Wendy Darling's Reviews > Wonder

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
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Jan 19, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2012-publication, middle-grade, male-pov, realistic-fiction, hilarious, 2012-favorites, made-my-heart-hurt, young-adult, read-2012, poc, 2012-5-star-books, rh
Recommended for: fans of Suicide Notes, A Monster Calls...pretty much anyone with a beating heart
Read on February 18, 2012

Wonder is one of those rare books that makes you want to hug everyone in it so tightly that they’ll have no doubt about how much you love them…and beyond that, it also makes you want to reach out and hug the whole world. It’s an upbeat, humorous, life-affirming story that deserves to be read—and it’s one that may just change its readers, too.

If you remember how terrifying it was to be a kid on a day to day basis, you’ll appreciate August’s story. 10-year-old Auggie is going to school for the first time in his life, and he has to navigate new rules, learn to interact with teachers, and figure out how to make new friends. In addition, he also has a severe facial deformity that stops strangers in their tracks, so all the usual perils of the fifth grade take on even more heightened stakes.

With the matter-of-fact wisdom that warmed Beverly Cleary’s books, this story about growing up is full of heart and humor, and written with a clear-eyed intelligence that never descends into cynicism. Auggie’s smart, funny personality will win over readers who will agonize with him over the complicated web of friendships and family even as they cheer for him as he learns some of life’s big and scary lessons.

It’s okay, I know I’m weird-looking, take a look, I don’t bite. Hey, the truth is, if a wookie started going to school all of a sudden, I’d be curious, I’d probably stare a bit! And if I was walking with Jack or Summer, I’d probably whisper to them: Hey, there’s the wookie. And if the wookie caught me saying that, he’d know I wasn’t trying to be mean. I was just pointing out the fact that he’s a wookie.

Even with a positive attitude and smart, loving parents, however, 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 one way in front of adults and another way in front of 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 the book is primarily told from Auggie’s perspective, it was a surprise to me when it switched to a few other points of view. With a total of six different voices, I would normally say this is far too many, but in this particular case every person offered an insight into August’s beautiful personality and amazing life in a way that would be impossible to otherwise know. Reading about Auggie’s 27 surgeries, rejoicing at his vibrant inner life, hurting for him when he felt lonely or misunderstood, and seeing his life from various different perspectives, it’s impossible not to be moved by his story. And how can you not love a boy who understands that sometimes his mom might need his precious teddy bear more than he does?

Not entirely random side note: (view spoiler)

Tears were streaming down my face as I finished this book—and the funny thing is, they were primarily tears of joy. Wonder is written with the kind of sensitivity and insight that I had hoped for when I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and it went the extra mile to be an uplifting story that made me want to embrace life and the people in it, too. I also very much appreciate that this middle grade book is written for its intended age group, not just a book for adults in the guise of a children’s book, even though it’s certainly one that can be enjoyed by readers of any age.

“There are always going to be jerks in the world, Auggie,” she said, looking at me. “But I really believe, and Daddy really believes, that there are more good people on this earth than bad people, and the good people watch out for each other and take care of each other.”

A story like this comes along just a few times in a lifetime, and I fervently hope that readers will find their way to it. This short book that doesn’t waste a single page in squeezing your emotions so tightly you feel like you can't breathe, but when they're finally released, you may find that your heart is full of even more empathy, compassion, and love than you thought possible. We expect to be surprised by cruelty, but how wonderful it is to also be surprised by kindness.

This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.

About the Inspiration Behind the Story

The ice cream incident in this story actually happened, but perhaps not in the way you might think. Learn about the surprising inspiration behind this story on the RJ Palcio's website. She's definitely an author to watch.
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Quotes Wendy Darling Liked

R.J. Palacio
“The things we do outlast our mortality. The things we do are like monuments that people build to honor heroes after they've died. They're like the pyramids that the Egyptians built to honor the pharaohs. Only instead of being made of stone, they're made out of the memories people have of you.”
R.J. Palacio, Wonder

R.J. Palacio
“Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.”
R.J. Palacio, Wonder

Reading Progress

02/18/2012 page 64
20.0% "She kissed me all over my face. She kissed my eyes that came down too far. She kissed my cheeks that looked punched in. She kissed my tortoise mouth. She said soft words that I know were meant to help me, but words can't change my face." 4 comments
02/18/2012 page 205
64.0% "olivia reminds me of a bird sometimes, how her feathers get all ruffled when she's mad. and when she's fragile like this, she's a little lost bird looking for a nest. so i give her my wing to hide under. ---> This book just stomps all over my heart. In so many ways." 1 comment

Comments (showing 1-50 of 137) (137 new)

message 1: by Sashana (new)

Sashana Fans of suicide? *raises eyebrow*

Wendy Darling Recommended for fans of the book Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford. A similar blend of humor, male POV, and a serious subject that doesn't take itself too seriously.

message 3: by Sashana (new)

Sashana Ah, that explains it!

