Plot: August was born with severe facial abnormalities. He’s had countless surgeries, but though he thinks of himself as a perfectly ordinary boy, no one sees him that way. His medical procedures have kept him out of school until now but he is about to enter the fifth grade at Beecher Prep. It’s hard enough being the new kid but he fears the other kids will never be able to see beyond his appearance.
As soon as I heard about this book, I was curious. I’m happy I read it. It is a beautiful, touching debut novel about humanity, kindness and hope.
The novel is told from several points of view: August, his friends Jack and Summer, his sister Via, her boyfriend Justin and her friend Miranda. Each has its own voice and brings a fresh perspective on August and his first year at school.
Though it is a difficult subject, this is ultimately an uplifting novel. Some people are cruel, some hurt Auggie unintentionally. Some terrible things happen to him and those around him. I cried more than once. But Auggie, through his intelligence, courage and humour, inspires most of the people he encounters, even some of the bullies, to be kind in the end. The book doesn’t pretend that there aren’t cruel people in the world, that living or sharing Auggie’s life isn’t hard at times but it offers hope that people are capable of kindness and understanding.
The book also contains an appendix with all of August’s teacher, Mr. Browne’s, precepts. The first, “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind”, informs the novel as a whole. But all of them are interesting and would be wonderful to explore with a middle-school class as Mr. Browne does with his.
Wonder has inspired a touching anti-bullying campain known as Choose Kind. I hope that I too can learn to be kinder than is necessary.
Author: R.J. Palacio (http://rjpalacio.com/)