'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 8 March 2012

Review: Wonder

The universe was not kind to August Pullman.

Ten-year-old Auggie doesn't tell you what's wrong with his face. He tells you that whatever you think he looks like, it's probably a lot worse. He was born this way. And life has been far from easy.

Embraced in a loving family, with a big sister Via, Auggie has suffered a lifetime of horrified stares and gasps and double-takes. He has been homeschooled by his mum his entire life, but when faced with the prospect of going to a real school - to further advance his already impressive studies - Auggie is horrified.

How will the kids react? How will they treat him? Kids can be so cruel. Especially kids in middle school. Can Auggie navigate the travails of fitting in, of showing his true insides, of proving he's no 'freak' and is not the product of his horrible physical  disfigurement?

This is a truly beautiful book. I was riveted by Wonder from the opening pages to the soulful conclusion. I was riveted by the way author Palacio was able to pour herself into the body of a ten-year-old boy with a lifetime of pain, and so clearly see the world - all those abominable and beautiful reactions - through his eyes.

I was also riveted by the author's plot structuring, the way she spoke from several different voices - from Auggie's big sister Via, from her friend Miranda and boyfriend Justin. I was gagging to hear what new school friend Summer had to say - and I was terribly demanding of school friend Jack Will. I so wanted his POV. His take on things.

And I got it. I was more than satisfied.

I was satisfied by the revelations. I was moved by the honesty. I was stunned by the cruelty. I was heartened by the love and acceptance. But most of all, I was majorly impressed by the lack of schmaltz, the decidedly UNfantastical ending - and the heart-wrangling reality of the entire sordid business of living a life sans perfection.

Auggie Pullman is one of the finest book characters I have met in a very long time. His journey, his story, is one every child (and indeed, every adult) should read. His story is not only about love and acceptance and overcoming difficulties, it is about kindness. Self-effacement. Philanthropy. Spiritual development.

And about being human. Let me just say - the round of texts and emails that help vindicate a schoolyard debacle - are truly fist-pumping.

You'll laugh, cry and cheer your way through this beautifully-balanced older junior fiction novel. One of my favourites - ever.

Title: Wonder
Author: RJ Palacio
Publisher: Random House, $21.95 RRP
Publication Date: 14 February 2012
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780370332291
For ages: 10 - 15
Type: Older Junior Fiction