August Pullman describes himself as an ordinary kid. He loves ice cream and Star Wars and playing with his dog, Daisy. But unfortunately, everyone else struggles to see him that way because August Pullman was born with severe facial deformities. At 10 years old he has undergone 27 surgical procedures, has gotten used to the stares and whispers and has never been to a mainstream school. However, one of these things is about to change when August in enrolled into Beecher Prep at the start of a new school year. He won’t be the only new kid there but he will be the only kid who looks like him.
Auggie, as he is known, is understandably terrified. Just because he is used to the way people react to him, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. Now he must navigate school bullies, tested loyalties and increased family tensions not to mention school lessons.
Wonder is split into eight parts with each one narrated by either August or someone whose life he has touched. This method does lead to a certain lack of subtlety with multiple characters explaining the same thing. Although it is interesting to hear different points of view and it does help to develop the characters, it also goes some way to preventing the reader from drawing their own conclusions. One example where this is particularly true is in how Auggie describes his looks to the reader:
“I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”
Simple. Effective. Over the course of the story he does describe some features, such as how he hates his fist-like ears, but for the first part of Wonder the reader is unencumbered by detailed description. However, in his sister Via’s section this is effectively undone almost instantly with a detailed breakdown of all of Auggie’s features. This may work for some people, of course you are curious and what August looks like is important, but it didn’t work for me I’m afraid.
Despite this, Palacio creates a believable, touching portrait of an extraordinary child in August. His personal strength is stated and applauded but not over sentimentally - bar the ending, but you can forgive Palacio that little moment of indulgence. The real strength of Wonder is how equally well developed each of the main characters or narrators are. The complex relationships that August has and that exist beyond him are portrayed realistically. August is brave, yes, but he can also be stubborn, petty, selfish even, like most 10-year old boys. Likewise, Via is a particularly well rounded and relatable character and this lifts the story and gives it depth. Wonder is full of equally heart-warming and gut-wrenching moments. Everyone will have their own, but the passage that I found most moving strangely did not involve Auggie but was about Via and her grandmother.
Wonder is an enjoyable and accessible read for all ages. It is by no means perfect and some may find the writing style too simplistic for their tastes but I would recommend this as an uplifting, easy read.
This post was written by guest reviewer Ali.
Click here to visit her personal blog AlleyHope!
Image c/o Ali