Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio


Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Auggie has never been to school, instead he’s been homeschooled his entire life.  It made it easier to work his schedule around his many surgeries for his facial anomaly.  Auggie was born looking differently than the rest of the world due to several genetic abnormalities coming together in one moment, something that only has a one in 4 million chance to happen.  But it happened to Auggie, and now he is getting ready to start 5th grade in a private school.  Auggie knows that he is just a regular kid hidden behind an uncommon face, but the question is whether his classmates will ever figure that out.

It’s amazing to think that this is Palacio’s first novel.  She writes with a natural flow and skill that makes the book read effortlessly.  It’s one of those books that gets into your head and won’t let go, that not only tells a story but asks things about you the reader.  It has you exploring your own relationship with beauty, the extent of your own kindness, and the truth behind being human. 

Auggie is such a rich character and such a winning one that I was surprised when the book first changed perspectives.  I had assumed that we would see through Auggie’s eyes for the entire novel.  But the different perspectives also show depth to all of the other characters in the book.  We get to see Auggie through his older sister’s eyes, ones that are loving but also despair at being paid enough attention by her parents.  The perspective shifts again and again to classmates, his sister’s ex-friend, and even his sister’s boyfriend.  Then we return to Auggie for the end of the book. 

This use of multiple perspectives works particularly well given the arc of the story, it all comes to a satisfying close that is built from those many perspectives and those many characters.  Things are not sugar-coated here.  People respond naturally to Auggie’s face, even those who had been informed about it beforehand.  There are bullies, friends who are true and those who come in and out, there is middle school drama.  There is also a real family portrayed here, struggling to give their exceptional son an honest life, trying to pay attention to both of their children, and consistently showing love and caring for one another laced with real humor.

I adored this book, wept at times, ached in the heart a lot, and laughed too.  It’s a book worth sharing, worth passing along, and one that will crossover effortlessly to adult readers.  This is a powerful, uplifting, luminous book.  Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from library copy.