R.J. Palacio has taken a difficult subject matter and turned it into an entertaining book about friendship, loyalty and acceptance. Wonder is the story of August Pullman, a young man of just ten years old who was born with severe facial deformities, various. He’s had 27 surgeries in 10 years to make his life as normal as possible. Just things like not one but two surgeries to fix a cleft palate (but his still has a hole in the roof of his mouth). And his lower jaw bone used to be part of his hip. So just you know, minor stuff like that.
Wonder is a year in the life of August, an important year as he’s just started school. A real school. Year 5 is the first year of middle school so it’s decided he’s going after years of homeschooling, even though no one is entirely convinced he’s ready, including him. This book is honest about how cruel kids, not to mention adults, can be when faced when things they don’t understand. But it’s also about how the inside is what counts in the end and (most) people will figure that out given the chance. With chapters from the perspective of August’s sister, her boyfriend and a couple of August’s friends you get a great insight to August from all sides. A devise that’s on the verge of being overused in the young adult genre the varied perspective is actually a really useful and well placed here. How other people react to August is pretty much the biggest side-effect of his disfigurement as he’s isn’t physically or mentally delayed in any way. Getting the other people’s point of view is valuable and I was particularly struck by the sadness and truth in a statement made by his sister.
“Here’s what I think: we’ve all spent so much time trying to make August think that he’s normal that he actually thinks he’s normal. And the problem is, he’s not.”
A wonderful spirit with wonderous amounts of determination, strength and humour, it’s no wonder August Pullman wins everyone over. A tear-jerker that teaches an important message whilst being a really really entertaining, funny, even lighthearted read. Not for 10 year olds as such but suitable for a wide range of ages, I hope this book gets the recognition and readership it deserves. Paperback, $21.95.