.

The book isn’t told entirely by Auggie, though: there are sections written by Auggie’s friends from school as well as his older sister Via, her friend Miranda, and her boyfriend Justin. The characters are honest in their reactions to Auggie’s face as well as his personality, and overall, it’s a truthful, touching examination of what it means to be — and to be affected by — August Pullman. 

All in all: Everyone should read this book: kids, to understand how bullying affects people; parents, to remember to raise kind children; and the rest of you, to remember just how fortunate you are and how much of a difference a little kindness can make.