‘I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid.’
‘ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds.’
Wonder by R J Palacio, has attracted much attention, including The Waterstones Children’s Book Award 2013. Palacio has approached a delicate issue – the facial disfigurement of 10 year old August – with a high level of sensitivity and power. She has created a novel which has much to offer.
August is ten years old, but he has never been to school. Twenty seven surgeries since birth have made that impossible. Now that is all about to change. It has been discussed over and over again in his house, but now is the time.
Next week he starts fifth grade.
Whilst August goes back in time to give the reader a potted history of his life so far, the main focus of Wonder is on August’s first year at school – when he joins fifth grade.
August, know as ‘Auggie’, to his friends and family, is quite a character who is strong and resourceful. His wry sense of humour is effortlessly captured by Palacio’s realistic dialogue.
August’s facial disfigurement leads to problems he has learnt to cope with – to a point. He is acutely aware of the others reactions to him, finely tuned to the faintest flicker which often betray people’s first reactions to seeing him. The science lesson, when he discovers that nobody is ‘allowed’ to touch him for fear of getting the ‘plague’, is a powerfully devastating scene.
Whilst the majority of the book is told from August’s point of view, the shift in narrative to allow the viewpoints of Via (his older sister), plus school friends Jack and Miranda shine through is a clever touch.
This change in viewpoints is powerful; it allows the reader to really begin to understand friendships, relationships and the effects our words and actions have on others. This is poignantly timed. The novel’s targeted age group will be trying to navigate through these complex social skills within their own lives. Well written novels, like Wonder, are powerful tools in helping young people establish their own strong values.
Ultimately this is a book about finding yourself, being true to yourself and navigating the tricky phase of finding, discovering and maintaining valuable friendships. Whilst aimed at younger readers, this is one of those books that crosses over very well – it is a novel that many adults will find equally engrossing.
Wonder is a compelling read, My Book Corner highly recommends it.