Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Wonder - R. J. Palacio


'My name is August, by the way. I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.'

August 'Auggie' Pullman is a ten-year-old boy, much like many other boys of his age, except that he was born with facial disfigurements. He has undergone countless operations but he is still aware of how different he looks from everyone else, and he is acutely aware of the diverse reactions he gets from people. The novel is narrated by several different voices, each in the first person, and the one that features most is Auggie himself. The other characters who we hear from, like his sister Via, offer different perspectives on Auggie, on how they feel about him, on their relationship with him, and how he affects their lives. The chapters are, for the most part, very short, and it's very easy, and tempting given the lovely writing and the great story, to read a lot, if not all of the book in one sitting. We meet Auggie at a key stage in his life - he has been home schooled until now, partly to protect him, and his parents now want to send him out to attend middle school, a huge and incredibly daunting step for him. Is he brave enough to try it, how will he fit in, how will the other children react to him, and the other parents - so many anxieties surrounding this new part of his life.

This is a lovely read, Auggie himself is endearing, funny, believable, and most importantly he is deeply loved, supported and accepted by his parents and his sister. It could be said this novel is an illustration of the maxim that it is ultimately 'what is on the inside that counts', writ large. But maybe Auggie wouldn't be who he is without being as he is. He has had to learn to deal with peoples' reactions to him, on seeing his face, from shock or fear, to acceptance and friendship from some, or unkindness and taunting from others. He is a kind-hearted boy, who is so happy seeing those he loves enjoy success. On seeing his sister Via receive applause he decides; 'I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.'

The novel offers, through Auggie, a real insight into how it must feel to be considered 'different', and how a child might deal with this. At first when the narrator was no longer Auggie I wondered how well it would work, having gotten used to seeing things from his perspective and enjoying this, but I needn't have worried, as the other characters' sections all add to Auggie's story rather than detract from it. The story isn't just about how Auggie is different though, it's about all the things he experiences that are the same as anyone else of his age, such as not being sure he wants his mum to kiss him in front of everyone anymore, making new friends, getting used to middle school, and so on.

This novel is aimed at a children's and young adult audience but it wouldn't harm anyone of any age to read it and be reminded not to judge by appearances and to be a little kinder to others, and it will reward those who do read it with a moving, at times dark, but also uplifting read. 

As an aside I have to mention that since Auggie's lovely dog is called Daisy he obviously has great taste - so is ours! :-)

I had to show a picture of the front cover of the proof copy of this novel which I received for review, it's a very effective pattern showing one face standing out, highlighted and different from the sea of all the other identical ones. 


Also, the back cover of the proof copy has a well-known saying that has been altered very appropriately to fit this story. 

Published in the UK by Bodley Head Childrens, part of Random House Children's Books on 1st March 2012.

10 comments:

  1. This sounds like a worthwhile read for everyone! Great review.

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  2. I just read and reviewed this one too. I agree with your review. I thought this book was very well done, especially the switching view point and the insight that gave too.

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    1. Thanks for commenting Vicki :)

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  3. Sounds like a very well written book about a difficult topic.

    ♥Melissa

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    1. That sums it up really well Melissa. Thanks for commenting :)

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  4. Hi Lindsay! Just letting you know that I have tagged your blog for a book tag! See http://storybookloveaffair.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/book-tag.html for more details - I hope you will participate because I'd love to know your answers!

    Megan @ Storybook Love Affair

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    1. Sorry I haven't gotten to this yet Megan, I will try! x

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  5. This is such a beautiful story isn't it! I loved Auggie & just wanted to climb into the book and give him a massive hug

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    1. Yes, I loved it too. Such a great character. Thanks for commenting.

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