Wonder was written by R.J. Palacio and published by Afred A. Knopf in 2012.
"I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse." This quote is on the back of the book, as well as one of the first few pages of the book. This quote is the quote I kept coming back to and thinking of throughout the book. No matter who's point of view Palacio was writing from, it all goes back to this. I believe it goes back to this because this quote made me feel curious. What did he look like? Was it worse than I could imagine? Was he exaggerating? What would I do if I saw someone like him on the street? I also continued to go back to this quote because I feel like curiosity is what stems most of the actions throughout the book. After they got through their curiosity, their true character shown through.
Wonder, which was a #1 New York Times Bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, was a tear inducing story of a young boy named August who had to overcome the first year of middle school with an extra complication -- he had a deformation of the face. Before middle school, he was home-schooled, due to the many surgeries he had needed throughout his young life. The family decided to send him to school, which was a choice August had not originally agreed with. He had never shied away from being seen in public, but school was not something he was ready for at the beginning of the novel.
Wonder was written from many perspectives, which I changed my opinion on about half way through the book. I thought that this was August's story and who could tell it better than August? But as I read through the book, I realize that it wasn't just August's story. It was the story and reality that everyone close to him had to live. Although August was the unfortunate one to have been born with the deformation, it effected all of those around him, and Palacio caught the feelings of each person within their section of the book.
Palacio started writing from August's point of view. I think she nailed the voice of a ten year old. As I read, I could picture a child being the one speaking and describing his world. It starts the summer before August is supposed to go to fifth grade. He overhears his mother telling their friend that he will be starting normal school and he gets very upset about it. Once the family talks and he decides to go through with it, he goes to meet the principal, Mr. Tushman. Mr. Tushman sets it up so that there are a few "really good, nice kids" there to show August around. I believe the kids that we chosen -- Julian, Charlotte, and Jack -- were representational of the type of kids we find in school. Charlotte was the typical nice girl. She was neutral to August. She didn't make fun of him, but didn't befriend him either. Julian was the two-faced boy. He pretends to be a nice boy in front of adults, but was very mean to August the day he met him and throughout the book. Jack was the good guy. He defended August to Julian, not only on the first day, but on several instances through the book as well. Palacio followed these characters through August's point of view, showing how some can be true friends, no matter the circumstance, and some can be mean, no matter the circumstance.
Through the first August part, we are introduced to the kids at the school and how they made him feel. Most were mean or indifferent, but there was one girl -- Summer -- who accepted him from the very first day. August was ecstatic about the friendships he had made with Summer and Jack, until her heard Jack talking about him behind his back.
Through August's first part of the book, I thought about how this particular disability is not all that common, but how August's feelings could be representative of any child who does not feel "normal" on a daily basis. On page 77 -- 78, when August hears Jack talking behind his back, Palacio shows the sadness and anger of August in such a real way. "I don't know what Jack answered because I walked out of the class without anyone knowing I had been there. my face felt like it was on fire while I walked back down the stairs. I was sweating under my costume. And I started crying. I couldn't keep it from happening. The tears were so thick in my eyes I could barely see, but I couldn't wipe them through the mas as I walked. I was looking for a little tiny spot to disappear into. I wanted a hole I could fall inside of: a little black hole that would eat me up." I feel as though this paragraph could be understood by any child reading this book. We have all, at one point in time, been hurt badly enough that we want to disappear for a little while.
As the book moves forward, Palacio wrote about the experience of Olivia (August's sister), Summer, Jack and Miranda (Olivia's long time friend). She makes you think about how you might react if you were in the position of these characters. She makes us realize that, no matter how good you are, or how much you love someone, you make mistakes, but those mistakes can be overcome. When Jack realize that August had heard him talking behind his back, it brought me to tears. "Oh man. I'd been talking to Julian about August. Oh man. Now I understood! I was so mean. I don't even know why. I'm not even sure what I said, but it was bad. It was only a minute or two. It's just that I Julian and everybody thought I was so weird for hanging out with August all the time, and I felt stupid. And I don't know why I said that stuff. I was just going along. I was stupid. I am stupid. Oh God. He was supposed to come as Boba Fett! I would never have said that stuff in front of Boba Fett. But that was him, that Bleeding Scream sitting at the desk looking over at us. The long white mask with the fake squirting blood. The mouth open wide. Like the ghoul was crying. That was him. I felt like I was going to puke." I feel as though this monologue describes how awful anyone can feel when they realize that they have hurt someone. This was a turning point for Jack, as he now knew why August wasn't speaking to him, and could do something about it. I was proud of him for defending August to Julian and being his friend throughout the rest of the book.
Ultimately, Wonder was about change. In each person's part of the book, they described how they changed. Amos, Henry and Miles changed when they defended August to the bullies from the other school. It started at the beginning of the book, where they wouldn't go near August, to the end, where he was like a little brother to them.
Jack changed when he realized that friendship was the most important thing, and it didn't matter what others thought.
Olivia changed when she realized that no matter where she goes, family is the most important, and you cannot deny who is in yours.
Summer changed when she moved to August's lunch table and befriended him. She knew it would not be a popular choice, but showed her true character when she stayed friends with August.
Miranda changed on the outside, but I don't feel as though she ever changed on the inside. She was afraid to be who she was. When her parents divorced, she was not able to face her friendship with Olivia because Olivia was going to be real with her. She couldn't handle real, but she never wanted to lose her friendship.
The only person who didn't change was Julian. I believe his lack of change represents the people in our world that refuse to open their minds. Most people are good. Some are not. Julian was not.
I hope, that as kids read this, that they realize that being good should always be the right choice. The characters in this book definitely modeled that choice well.
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