Emily May's Reviews > Wonder

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
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Mar 08, 2012

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bookshelves: childrens, 2012
Read from April 05 to 08, 2012

It would be pretty impossible to properly review this book without getting just a touch spoilery. I think I could actually sum up rather succinctly what it was that made this book only get three stars from me, and also what I'm sure will be many readers' deciding factor as to whether they will love it or not. Basically, you should love this novel if you like stories that end with this:

(view spoiler)

However, if you're looking for the slightly less spoilery version, you'll have to settle for me talking about the tone of this book instead. Turn away now if you want to be completely surprised.

So... this is a book about a boy - Auggie - who was born with a severe facial deformity and, despite years of surgery, is still left with a face that scares small children and shocks adults. He has been homeschooled his whole life, until one day when his parents decide attending middle school may be an important step towards Auggie gaining some kind of normality. He faces the stares, name-calling and ostracisation that come with being different in school - only a million times worse than normal.

My biggest problem with this book is just how happy and uplifting it is. I know that sounds terrible, but I wanted it to be grittier. Someone like Auggie must have so much emotional turmoil but I felt it was lost amongst the happily ever after-ness. It was too sweet, too nice, too unreal. It's like that moment when Neville Longbottom gets those ten kind-of undeserved house points that guarantee Gryffindor the house cup... except it's far worse because Auggie's story is supposed to feel real, not like he lives in a magic castle and has just defeated a dark wizard. It was too perfect to believe in.

There are bad guys in this book, sure there are, but only one of them remains unredeemed and he loses his popularity. In other words: the good guys triumph and the bad guys get punished. I wasn't feeling it. It seemed so unbelievable to me that the only person who doesn't get a happy ending is the evil kid.

But three stars still means I liked it! This book was an entertaining page-turner and I had no problems with the really young age of the narrators. Yes, narrators, because the book switched between the point of view of Auggie, his sister - Via, Jack, Summer, Justin and Miranda... and by some miracle this actually worked! The only one I didn't enjoy reading was Justin's, I thought it was a bit of a waste of paper. Other than that, I liked reading about how Auggie's looks affected his relationships with the aforementioned. However, I still think some of the kids were nicer and more understanding than they would be in real life at their age.

And one last thing, this book did bring tears to my eyes but it had nothing to do with Auggie - be prepared for one surprising and upsetting part that I wasn't expecting.
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Comments (showing 1-42)

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message 42: by Megan (new) - added it

Megan It always makes me feel like such a cynical grump when I find a book to be too cheerful & uplifting. Always good to see reviews from others who like a good dose of grit with their fiction :) Great review, by the way.

message 41: by Jo (new)

Jo Great review, Emily. I agree 100& with your spoiler. That's exactly how I felt about this one.

And OI! Neville Longbottom deserves ALL the Gryffindor house points.


Emily May Thanks Megan and Jo!

Haha, I agree with you Jo, Neville most definitely does :)

message 39: by B0nnie (new)

B0nnie without Snape, Harry Potter would be nothing - so yeah, the perfect character is never perfect.

And it is difficult to review without giving something away!

Emily May B0nnie wrote: "without Snape, Harry Potter would be nothing - so yeah, the perfect character is never perfect.

And it is difficult to review without giving something away!"

So true, Snape is one of my favourite characters of all time!

message 37: by Victoria (new)

Victoria your review helped me loads! thank you. I was really considering reading this next but after your review see that it is not at all what I like in a book.

Emily May Thanks Victoria, glad I could help :)

Emily May Thanks Nicola!

Jason I agree that Justin brought NOTHING to the table. Nothing.

message 33: by Judy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Judy Desetti Okay. I read the book and am wondering what the upsetting part of the book was for you. I really enjoyed the book but am grateful for a different view of it as I do think there will be lots of kids (and others who will feel the same)

Emily May The sad part for me was (view spoiler). I thought that was the saddest part of the book :(

Barbara You summed up my feelings perfectly with one exception. Neville's points were really earned. I had no problem with him getting them.

Emily May Thanks. We'll have to agree to disagree about Neville.

Kelli Perry It is funny how your review helped me realize why I loved this book so much ... I guess I do love those "happily ever after" stories. I know dang well it isn't reality, but I guess I have never given up hoping that life could be this way someday :0). So silly to me; I guess that is why reading is called a great escape. Thx for your insightful review. (So so agree about that unexpected sad part ... I RARELY cry while reading and this got me)

Emily May Thanks for your comment, Kelly :) Wonder is a great book for happy ending lovers - glad you enjoyed it!

Richelle Kids are nicer than you think they would be. When I started teaching, I was truly surprised at how well my students (in a low income, public school) treated those that were different then them. I thought this book and story was amazing! And it really hit home.

Emily May I'm glad you enjoyed it, Richelle. It obviously depends on personal experiences and I witnessed kids doing some pretty nasty things at school, but it's nice to know there are those who treat children who are different with kindness and respect.

Isabella Sparrow Wow! Your review describes my feelings toward the book perfectly.

In reply to an earlier comment: kids are evil.

