Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Wonder - R.J. Palacio

Once in awhile you come across a book that is just...pure and good.  This is an ever-increasing rarity in YA and even middle grade books these days.  I am weary of underage drinking and sex and suicide and dysfunctional families and dystopian post-apocalyptic worlds.  Not that they aren't entertaining, or there aren't good messages embedded in there somewhere, but it is refreshing to find a book that is straightforward, and makes you happy inside.  


"Wonder" would be such a book.  It made the Must List in Entertainment Weekly (a middle grade book on the Must List?  Really?)  and at about that same time, Kathy raved about it.  When I looked it up on Amazon, after 71 reviews, it still has an average of five stars.  This was an irresistible trifecta in the "Sandy's highly-scientific method of selecting the next book to read" process.


Synopsis:  August Pullman was born with severe physical facial deformities, and despite dozens of painful operations, still inspires fear and horror when he goes out in public.  But Auggie is ten now, and his parents feel that homeschooling him  isn't doing him any favors in the socialization arena, and should be mainstreamed into a public school.  Auggie is smart, and has a dynamic personality, but that may not be enough for him to survive what is sure to be an excruciating transition.  


From various perspectives...Auggie's sister, kids at school, and Auggie himself, we gain insight to what life is like in the world surrounding Auggie.  How his sister has always lived in his shadow, how reaching out and being his friend is not so easy if you mind being ostracized, how for a long time Auggie wore an astronaut helmet around just to be unnoticed.


But the basic goodness of humanity, the beauty of a loving supportive family, and the miracles of Karma preside in this story, and will touch just about every readily accessible emotion in your heart.  


My thoughts:  This statement is coming just a wee bit too late for the spring readathon... but this book would be PERFECT for a readathon.  It is a one-sitting kind of book.  The tone is conversational and the story compelling.  There is joy and ugliness, sadness and beauty.  You are not going to want to put it down.  If I can read it on a not-so-long road trip from Charleston, anyone can.  


The personalities that surround Auggie are so honest and real, and feel authentic.  Living with a precocious child who is severely disfigured isn't anything close to perfect or easy.  People are mean and they stare, the surgeries are painful, and there isn't much room for focus on anything else.  For that reason, I appreciated this story being told from various viewpoints.  It sometimes sucks to be Auggie, but it can be just as bad for the parents, the sister, or the friend. But the story never loses its sense of humor because Auggie and his supporting cast have the gift of laughter to keep from crying. 


There is also a good coming-of-age story here, and one that anyone will be able to identify with.  In fact, I turned the last page of this adorable book thinking that it isn't just about a boy with a horrific face.  It is about anybody who was the new kid in school, the kid who didn't fit in because they were white/black/gay/had acne/were too smart/were not smart enough.  And it is about seeing past physical beauty and finding the beauty within.  Granted, this is an overused theme, but never have I seen it so cleverly demonstrated.  It is something that will be enjoyed by middle grade readers, teens and adults alike.


4.5 out of 5 stars


   
       

16 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I'm so glad I was included in your scientific process! I adored this book. I did think things were wrapped up a little too neatly in the end, but I was able to forgive that since it's written for a younger audience.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I just got this from the library, so it will be my next up after I finish what I'm reading, whatever it is (notice how I don't remember the title unless I get up and walk in the other room, which far be it from me to do). Can't wait!

Jackie Bailey said...

The premise of this book grabbed my attention at the beginning of the year. I was worried it wouldn't be as rewarding for adults, but is great to see that you and so many other adults loved it. I'm keeping an eye out for a copy in my library.

Alyce said...

I loved this one too! It was such a pleasant surprise, because usually stories with this type of content aren't uplifting, but this one is.

Zibilee said...

After hearing you talk about this one, I think it's a must read for me. I love books that tackle themes like this with freshness and aplomb, and I look forward to reading this. It sounds amazing!

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) said...

I love a good coming of age story and this sounds pretty unique.

Julie P. said...

I can take a hint. Off to read it!

Amy said...

Great review, Sandy of what sounds like an inspiring, wonderful book. I'm puttung it at the top of my tbr to be sure I don't forget it before I have a chance to read it.

Ti said...

I definitely want to read this one. I need pure and good.

Jenny said...

I hadn't paid much attention to this one before, but you make it sound fantastic. I also know someone with a child that could probably relate almost literally.. I definitely need to keep this in mind!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I've been really curious about this one. I'm glad it's good!

Darlene said...

I saw this book in a newsletter or something the other day and thought it sounded good. I'm glad to see it is well worth reading.

Anita said...

I won this book, and have it on shelf, a YA book I'm really looking forward to reading.
Thanks for the great review.

Anna said...

I hadn't heard of this book until your review. It sounds fantastic.

Jenners said...

This is the second rave review of this book that I've read in two days. Now I MUST read it.

Kathleen said...

You have convinced me Sandy. I like the idea of a YA book that isn't a downer!