Wonder – RJ Palacio: Early Review

“I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid. I mean, sure, I do ordinary things. I eat ice cream. I ride my bike. I play ball. I have an Xbox. Stuff like that makes me ordinary. I guess. And I feel Ordinary. Inside. But I know ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go.”

August was born with a severe facial deformity, in and out of hospital for most of his life he’s never been to normal school, he’s been home-schooled, until now… He is ten and about to start fifth grade at the local Beecher Prep School. August sees himself as just a normal kid, but other kids don’t, can he fit in at school even though his face will stand out? Can he make friends and avoid bullying? Can he stay strong?

***

I knew as soon as I knew what Wonder was about I needed to read it as soon as possible! I could imagine what kind of story it was and to be honest I wasn’t wrong, but that’s good! Wonder is a strong story, with very happy, uplifting bits and very sad, cry-y bits. I did shed a tear more than once and I’m fairly sure a lot of people would!

The story follows August’s fifth grade year at Beecher Prep, but it’s not a linear narrative, we get background bits about August and its split into seven parts, with August having three, bigger, main parts. The other parts are ‘written by’ other characters in the book including August’s sister Via and his two friends Jack and Summer. I was really impressed with the inclusion of other perspectives because it showed how August’s deformity affected the people around him. The story really was an emotional rollercoaster but it’s a great one and I couldn’t get enough of it.

The characters are so strong in Wonder, they jumped out at me from the page and had so much personality it was hard to forget they were fictional! August is obviously my favourite, he was so strong and brave, and he’d been through more in his short life than many people have to go through in their full lifetimes yet still smiled and plodded along. You really get into his mind and get his feelings, it’s magical. They thing I loved the most about him was his strength and ability to know that he is actually a normal kid; he’s just got a different face from everyone else!

The other characters we meet are just as strong, brave and real as August is. Via is 15 and loves her little brother more than anything in the world and I understood her. She was only human and I can’t blame her for any of her actions in the book, life is hard and she knows exactly how hard it can be. Via and Augusts parents were also amazing characters. I would have loved a little more about the parents but it’s a children’s book so it might not have fit in too well. I still got enough to love and understand them though. The secondary characters are brilliant. The kids from August’s school show their true colours and prove certain things about humanity, and its flaws. Summer was the bravest of them all and she is exactly the kind of friend everyone needs. Via’s best friend Miranda was quite a big character in the book too and I’m so glad one of the “parts” was in her voice as it explained a lot about Miranda, Via and people as a whole. I think my favourite part from a character other than August though had to be Justin’s, his part started just after he met August for the very first time and it was very important. I was really impressed by it and I loved the stylistic aspects of his part too! (Change in text style for those who don’t know what that means…)

Due to the first person narration in the book you really do feel what each of the “voices” feel. I often felt Augusts feelings so strongly that my own mirrored them. I wanted to curl up into a ball the way he wanted to, I felt my face flush when his did and I cried when he cried. It’s the writing that made this possible and not once did I feel that it let the book down. I was so impressed with the changes between parts too as each of the voices had their own kind of style going on.

Wonder has its own special place in the bottom of my heart and it’s going to stay there forever. I cannot believe how amazingly beautiful this story is and I really want to see it on every school library, in every language, in every country across the whole world because it should be required reading for all children between 10 and 16! I urge you to go out and read this book; it’s a beautiful emotional rollercoaster that everyone should journey through.

Wonder is RJ Palacio’s debut novel; it is due for release in March 2012 through The Bodley Head, a Random House Children’s Books imprint. My copy was obtained through UK Book Tours, thank you!

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  • I think I’ll need to make sure I’m not on public transport when I read this. Awesome review!

  • Great review, I agree with Vicki though this definitely sounds like a book to be read without an audience.

  • I can’t wait to read this. Fantastic, review.

  • Leanna retweeted your [not begging] tweet and I hopped over to check out your site – it’s so darn adorable there’s no way I couldn’t follow you! I’ve also never heard of this book but it sounds heart-wrenchingly beautiful. Added to my TBR list, thanks for posting about it!

    Ashley Loves Books

  • Amazing review for what sounds like a superb book!