Barb Middleton's Reviews > Wonder

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
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Jan 19, 15

bookshelves: realistic, courage, bully, good-read-aloud, friendship, forgiveness, kindness
Read from March 19 to April 20, 2012

"Kinder than is necessary."

This quote in Wonder made me think of the book, Team Of Rivals. I know... your going...huh? Kindness and politics? Civil War? Slavery? Huh? Not really an era one would mark with kindness. Strife, yes, but kindness? No way. It's not the plot that reminds me of the book, but the character, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln said that he valued kindness as a virtue in a person above all else. And he showed kindness to others. Sure he had other qualities. He was courageous. He knew that signing the Emancipation Proclamation was signing a death warrant. He was a storyteller. He had empathy. His kindness extended not only to friends, but to his enemies as well. He brought out the best in people. He chose kindness, when he could have chosen hate and power. He risked everything to do the right thing.

Meet Auggie Pullman. He too, is kinder than necessary. He too, chooses kindness over meanness, kindness over revenge, kindness over anger. And he's courageous. He stands up for what is right. He forgives his friends when they wrong him. He's a hero. But not your typical one.

Auggie was born with a birth defect that is so horrible he won't describe what it looks like because "whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse." He is going to go to middle school for the first time. He knows it won't be easy. He knows he has to be brave. He knows the kids will be afraid of him. But as his mom says, "I really believe... 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.

Auggie doesn't meet very many good people at first. He meets a bunch of scared middle schoolers. In fact, they are so scared of him they have a game called, The Plague, where if they touch him they have 30 seconds to wash their hands. Auggie ignores most of it because he does have the two friends Jack and Summer. When Auggie overhears Jack say something mean he has to decide if he still wants him as a friend. As the students get to know him, he tries to ease their fears by joking about his looks. They find out he's a normal kid like them.

The story is told from several different viewpoints: Auggie, Via, Jack, Summer, Justin, and Miranda. For the most part this worked for me but I got pulled out of the story when Justin was speaking. The author uses him to make a minor point about Jack. This is the only time I set the book down and was able to walk away from it. When I started to read about Miranda, I thought, oh no... another Jack. But there is an interesting twist with her. I would have preferred Amos viewpoint over Justin's. Or Julian's viewpoint. Julian fizzles from the story at the end. I thought he should have gone to camp and something should have happened to give more insight into his character. He's pretty much the one-dimensional villain. If he had gone to camp the tension would have gone up a few notches.

Auggie has an amazing support system. When I first started this book I wondered if it would follow the story of John Merrick known as The Elephant Man. I remember watching this as a movie and Merrick suffered unloving parents and abuse. This story doesn't follow that path. This family is loving and struggles with Auggie's special needs. The mom and dad force Auggie to go to school and support him.  Auggie's dad is funny. I love the humor he brings to the story. Via doesn't get the attention Auggie gets from her parents, but she's pretty accepting and understanding about it. It isn't until Via starts a new school that she has a problem with Auggie's face. She doesn't want to be known as the sister with the deformed brother. She just wants to be "normal." When she asks that Auggie not go to school for a play, Auggie blows up at the dinner table.

Some of the plot is predictable such as the camp and award ceremony. What isn't predictable is what happens during these parts. The ending has a great message about kindness and courage. We work to build kindness in ourselves, our students, our children. But it isn't always easy. Sometimes our paths will cross with jerks. Sometimes our choices can lean toward selfishness, power, or meanness. This story is about growing to be a better person. To be a kinder person. To be a braver person. To stand up for what is right.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Linda You caught the essence of this book without a doubt!!! I love the comparison to Lincoln.


Barb Middleton Thanks Linda for your kind words!


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