Wendy Darling This book makes me insanely happy, Skyla. I'm so glad I read it! And now I want everyone I know to read it too, hah.

Aly (Fantasy4eva) awww. i'm glad you liked it. he is so endearing. lovely book :)

message 6: by Wan (new)

Wan oh wow. 5 stars! Can't wait to read your review.

Kwoomac I love a book that makes me cry.

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Wow this sounds amazing!!! Can't wait to read your review! ((Holy...wow! 5 stars? It MUST be good))

Wendy Darling I'm glad you liked it too, Aly! Can't wait to compare notes. :)

And yes, I love this book, Wan, Kwoomac, and Ally. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you angry...it just moves you in a way that books should when it comes to stories like this. *love*

message 10: by Megs ♥ (last edited Feb 18, 2012 06:12PM) (new) - added it

Megs ♥ I'll love any book that you categorize as hilarious and made my heart hurt at the same time. I also have a son who is a 5th grader so this will be all around interesting for me I think.

message 11: by Laurie (new) - added it

Laurie looking forward to checking this one out:)

Wendy Darling I've seen a couple of reviews that have criticized this book for being too simplistic, Meg, but I strongly disagree. It's a very complex, layered story, but it's definitely one that's written for kids, in a tone I think they will respond to. Too often in YA and MG books, I think we see books that are written more for adults than for children, but this one is absolutely age-appropriate, in my opinion. It probably helps that the author has boys this age herself.

I can't wait for you to read this too, Laurie!

message 13: by Nashi (new) - added it

Nashi I've added this book to my TBR list as soon as I saw your reactions, to be honest. I wonder if it's going to make me cry like John Green's Fault in Our Stars did?

Wendy Darling I should probably clarify...I was tremendously moved by this book, and angered and saddened throughout much of it. But the tears are actually happy tears, believe it or not. It's a testament to the enormous good that comes when we take responsibility for each other--and it also touches on a J.M. Barrie quote that embraces a philosophy I believe in, which is "Always be a little kinder than necessary."

I think you'd love this, Sam. :) This book is a huge surprise, and I sincerely hope that readers will find their way to it.

message 15: by Nashi (new) - added it

Nashi Either way, I might need tissues! ;) This book really sounds awesome.

Wendy Darling My husband came into the room at one point and saw tears streaming down my face and was horrified. When he asked what was wrong, all I could do was blubber, "This book is so beautiful!" Wahhh. :)

Nenia *The Flagrant Liberal* Campbell Excellent review! I want to read this now - except... I'm afraid of sad books. ;____;

Sounds kind of like Loser by Jerry Spinelli.

message 18: by Braiden (new) - added it

Braiden Really want to read this book. Loved the trailer. Nice review :D

message 19: by Michelle (new)

Michelle I think I have to read this now! I watched a show called When Teenage Meets Old Age and my reaction was pretty similar Wendy :) Lovely review.

Wendy Darling Aw, thanks guys, I hope you get a chance to read this soon.

Don't be afraid of this, Pikachu--I feel the same way, but this is a book that's really more happy than sad, even when it's at its most difficult.

I love the trailer too, Braiden!

And yes, read it Maree. I think you'd love it. :)

message 21: by Reynje (last edited Feb 22, 2012 04:12PM) (new)

Reynje This is such a lovely review, Wendy. Sounds like my kind of book :)

Cecilia Gray even this review makes me want to cry - can I handle the whole book???

message 23: by ♥Rachel♥ (new)

♥Rachel♥ Beautiful review Wendy. :) Read spoiler *sobs, sniff, sniff* Shouldn't have read this at work.

Annabelle Marie Veronica I'm already tearing up, just reading your review. It's beautiful :) Oh, I really want this book now!

Joy (joyous reads) Aw. Miss Wendy, how could I not want to add this to my pile? Your review have reduced me to tears. :'(

Wendy Darling Thanks so much, ladies--I love love loved this one, so I'm glad that came through in the review. I can't wait to see the reactions when more people read it!

Also, I rather enjoy making my friends cry, hah. But that's nothing compared to what the book will do to you.

message 27: by Megan (new) - added it

Megan Great review as always Wendy! And just reading your mention of Beverly Cleary made me feel all warm & fuzzy inside :) She was the bees knees back in the day!

