Saturday, 14 July 2012

Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Rating: 5/5
Released: 14 February 2012
Publisher: Random House Children's BooksGoodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
Summary (Taken from Goodreads):

I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

Curiously enough, when I did a quick survey on my relatives who fall within WONDER's targeted audience (this is technically a Middle Grade novel), none were interested in reading this. At all. Based on a glimpse of the cover and my enthusiastic pitch. I was pretty surprised, and after some awkward probing received a lot of mumbled responses: "It sounds too serious" "I'm not in the mood for that kind of thing" "I don't like 'inspirational' books"...

Air quotes were used. Gazes were averted. But after a bit of pondering, I kind of understood what they were getting at; the reason behind this reluctance: people generally don't like being preached at, no matter how true or important the message. Kids, who are preached at all the time,
would be naturally reluctant when approached with a book about a boy with physical deformities, especially when my main selling point is, "But it has such a great message!" 

Thinking back, this was a reservation I had as well. In the back of my mind I was wary of being emotionally manipulated, and I am delighted to say that Palacio does none of this. In fact, the clarity required from a children's book ensures that whatever issues are put forward are dealt with in a refreshingly blunt manner, free of exhausting metaphors or tear-jerking monologues.

I loved every page. 
I was surprised by how much of a page-turner this turned out to be. WONDER is as absorbing and hard to put down as the most fast-paced thriller - one that makes you cry and laugh in equal measure. Because I loved it so much, I am also kind of at a loss for what to say in this review. There's not much to be said apart from READ IT. A couple of questions, though, if you really want more from me:

Are you... a fan of flawed, hilarious, realistic characters? 
Auggie is often wise beyond his years, seeing right through the politically correct intentions of those around him. At other times he is as young and carefree as his classmates; messing around and laughing good-naturedly at his own appearance. But he is always, always human, as are all the characters - like Via, his sister, whose point of view surprised and shamed me a little, because I had barely considered the sacrifices she makes on a daily basis to support her little brother. Like Jack, one of Auggie's new friends, who is struggling to withstand tremendous peer pressure and, like most kids his age, does not always have the courage to do so. 

Are you... a fan of good writing? If you aren't, then don't ever read this, because Palacio's writing is emotional and hilarious without being condescending, and this book has so many insightful feel-good quotes and bits of dialogue that she could start her own line of greeting cards and I would buy them.

Are you... a fan of multiple points of view, done well?? With the exception of perhaps one minor character (Justin), each point of view added so much insight into... what, exactly? 
After a bit of contemplation, it is clear that Wonder is a look not just at Auggie, but at his family, friends, neighbors, teachers: everyone he has touched. It is also clear that while his is an extreme condition, Palacio has written a stunning book about difference of all kinds, and how people deal (or perhaps don't deal) with it.

WONDER is definitely a must-read for anyone with a beating heart, and in case you were wondering, I eventually managed to force some of my younger relatives to read this. Despite their initial reservations, they loved it too. :)


  1. I'm definitely a fan of flawed, hilarious, realistic characters, and absolutely a fan of good writing and multiple POVs that are well done. I'm not sure I'll read this, but I'll certainly consider it. Gorgeous review, L. :)

    1. PS - Liking the new layout. ;)

    2. Hehe I understand completely! If you end up giving it a try let me know! :) And thanks! That means so much!!

  2. This looks like a good read; thanks for sharing and I'll definitely check it out:) I just found your blog and will definitely be following it from now on! A few days ago I added some summer reading lists to my new blog if you want to take a look:
    Thanks again!

    1. Thanks for reading Christine! Hope you like it! And thanks for the follow; going to check out your blog right now!

  3. Haven't heard of this one but it sounds like it's an awesome read from what you have said. Awesome review, Lauren!! :)

  4. Wow, this really does sound like a 'wonder'ful book... I actually got it out from the library recently, and now I'm really glad I did because it does sound like a brilliant book. I'm glad you managed to co-erce some of your younger relatives into reading it, and that they were pleasantly surprised by it too!

    Brilliant review :D
    Catherine x
    The Book Parade

    1. Oh gosh, I hope you like it! I was a blubbering mess by the end. And yes! It totally makes my day when I can convince/pressure someone into reading a great book and it pays off. :) Thanks so much Catherine.


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