Destined to Be a Classic
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
A book review by Christopher Moore
The story centers around August “Auggie” Pullman; a ten-year-old boy with a terrible facial abnormality who wants to be just like everyone else. Auggie has been sheltered by his parents from the outside world and now for the first time, he’s attending private school. Thrust into a world he knows little about, Auggie struggles and is consistently and constantly bullied.
Anyone who reads this book and isn’t touched or doesn’t take something from this isn’t human. Mr. Browne’s precepts, in particular, are one of the elements that really help emphasis what’s special about this book. It’s a frank, astonishing debut. The premise is a simple one. The story is beautiful. The lessons are invaluable.
The narration is first-person (with a bit of a twist), revolving from character to character (those that are closest to Auggie and his family), encompassing most of the major characters’ perspectives. It often fills in some of the gaps that Auggie could not possibly know about. The only issue I have is that these kids are meant to be ten-years-old and they read a lot older sometimes. It isn’t overly distracting or jarring but I still feel like Auggie reads older than he is. I understand that he’s older as he writes about his journey but it still reads older, on occasion, in the dialogue.
I love Auggie. You can’t help but root for the underdog. He’s a paradigm for the “don’t judge a book by its cover” reference. The characterization is spot-on, thanks in part to the narration. Jack plays the best-friend role perfectly, demonstrating throughout that he’s not perfect but a flawed kid with layers. Auggie’s and Summer’s rapport made me smile; especially their talk of the “Summer table”. Via and Miranda though, are the ones that grabbed my attention. You get tidbits from Auggie’s narrative but you can’t make judgements until you read their respective pieces, showing that there’s something much more beneath the surface of these characters.
Quality of Writing: 20/20
Palacio crafts a story to make you cry:
- ‘“She’s very pretty”, Mom said.
“Yeah, I know,” I answered. “We’re kind of like Beauty and the Beast.”’
- “I think it’s like the Cheese Touch in Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”
And fill you with hope:
- “It is not enough to be friendly. You have to be a friend.”
- “Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life because we all overcometh the world.”
This story is destined to be a classic; poignant, tragic but packed full of uplifting humor.
Palacio weaves setting into the story-telling, showing rather than telling which allows the reader to absorb the information more easily (and without having to spend time figuring things out). The school is described on a physical level but in some ways, it’s described as a sort of metaphorical battlefield; a place where Auggie faces daily, uphill struggles from Julian & Co. just to go to school and live like any other kid.
Comparative Literature: 10/10
Auggie’s story is frank, lingering with you long after you read it, much like Hannah’s haunting voice in Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why. It has humour enough to challenge John Green’s bestseller, The Fault in Our Stars. Wonder has the makings of a classic, reminding me of Harper Lee’s ground-breaking, To Kill a Mockingbird. If everyone deserves a standing ovation at least once, then surely, R. J. Palacio deserves a standing ovation for this magnificent piece of prose.
Overall Score: 98/100
Rate it or Slate it?
Rate it: This is a no-brainer. A heart-warming story about an extraordinary kid living in an ordinary world.
Books You May Also Like:
Wonder by R. J. Palacio – a heart-warming story with memorable characters that will resonate with a universal audience
Gone by Michael Grant – the disappearance of adults and development of supernatural powers sets the backdrop for this story about struggle, loyalty and friendship
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – a story about community and the struggles and secrets that threaten it