Wendy Darling Beverly Clearly is STILL the bee's knees as far as I'm concerned, Megan. :) Flannery and I are actually going to do a week of BC readalongs sometime this spring!

message 29: by Megan (new) - added it

Megan What a fun, lighthearted read-along :)

message 30: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Did someone say readalong....I'm in :)

Wendy Darling Hah, we'll let you know which Beverly Clearly books we decide to read. :) Should be fun!

message 32: by Mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark Love your review, Wendy! Well-put about the happy tears, too.

message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

Thank you Wendy for another very insightful review. I'm very excited to read Wonder! Infact, my birthday is coming up in about two weeks so I definitely know what I'm going to ask for! :)

Laura (Kyahgirl) a phenomenal review Wendy...I'm so glad I follow you. I might have missed this one. thanks!

message 35: by Wendy Darling (last edited Feb 22, 2012 08:28PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Wendy Darling Thanks so much, Mark! It's funny that you talked about the Daisy storyline in your review--I normally don't respond well to that, but in this case I thought it was really well done. The only minor quibble I had with the book was the inclusion of various song lyrics; I thought it was a bit much to use more than the title song. Still, it's a minor point weighed against so much that was pitch-perfect.

And yay, Ally, I can't wait to hear what you think of it! Happy early birthday, too. :)

Wendy Darling Thank you, Laura! I hope you get a chance to read this soon. GoodReads is amazing for this sort of thing, isn't it? I read so much less in the days before I found it.

message 37: by Mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark I will say that the whole Daisy thing was handled much better in this book than similar plot lines have been elsewhere. I appreciated that it revealed much more about Auggie's parents, and that the effects of the event became more apparent in Auggie later on. That, I thought, was very well done.

message 38: by Wendy Darling (last edited Feb 22, 2012 08:52PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Wendy Darling Mark, I think that part just got to me because earlier on, during Vida's POV (I think), there was a description of (view spoiler) That part elevated what could have been a somewhat predictable plot device into something deeper than this sort of inclusion in another book, at least for me. It just rang very true for me, and it was done in a way that was not too overly sentimental--and I agree, it told us more about Auggie's parents as well.

It also reminded me of the Ramona books, when (view spoiler)

message 39: by Mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark I agree - that's what really made the book for me: the shifting perspectives. Vida's showed so many more facets of Auggie that just wouldn't have been evident through his POV. Great point.

Wendy Darling We could probably talk about this book all night long, hah. Thanks so much for the thoughtful conversation, Mark. I'm really looking forward to seeing what this author does next.

Melissa Oooh... this one sounds good!

Stella  ☢FAYZ☢ Chen Absolutely superb review, Wendy!
This book will be a tear-jerker, much like your review. I really enjoyed the personal anecdote and I wish there were more people like you out there.

message 43: by Wendy Darling (last edited Feb 22, 2012 09:16PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Wendy Darling Hope you enjoy it as much as I did, Melissa! :)

And aw, thanks so much, Stella. That's so kind of you to say, since I hesitated about including that anecdote in there--but it meant a lot to me, and I kept thinking about our personal accountability to our fellow human beings as I read this book.

If there were more Wendys out there, I would love it if they would come and write the many reviews I have allowed to pile up. :D

Melissa I just wish that my library had all of the books that you recommend =(

And I agree with Stella -- you write AMAZING reviews!!

Annalisa Thanks for the recommend. Can't wait to read it.

Wendy Darling Oh, I'm sorry, Melissa--library budgets seem to be shrinking everywhere, it seems. I hope you get a chance to read it soon--and thank you! The reviews like these are a pleasure to write.

Look forward to seeing what you think when you get around to this one, Annalisa. :)

Wendy Darling Hah, WHAT?

message 48: by Kay (new) - added it

Kay You always write such wonderful reviews, Wendy. I'm not a huge fan of sad books. They leave me feeling more depressed than uplifted. But if Wonder is as good as you say it is, I'll have to look into it.

Wendy Darling I'm still not sure I know what that means, but thank you. :) You'd love this one, Cill, pretty please put this on your TBR shelf...and sell the hell out of it at the bookstore! These midlist titles need all the help they can get, and this one deserves to be read.

Wendy Darling Oh, thank you, Kay! I was just thinking that I may have made a mistake in how I wrote this review--it's actually a really, really funny book, and the tone is upbeat and positive, even when bad things are happening. Your heart just can't help but break for this kid, though, perhaps especially because he does have such a great attitude and great parents. But I would say that if you are wary about books like this at all, don't be--it's definitely a serious, thought-provoking book and subject, but it's handled with a great deal of lightness and heart.

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