Read ‘Wonder’ to get surprised by kindness

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“My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

“Some things you just can’t explain.  You don’t even try. You don’t know where to start. All your sentences would jumble up like a giant knot if you opened your mouth. Any words you used would come out wrong.”

This is exactly how I feel, sitting here, trying to explain this book. The story of “Wonder”, by R. J. Palacio,  is so powerful, it cuts across all genres. It’s a beautiful, heart-breaking, terrifying and funny tale about an extraordinary kid, bullying and, ultimately, the wondrous power of kindness.

I recommend this book for anyone with a BEATING HEART.

Maybe it was his Star Wars obsession, his sense of humour or his general spirit (or all three) that captured me – and so much more. As a kid with craniofacial abnormalities, he’s heard it all. He’s seen all the horrified looks.

“I wish everyday was Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the mask.”

Little kids scream when they see him. Older kids make fun of him and call him a freak. August, or as he is more often called,  Auggie, is home-schooled through Grade Four, but for middle school his parents decide to send him to a private school, Beecher Prep., in New Your City. “Wonder” is the story of his fifth grade year.

Even with a positive attitude and smart, loving parents, Auggie’s story is not an easy one to read and my emotions ran wildly from sadness to hilarity to terrible anger at what happens to him. Not all kids are nice. Some kids behave different in of front of adults and kids. Some adults are downright cruel. And just when you think life can’t possibly get any harder or more challenging, sometimes it does.

Although this book is primarily told from Auggie’s perspective, it was a surprise to me when it switched to SIX other points of view. Normally, I would say this is far too many, but in this particular case, every person offered an insight into Augusts’ beautiful personality and amazing life in a way that would be impossible to otherwise know. His narration is followed by his sister, Via’s, her oldest friend, Miranda, Via’s boyfriend Justin and jack and Summer, Auggie’s new friends at Beecher Prep. Although the author switches voices six times, she does, wisely, both begin and end the novel in Augusts’ perspective. Each narrator has a distinct, completely believable voice. R.J. Palacio makes each character both flawed and sympathetic. She shows how kids can be both horribly mean and incredibly brave and kind.

Initially in the book, August shows us an excusable frustration with his condition and people’s reaction to it. But later, we see the strength of his loving family which nurtures in him the qualities that make him so special: courage, kindness, friendship and character – helping him become someone truly great, someone “whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own.”

Reading about Augusts’ 27 surgeries, rejoicing in his humour, hurting for him when he felt lonely and seeing his life from various perspectives, its impossible not to be moved by his story.  And how can you not love a boy who understands that sometimes his mom night need his precious teddy more than he does?

This WONDER-ful book sings with authenticity. It is a feel-good book with a great message. The short, easy chapters with shifting, versatile narratives make this a quick, enjoyable read with a VERY strong, hard hitting message for kids and adults. It is POWERFUL and the ending is a tearjerker in the best possible way.

We expect to be surprised by cruelty, but how wonderful it is also to be surprised by kindness. 🙂

by

Angel Vinod

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