Rummanah Aasi
 Wonder by R.J. Palacio has been one of the most popular middle grade book released in 2012. I really think it is a strong contender for the Newbery Award. It has already received several starred reviews along with strong reading recommendations from libraries as well as booksellers.

Description (from Goodreads): I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.
  August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

Review: I think I did a disservice to reading Wonder after I read Sharon Draper's phenomenal Out of My Mind, one of my favorites from 2012. Both books have a similar theme of children being ostracized by their peers due to their disabilities. Out of My Mind is a grittier and realistic portrayal of the hardships endured by the main character while Wonder has a much more upbeat tone.
  Wonder is the story of a boy named August Pullman's, commonly called Auggie among his family and friends, first year at school. Auggie is a ten-year-old boy born with a facial anomaly that has required him to undergo countless operations, which have restored his physical features normally. His physical deformity has instantly made him an outsider with the outside world. Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents, but now they feel it is time for him to be acclimated with normalcy and thus enroll him in middle school. Wonder is book about journeys. Of course it highlights Auggie's personal struggle, but it is also shows his family's journey of slowly loosening their grip on Auggie and trying to be hands off as much as possible even though it breaks their hearts to see him in so much pain.
  Auggie's story is surprisingly told from six different perspectives. Auggie's point of view is a lot cheerier than I expected. He knows he is being isolated by his peers and how frightening he can look, but he doesn't let these problems drag him down too much. He is a lot more stoic than I could imagine being at that age. To be honest, I didn't feel like his point of view was realistic and had a bit too much of an after school special tone to it though I do admire his optimism and I can sympathize with him.
  In addition to Auggie, we also have his older sister Via, her boyfriend Justin, her friend Miranda and Jack and Summer, two kids August befriends at school. We clearly have both male and female perspectives as well as varing ages ranging very young to older teens, but I thought all these voices very much sounded a lot alike. While I liked knowing what the outside of Auggie, I felt that some points of view didn't really add to the story.
  Like a lot of readers, the only voice that struck a chord with me is Auggie's sister, Via. Funny enough, the voice that got to me the most wasn't August's but his sister Via's. Some may call her selfish or petty, but her plight of always living in the shadow of her little brother made her real to me. I felt her voice with nuanced with guilt and shame for wanting attention from her parents and giving her brother a reality check. Hearing from Via made her a real, memorable, three dimensional character. I kind of wish the author had used only her voice and juxtaposed it with Auggie throughout the story, the book would have been stronger and the tone would have been a bit more balanced. 
  In general, the writing is kept simple, fitting and true to the ten-year-old responsible for most of the narration, but I did cringe with the heavy use of the word "dude" which really got on my nerves. I think that's just a personal pet peeve as I hear it every day at work. The parents were just a bit too nice and the villains were a bit too obvious and well, mean.
   I don't think Wonder is a perfect book, but I do believe it would lend itself to some great discussion. I would highly recommend it especially for parents looking for a bright, upbeat contemporary novel for young readers.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: This is a relatively clean read. There are some incidents of bullying and there is a brief mention of seventh graders smoking, but nothing that you wouldn't see on TV. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, Angel in My Pocket by Ilene Cooper, Firegirl by Tony Abbott, Larger-than-life Lara by Dandi Daley Mackall
8 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    "Dude" is always one of those words that makes me cringe as well Rummanah! It just yanks me out of the story every time I see it on a page:) Aside from that though, this books sounds wonderful, and I'm really looking forward to getting inside Via's head. I think her voice might be the most intriguing for me as well.

  2. Interesting. Out of My Mind was also one of my favorite books. It's been enough time that maybe I wouldn't compare it too much to Wonder. I've been meaning to read this.

  3. I really enjoyed this one and at first was alarmed by the changing view points but in the end like how they all enriched the story and I liked the sister's view point as well.

  4. I don't think this one is for me, but I actually know a couple of people this might be perfect for. I still may have to read it for Via. Curious about her...

  5. Candace Says:

    I didn't realize it had 6 different perspectives! That's a lot! But I've heard good things about this book and I'll definitely watch for it at the library or will pick it up used. It's probably a good one for in a few years when my daughter is just a bit older.

  6. I haven't read this book, but it does come highly recommended. Maybe your reading it was colored by the previous book you read. Or maybe you just prefer a book that doesn't gloss over the truth of bullying and it's grittiness.

    Either way, you did a great job reviewing it.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Ive wondered (lol) about this one. Ive heard its a great read for middle graders. I may have to grab it so my 6th grader can enjoy!!

    Thanks for sharing...:)

  8. Lol, I've been known to use the word "dude" here and there and sometimes have to resist using it when leaving comments :)

    I put this on my wishlist after seeing a good review for it but kind of forgot about it. I'll probably recommend it to my brother too since it's a MG book and therefore he can read it as well.

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