Book Chat: Wonder by RJ Palacio

Wonder by RJ Palacio

Title: Wonder
Author: RJ Palacio
Hardback, 313
Published February 2012
Publisher: Random House Children’s Book
Rating: 4/5

Juvenile fiction is not what I tend to read, but I heard such great things about RJ Palacio‘s Wonder, I thought I should read it.  Wonder is a heart warming, heart wrenching, laugh out loud, and maybe even do a little crying book.  It’s a book that every parent should read and discuss with their child.  It teaches kindness, compassion, understanding, and acceptance.  It also shows kids being bullied by others and how they handle it.

Wonder is unique in that RJ Palacio tells the story of August (Auggie) Pullman from various points of view.  The story is revealed through Auggie and other children in his 5th grade class as well as his sister Olivia (Via) and a couple of her friends.  Not only does the reader get to know Auggie through the other characters points of view, but we also get to know them.

Palacio has done a really good job of letting the reader know whose point of view she’s presenting.  Granted when she changes a point of view she tells the reader who is speaking. However we know Justin is speaking because he refers to Auggie’s parents as “the dad” and “the mother” and he doesn’t use any capitalization; which threw me off and I stalled a bit. The reader knows it’s Jack’s point of view because he uses ‘like’ a lot and I mean a lot.  Summer mentions practically everyone by using their first and last name.  I didn’t like that the reader only heard from the children’s point of view.  It would have been nice to give the reader a separate adult point of view.  The reader gets a more visceral reaction too Auggie from the other kids, but we really don’t get a full reaction of how the adults reacted to Auggie’s face.  The only thing we get is when Auggie tells the reader about Ms. Petosa’s initial reaction to him,

She had only hesitated for a millionth of a second, but I could tell the moment she saw me (Wonder 38).

One fatal flaw I felt Wonder had is that every child had something going on.  Summer’s father was killed in a war.  Jack doesn’t have a lot of money and lives in a bad part of town.  Miranda’s parents are getting divorced and her father is remarrying a younger woman who is pregnant and her mom no longer has time for her.  Via lives her life in her brother’s shadow.  Justin’s parents as he describes it:

could hardly wait for me to be old enough to take care of myself ‘you can go to the store by yourself.’ ‘here’s the key to the apartment.’ . . . what word do you use to describe parents who don’t protect enough? underprotective? neglectful? self-involved? lame? all of the above. (Wonder 192)

As a jaded adult reading a book slated for 8-12 year olds, I felt that the ending was a bit contrived and unrealistic as everything was tied up in a nice neat little bow.  Even so, it left me on a positive up beat note that it is possible to accept someone and be their friend even if they don’t look like you.  And how differences can bring people together.

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you ever can.
~~John Wesley’s Rule (Wonder 312)

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