Today I'm reviewing 'Wonder' by R.J Palacio.
Here's the blurby blurb.
"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."
This book made me feel so many emotions so quickly, I felt like I was drowning. I can't wait to share with you all why this book is so fantastically amazing :) Let's get into it!
*Notice: There will be spoilers in this review. If you were eager to read this, do so first then came back and read this review! :) *
BUT! During an impulse buy, this book is now in my possession and can happily say that I've read it. It can be ticked off the list with my tears, as that is exactly what this book did to me.
My first initial impression of the blurb was that it was going to be a feel-good, "You are beautiful, no matter what!" type of book, and in a sense, it was. Perhaps it was because I never went to a public school, but I never dealt with the harsh dealings that Children can dish out. Sure, I had some mean comments and group ignoring type of bullying, but never was it about physical appearance. In that sense, that physical part of the story didn't quite catch me as much as it could have if I were able to relate my experiences more to the story, BUT! aside from that, this book really touched my heart.
The cover is so simplistic but represents the story and August really well. I am an absolute fan of books that are blue with black. Either a blue backdrop and black writing, or a black picture (August's hair, in the case of Wonder) there is just something so appealing about it, and there's a large selection of it on my bookcase. I'm biased towards colours on book covers! (What have I become?)
The quote on the cover is also a favourite quote of mine, which is often written in my journals or a mantra whenever I'm feeling down or am beginning to compare myself to others (especially girls). There are quite a few quotes and "Inspirational Sayings" which tend to demote others or view them as lesser to make you better, but I feel that with this quote it makes you aware of what special things you can bring to this world and what everyone can individually bring themselves, without demeaning or diminishing the worth of others.
The writing style is in first person, past tense. Every few chapters, the perspective changes to a character you are introduced to along the way. Sometimes it is August's sister Olivia, or Summer Dawson who becomes August's first friend, or even Olivia's boyfriend, Justin. I really loved how they were written, and you could absolutely tell the characters apart. There was never a time when I was reading one perspective and thought, 'hey...that seems eerily close to -so and so- in chapter 4' or something along those lines. The characters were very separate and individual, which makes this book even greater in my opinion.
- August "Auggie" Pullman: Being the protagonist of the story, you have to be relatable. There's no point in writing about someone making a very rude comment about the way August looks and how August feels about it, if I don't care for him or relate to him. We have all read that boring protagonist that drolls on and on and you're left thinking, "Why can't something happen to this character to the protagonist changes?' or worse...'I'm not going to read this anymore. The protagonist sucks'. For me, August was the ideal protagonist. He was funny, simply wanted to be liked and to be one of the normal kids, and I started really caring for him as August, a new boy at school, not the boy with the face deformity. There were times in the book where my heart truly broke for him and I wanted to wrap him in a giant hug with heaps of kisses and baked goods (The true telling sign of a great character is not by how many people like him/her, it's by if people want to share food and physical contact with the character). August is a great inspiration for all of us to be ourselves, to not judge others simply by their appearance, and to be a friend even when others aren't to us.
- Olivia "Via" Pullman: Olivia is a great older sister. She is exactly what I imagined with a character who has to be put second to her little brother every single time. She understands why, so that's why it makes it harder to feel the things she does about it. Olivia loves August, but at the same time, she is new to her grade just like August is new to his school, so she wants to start off with her own reputation, and not that of 'The Weird-looking kid's sister'. She is trying to live her life, deal with what everyday teenagers deal with (Bullies, friends growing in two different ways and eventually losing that friendship, boyfriends, appearance), which puts a strain on her family relationships at times. I really liked Olivia, she was a very real character for me in the way she spoke of how she felt concerning everything. I know for myself that I have had those moments of pure breakdown, screaming at my parents that life is unfair and that everyone is against me (I feel those feels, bro). I also liked the realistic relationship between August and Olivia; they fought with each other, didn't want to deal with each other's personal problems, but defended each other whenever they were teased. Having two brothers, I could relate to that immensely.
- Summer Dawson: She is the type of girl that I wish to be. Every time she popped up in the book, I found myself saying, "Ugh...why can't I be as sweet and friendly as she is?' or something along those lines. Summer is August's first real friend at school. When she noticed August sitting by himself at lunch, hearing the whisperings and stares from the other tables around him, she decided to go over and sit next to him. This small act started their adorable friendship, filled with inside jokes about their table and only allowing those with 'Season/month related names' to sit with them, (But if anyone else wants to, they are fully welcome to!) Summer, I believe, is the one who really started the whole change for August. All he needed one that one true friend, to make him know that he had one person who was rooting for him and wanted him to be there.
