Wonder by R J Palacio

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Well this book has been on my must read list for quite some time. It was recommended to me by a dear friend and I also found it in the recommended list for middle school readers. I just happened to google it to get an answer about the hype surrounding the book. Wonder has been trumpeted as “a book that has made grown men weep” and its justified. The plot not just pulled but yanked the strings of my heart.

I read how Palacio came to write this book. Palacio was compelled to write Wonder after fearing that her younger son (who at the time was three years old) would react badly after noticing a girl with facial birth defects was sitting beside him as they were waiting in line to buy ice cream. Palacio attempted to remove her son from the situation so as not to upset her or the girl’s family but ended up only intensifying the situation. Natalie Merchant’s song “Wonder” had her realize that the incident could teach a valuable lesson. Palacio was inspired by Merchant’s lyrics and she began writing.

Plot: August “Auggie” Pullman is a 10-year-old living in the fictional neighborhood of North River Heights in upper Manhattan. 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. Due to numerous surgeries, Auggie had been home-schooled by his mother, but his parents decide to enroll him in Beecher Prep, a private school, for the start of middle school in the fall.

Auggie visits Beecher with his mother and meets the school director Mr. Tushman, along with three students: Jack Will, Julian Albans, and Charlotte Cody. Although extremely self-conscious and scared of being around kids his own age, Auggie gradually gets used to and even begins to enjoy school. He befriends Jack as well as a girl named Summer Dawson, who sits with him during lunch when no one else would. Julian, however, barely conceals his disgust at Auggie’s appearance, avoids him and often makes hurtful remarks. He bullies Auggie and hates him for the way he looks.

During Halloween, when Auggie didn’t feel like wearing his Boba Fett costume, he wore a “Bleeding Scream” costume instead. Unrecognized at school, he overhears Jack telling Julian in homeroom he would “kill himself” if he looked like Auggie. Feeling hurt and betrayed by Jack, Auggie wants to quit school, but his 15-year-old sister Via convinces him not to. Auggie confides the incident to Summer. Jack notices that Auggie has become quiet and distant; he asks Summer why, and though she won’t divulge the secret, she says “Bleeding Scream” as a hint. At first, he isn’t aware that Auggie heard of what he said and believes that he’s just avoiding him for no reason, so he starts avoiding him too. In December, however, Jack realizes Auggie had overheard what he said and realizes that he also heard that Jack was pretending to be friends with him, leaving Jack shocked. In science class, Auggie and Jack are partners for a project. When Julian asks the teacher if he could be Jack’s partner instead, Jack declines. But when Julian calls Auggie a “freak,” Jack punches Julian in the face in retaliation. As a result, Jack is suspended for two days for his actions. Knowing that Julian would get them both in trouble for bad-mouthing Auggie, Jack does not tell Mr. Tushman what happened. Julian’s mother says that Auggie does not belong in Beecher Prep, as it is not an “inclusion school”, but Mr. Tushman and everyone else disagrees with her. Jack sincerely apologizes to Auggie, saying he didn’t mean to say the stuff he said about him, and they become friends again.

Throughout the rest of the school year, Auggie faces many obstacles, mostly due to ringleader Julian encouraging his “gang” to avoid and isolate Auggie and Jack. (Courtesy: Wikipedia).

I am not divulging the whole plot here because it should be read and yes shed tears like I did. The book has some very important lessons to takeaway: kindness, tolerance, courage in the face of difficulty, family bonds, acceptance and the most important acceptance of self.That’s what the lead August teaches us all. He keeps his head high despite being hurled with abuses and nasty remarks. He smiles back even when he feels his heart is being pounded. 

I recommend it to not only kids but to adults as well, because we too need to learn to be tolerant of those who are different or hold opinions that are against our own. The space to respect and tolerate personal space has to be taught to kids when they are young. These deformities are a rare sight, but the deformities that we have even as normal people should be discussed at large.

Those who wish to read eBook of the same please see:

http://www.lakewoodcityschools.org/userfiles/2658/Wonder%20-%20comp%203_8%20-%20audiopdf.pdf.

Also watch : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXtyQZLzg9M

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