Wonder by RJ Palacio: a wonderful read indeed

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Wonder

Being an avid reader, I constantly feel the need to bury my head in a new book. You can get so much more out of a book than just stories.

I read 20 books, including novels and poetry, during my stay with Mom, in Guwahati, last year. I had a difficult pregnancy. I wasn’t allowed to go out much or engage myself in many activities. So, I ended up buying a lot of books. Wonder by RJ Palacio was one of them.

Wonder is beautiful from beginning to end.  The story is about 11 years old August Pullman (Auggie), who doesn’t have a normal face. He has a rare medical facial deformity, which he refers to as “mandibulofacial dysostosis”, more commonly known as Treacher Collins syndrome and a cleft palate.

Auggie’s world is difficult, especially the time when he moves from homeschooling to middle school. This boy is fully aware that people are afraid of how he looks. He can see that shock in the eyes, hear them say disgusting words, their hesitation to be close to him, unsure if they will catch the “plague” (as Justin, one of his classmates, would say) he has.

The best part about this book is that Palacio gives us points of view from six different narrators: Olivia, also known as Via (August’s sister), Miranda (Via’s old friend), Justin (Via’s boyfriend), Jack and Summer (Auggie’s new friends at Beecher Prep, the middle school). The added bonus in my upgraded copy is Julian’s chapter (Auggie’s classmate who disliked him to the core).

I adore how Palacio portrayed Via’s thoughts about growing up in a family where her little brother holds the central position. Also how it’s quite difficult for her to handle her deformed brother and facing everyone’s reaction when they see him. But she loves him a lot too. She isn’t afraid to defend her little brother when she sees someone bully him. The bond she shares with her little brother is truly beautiful.

In Julian’s chapter, the upbringing by his parents is reflected and how he changed from a bad boy to a good one and how his grandmother played an important part in that transformation.

Wonder portrays how life is a struggle in different ways for everyone.  And the underlying message  is choose kindness. The effort put by Mr. Tushman, the school Director, and Mr. Browne, the English teacher to instill kindness in a bunch of ten-year old’s is heartening. Summer’s love and friendliness resonates through the story. She bravely sits with Auggie by herself, in the cafeteria, on the first day of school. And then there is Jack Will, who understands the importance of love and kindness and shuns his other classmates who were rude to Auggie.

By the end of the book, I was holding back tears. I look forward to reading more of Palacio’s works; loved the raw style of writing, making it accessible to readers of all age-groups. It is a book I cannot wait to read to my boys, Puhor and Niyor, when they grow older.

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