- Isabel and Nate Pullman: August's parents are funny, witty, and simply awesome characters. Their arguments concerning August's decision to go to school were cute, and fairly realistic in terms of relationships. They didn't play a large part in the book, but I enjoyed the moments they were in there. I especially loved how they still tucked their kids into bed. That moment touched my cold withered heart *Insert Grinch title here*
- Julian Albans: Ugh...Julian. The main antagonist of the story. He is probably the most realistic out of all the characters. We all know that one kid that just believes that the world revolves around them, and that they have the right to judge everyone else. They mock and bully anyone that is different, or has some weird quirk, and for some odd reason, they are popular. As I was reading this book, I was trying to see it from Julian's side of the story too. His mother, throughout the story, is fairly aggressive when it comes to August (Photoshopping his face out of the school picture, for instance) and I could see how that would rub off on Julian. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, sort of thing. It's easy to hate someone like Julian, and to think he is the reason for all of August's problems at school...but that's when you kind of realise that all the kids joined in in playing 'Plague' (Kind of like the game in Diary of a Wimpy Kid that everyone knows as 'Cheese Touch'. A moldy piece of cheese is left in the playground, and any kid who touches is has the 'Cheese Touch', meaning that they are to be avoided and you can't be touched by them...but in this story, August is the moldy cheese) make the situation even worse. BUT! To have a happy, feel good, ending we do see that Julian's friends start realising that he is being a jerk and he slowly, but surely, loses friends one by one because he continues pushing the issue that August is deformed, weird-looking, a monster, and even goes as far to making passive-aggressive attempts at August. We all know this kid in our lives, and yet, no one really says anything to him...
- Jack Will: Oh Jack...Jackie Jack. Jack is August's best *male* friend. He was one of the three kids at the beginning to give August the tour of the school. Let's be real here, because Jack is what the average person would be like. Not everyone is going to be like Summer, the person who goes out of their way to introduce themselves to every single person and goes against what her friends and 'crowd' are saying, but nor is everyone going to be like Julien who makes fun of August at every turn and starts a psychological warfare. We're more like Jack. The one who awkwardly makes friends with August, having the uncomfortableness and doubts linger in the back of our mind, until eventually we start getting to know August and realise that there is more to the boy than just his face, but we face mockery and judgement from every side. We realistically would be Jack in the situation of trying to be a neutral party, which we all know doesn't really exist. Jack faces difficulty when he, unknowingly, makes fun of August with Julian in August's presence while in costume. I really loved and admired Jack's small journey through the book; Going from awkward acquaintance, to good friend, to ex-friend's because of a rude comment, then back to best friends after Jack apologises and decides who he is going to be friends with and if being popular is really what it cracks up to be. Jack, besides August, probably had the most character development.
- Justin (Olivia's boyfriend): His perspective was a cutesy, little added bonus in the story. It was nice to see what August's family was to an outsider. His protectiveness of August was absolutely adorable, and the fact that in his chapters are written with awkward grammatical errors to give the impression of Justin's musical background and his thoughts flowing and streaming like his music is something that I really loved too.
- Miranda Navas (Olivia's ex-best-friend-turned-back-to-best-friend): Miranda had an interesting journey in the story. Initially best friends with Olivia, and growing up with August practically as her little brother, she makes the transition in her new grade to try to be different; wearing new clothes, hanging out with a new gang. While she wasn't a large part of the story, I really loved her relationship with August and how she protected him, even when her interactions with Olivia were still tense. She is the classic, 'I'm-trying-to-find-out-who-I-am' teenage girl in the story.
I absolutely adore this story. It took me about a day to read, as I am sick and was able to just lay in bed/bath and read for hours. It took me on a journey of self-discovery about what it means to me personally to be different, to stand up for others and myself, and to be happy with oneself. Too many people are already judging everyone else, why judge yourself?
In conclusion, I am going to rate it very highly because - guess what - I actually cried in this book. Whenever there is death of animals, I'm a puddle of mess and feels and tears. I'm ruined. I was trying so hard not to, but when it came up to that part in the story, which I didn't foresee, I had tears streaking down my face and kept repeating to myself, 'It's just a book...it's jUST A BOOK!"
I'd rate it a 8 out of 10 :)
(My favourite quote from Wonder is...)
“If every person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary - the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.”
― R.J. Palacio, Wonder