Emily May Thanks Isabella :)

message 23: by Emma (new) - rated it 4 stars

Emma Mills Emily... Me too. The only bit I actually almost cried (my eyes filled up & I might have lost a couple of tears) the dog?! I enjoyed the book although the Justin chapter irritated me no end... Why no capitals?! ;)

Emily May I know! It was the most moving bit of the whole book :'(

message 21: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay Amen, I have nothing more to say than this reviewer...it is exactly how I felt, liked it but a little to happily ever after for me and I LIKE happy endings!!! It just seemed contrived and phony towards the end of the book.

message 20: by Lexi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lexi Neville did deserve those points! Especially considering how much confidence he lacked before!

Marfita It was when the dog died, right? Man, I could even see that one coming and it tore me up.

message 18: by Aidan (new)

Aidan I have to say, every time there is dog in a book, I know that it will almost definitely die.

Also, I kind of like an ending that isn't "everyone dies" or "everyone loses and is miserable for the rest of their lives". I do like some happiness, but Wonder has too much for such a serious, "realistic" book.

message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

Em, I TOTALLY agree with you! It just felt too happy to me, and some of the bullying felt unrealistic (to me.) I actually appreciated Justin's chapters. They were pretty unnecessary, but it was different and kind of fun to read.

Emily May Thanks :) And yeah, the whole thing just seemed unrealistic to me. It was too positive message-driven.

Emily May I understand, I just don't really agree that kids should be lied to about something like this.

Marfita The Amazon page says it is aimed at grades 3-7. [By the way, what an interesting and long-running thread here!] I can see 3rd - 4th grades still interested in fairytale endings, but when you hit 7th grade, you might want something grittier. Mind you, I read A Little Princess by Burnett at least once a month when I was growing up, just for the good cry. Although sentimental twaddle, it is great sentimental twaddle. Wonder is meant to be didactic while at the same time realistic. Palacio does a great job of revealing the inner thoughts of the main characters, almost giving them fully rounded personalities. Auggie's sister is tired of being just Auggie's sister and struggles to remake herself ... all the while protesting she loves him. Inner conflict - great realism!
Then in comes the sentimental twaddle of stepping aside so your friend can have the lead in the show. I guess that's for the 3rd - 4th graders.

Lindsey I agree, Justin's part of the story really wasn't necessary.

Daniela DAISY!!!:(

Suzanne The flaw in your review: This is a kids' book. We want them to feel sympathy for other people, but still give them hope that the cynicism found in most of the world (like in this review) can be at least partially alleviated by the decisions you make as a human being... especially as a young adult.
Whether they’re reading to learn to accept themselves as they are or to learn to treat others with respect, they are given the gift of the realization that their actions can make a difference… even if it’s toward only one person. Not only that, their opinions of themselves make a difference, and they have control over that view - regardless of what other people say or do. That’s a lesson that’s almost impossible to teach, and one that most adults haven’t figured out.
Personally, I think this should be mandatory reading for late elementary kids, and I wouldn't be able to make that recommendation if it were more grisly. You have to consider the age-appropriateness of the work to put it in context. It's a brilliant balance between introducing young kids to the emotional turmoil and protecting them from just how bad it can really be. If they’re lucky, they aren’t ready for that yet.

I love dogs :¬{) i loved thd story I just thought the wording they use could havd been a bit mre descriptive

joaquín I agree with Suzanne.

Eddie & Awesome Face//|_B) the dog part was the only reason i gave the book four stars puppies or old dogs shouldn't suffer

Eddie & Awesome Face//|_B) the saddest part was when daisy died she never deserved it she was a grate dog

joaquín princess kiki wrote: "the saddest part was when daisy died she never deserved it she was a grate dog"

"Grate? "GRATE"?!?!!!!!!!!!!!!!???????????

Mom2nine Still on the fence about reading this book. Have you seen the movie "Mask" It stars Cher and is based on the life of Rocky Dennis, he has a cranial disorder. Cher adds her own "grit" to the story, but her portrayal of a mom's love ranks it up there as one of my all time favorites.

message 4: by Francesca (new) - added it

Francesca Mom2nine said: Still on the fence about reading this book. Have you seen the movie "Mask" It stars Cher and is based on the life of Rocky Dennis, he has a cranial disorder. Cher adds her own "grit" to the story, but her portrayal of a mom's love ranks it up there as one of my all time favorites.

Mask is an incredible movie! It made me cry like a baby though!

Cassandra I agree with most of that - the ending was a bit to quick and happy-ever-afterish. But with the Justin chapter, yes, all that complete and utter lack of punctuation beyond full stops was insanely irritating. However, I liked the insight that it gave us on August's family from a new outside perspective, and combining Via's and Auggie's lives, and just watching the family interactions from another character was interesting.

Kelsey I agree with the perfect ending but I guess I liked it for the middle school reader. The one who reads this and thinks 'hm maybe I can give somebody a perfect ending.' Will it work with every child? Definitely not but some will get it. Also if this was written for ya with Auggie at the age of 15, I think there would be that turmoil.

Juana I agree with you about the "too happily ever after" thing. But I also think that this is not that kind of book. The book isn't trying to show you the boy with this kinds of problems' suffering. The book isn't like "Girl in pieces" or other of the kind. I agree on what you say but you have to keep on in mind that it's not that kind of book. Also, it's a book for kids. A kid wouldn't be ready for "Girl in pieces", so it was logical for the book to be that way.

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