Thursday, September 6, 2012

Review: Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Tags: middle grade, contemporary, acceptance


August Pullman is ten years old and starting school. Previously, he was homeschooled, because Auggie was born with a facial deformity. Auggie, as well as the other people in his life, have mixed feelings about him entering school, but perhaps Auggie will prove to everyone, as well as himself, that with a heart of gold, he can accomplish things beyond everyone’s expectations.


If this book doesn’t get its own slew of awards this year, there is no justice in the literary world. WONDER is unmatched in the middle-grade contemporary genre—but, in fact, it is not middle-grade so much as it is a winning tale that transcends reading age groups.

There are many great things I can talk about regarding WONDER, but my favorite thing about it is how R. J. Palacio successfully uses multiple perspectives to weave together a very full portrait of Auggie and his struggles and triumphs. Palacio treats the story humanly and realistically. Just as in real life, characters are not perfect in this book: Auggie’s older sister, Via, struggles with her guilt over her occasional flashes of resentment and embarrassment over her brother, while Auggie’s friend Jack learns how to balance social expectations with his personal feelings about their friendship. As readers, then, we might prefer some characters over others, but we cannot hate any of them, because we fully understand where they come from.

Auggie, the protagonist, is a character that simultaneously possesses the youthful optimism of the truly good and the observational skills of one who has borne more than he should have to. My heart jumped each time he made an insightful observation on subtleties in human behavior, such as the way he remarks on that “one-two look” people give him and his face. You know what he’s talking about, because you’ve either received it, or have done it (the latter doesn’t make you a bad person, as this book shows). Auggie’s narration is so honest and unflinching you feel like you should pity him, but you can’t, because he just wants to be a normal boy…only he is too good of a person to be considered just normal. You know how that movie Say Anything has the tag line “To know Lloyd Dobler is to love him”? Yeah. To know August Pullman is to love him.

WONDER is marketed as a middle-grade novel, at least in the US, but I think it can be even better appreciated by older readers who are aware of both the innocent and not-so-innocent actions of children and also how cruel the world can be. Regardless of your age and genre preferences, WONDER will leave you in a mess of strong emotions and have you better appreciating your blessings. Thank you, R. J. Palacio, for reminding us of what it means to be human.

Similar Authors
Holly Goldberg Sloan

Cover discussion: It isn't that much to look at, but I like that color blue, and after reading the book, I fully appreciate how the cover doesn't overshadow the book's contents or set up misleading expectations.

Knopf / Feb. 14, 2012 / Hardcover / 320pp. / $15.99

Personal copy.


  1. I've been really curious about this one for a while. It sounds really good, and I can't wait to check it out for myself!

  2. I've seen the cover pop up, but I wasn't even aware about the synopsis of the book (shame on me). This one does sound good, and with all of the press about bullying over the past couple years I wonder if this book might be the perfect grade-wide reading assignment for school.

  3. I really need to read this one - I've heard nothing but great things and I'm sure it will win awards even though I haven't read it.

  4. SO SO good. I'm elated you enjoyed this one. It made my heart so full when I read it.

  5. This was a wonderful book! I wish it was better-known; it's not had a lot of publicity here in the UK and I only really picked it up because of book bloggers.

  6. It was brilliantly written! I totally agree that awards should be thrown at this book!

  7. Oh, Steph. You have a wonderful way with words.

    I, too, hope that Wonder receives the awards it deserves. I like that it has a message of kindness.

    Yet, it does such a superb job of showing imperfect people with compassion -- I liked that no one was outright condemed or anything.

    I'm very glad you enjoyed Wonder. :-)

  8. We reviewed this book a while ago and I can't get enough of it! I love it! Wonder is such an amazing book and the messages are so important. I really enjoyed your review. :)

    Irene Jennings of Fishing Lodges Alaska


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