A Novel by R.J. Palacio
2012 / 315 Pages
In R.J. Palacio’s Wonder, Auggie Pullman is preparing to enter public school for the first time in his life. Auggie has always been incredibly intelligent, but a physical condition has left him with extreme facial deformities and a childhood full of surgeries, medications, and visits to doctors and specialists. But his parents believe that public school will benefit Auggie much more than homeschooling, so they begin the process of enrolling their son as a 5th grader in Beecher Prep.
As Auggie says, he is “used to” people staring at him and sometimes reacting with surprise and horror whenever they see his face, but he isn’t used to this whole new world of adolescent pressures and meaningless cruelty. But Auggie is lucky to have such a supportive family, and while he does make a few friends in the first month of school, he is still shocked to find the realm of public school so difficult to navigate. You can do and say all the right things, but the fact is, if you have an extraordinary face, it’s hard to convince people that you’re just like them – normal. He says in the first chapter:
I think the only person in the world who realizes how ordinary I am is me…My name is August, by the way. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.
Auggie might not describe what he looks like, but Palacio’s book is narrated by many people who encounter August Pullman, and each of them has a different perspective of what he looks like on the outside, but they can all agree that he is a truly brave and magnificent human being. The fact is, no matter how much Auggie tries to convince people that he is normal and boring, he just isn’t. Everything about him is exceptional, and through this novel, kids and adults alike will find a refreshing and inspirational story of bravery, strength, friendship, loyalty, and forgiveness.
As the Beecher Prep principle says, “We carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness.” It may sound cliche, but if you think back on your own years as an adolescent, don’t you wish a few more of your peers (or yourself) had made the choice of kindness more often? It’s a lesson that is too easily forgotten, but the narrative voices of Wonder offer a heartwarming and entertaining reminder of why we should never think twice about choosing kindness.