This summer, I finally got my hands on the book I’d wanted to read for a long time. The book I’m talking about is “Wonder” by RJ Palacio. I don’t think that there exist enough words to describe the emotions I’ve gone through while reading this book. That can only be understood by someone who has immersed themselves in the story of the protagonist, August Pullman.
August Pullman, or Auggie, (as he is fondly called by those around him) is an ordinary ten-year-old who likes to ride his bike, eat ice cream and play on his X-Box. He is also pretty obsessed with “Star Wars”. In many ways, Auggie is an ordinary kid, except for his face. His face is not so ordinary. He was born with a genetic facial abnormality, which required 27 surgeries to make it look the way it is. When August introduces himself, this is how he does it:
“My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”
Auggie’s family has been extra protective of him over the years because of how the world is like, but then they come to realize that they can’t always be protecting him and the reality needs to be faced. So, they get him enrolled at Beecher Prep Middle School, where Auggie begins fifth grade. Before this, he was home schooled because of all the surgeries he had to get.
“Wonder” is a book that takes us around Auggie’s life and difficulties and his wish to just be ‘ordinary’. However, he is far from it – in a good way.
Although the book falls under the children’s books category, grown ups can learn a lot from it. “Wonder” is a book that teaches us to choose kindness over everything else, a lesson that not just children need to be taught.
“Kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed.”
It’s written in a first person narrative style. However, not each narrator is the same person. Each narrator helps with taking Auggie’s story forward. But each time a new narrator begins, they begin by talking about something that matters to them. Although we get a lot of his story from them, it also shows us how everyone around Auggie saw him and how him being around changed them in many ways. This is an effective tool for character development.
“Wonder” is all those realistic things about life that we don’t like to face, all of it wrapped safely inside the pages of a children’s book. All of it expressed in a brutally honest way but infused with a writing style that doesn’t make the real world so scary and hopeless.
The book does not create a fantasy that the world is always nice to people like August. In fact, it does something deeper. It shows us that even if some of us choose to be kinder than what is necessary; if even some of us choose to be a friend instead of just being friendly, the world could be a better place. It also teaches us to be strong, to be appreciative of others and to formulate our identities based on what we do and how we behave rather than on what we look like.
“Wonder” is RJ Palacio’s first book. She got the idea to write the story when she saw a little girl with facial deformities. So, now that we look at it, August Pullman isn’t just a kid with some facial deformities. He is every kid that has been bullied, that has been friendless, that has gone through so much yet gets up each day to face the world again. Yes, it may get hopeless sometimes, but that’s when you look around and see the family that loves you and the people that do care.
This is one of those books that if you read to your children, you’re doing a good job at parenting. But if you get involved with the book, you’re doing a fine job with yourself too. With this, I must emphasize how books can’t be boxed inside various categories. An easy to read book for children has so much potential for teaching life lessons to adults.
CS Lewis beautifully put it in his dedication in “The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe”,
“Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairytales again”
While “Wonder” is no fairytale, but it is a tale that most adults are old enough to read. That’s because there are lessons in stories like this that we as adults, often tend to forget and books like “Wonder” help us to learn them again.
In the book, Auggie says towards the end,
“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.”
This one line, in my opinion, summarizes all that the story of “Wonder” stands for.
After reading this book, I thought about it for days. I thought about how in all our lives, there is an August and there are embodiments of all the other characters. It’s just that some of us have been him and some of us have been the ones around him.
While children can learn the lessons that the book shows, for us adults, it’s more of a journey into self-reflection. So whether you’re an adult or a child, I think this book is a must read.