Wednesday, December 30, 2015

[Book Review] Wonder by R.J. Palacio


Josh reviews WONDER by R.J. Palacio (Alfred A. Knof, 2012)

I just finished reading Wonder, and as anyone whom I've spoken with about it over the past week knows, I am truly in love with this book.  Although the book is housed in the children's section of our library, it is a story that I would highly recommend ANYONE to read.
The story is told from the viewpoints of different characters who are revealed over time in the course of the book, starting and finishing with August "Auggie" Pullman, the 10-year-old boy who is the inspiration for the title of the book.  Auggie is entering school for the first time as a fifth-grader, having been homeschooled up until that time by his mother.  The story covers the 10 months from just before the school year begins until the graduation ceremony marking the end of the scholastic year, and describes the ups and downs that this unique middle-school student encounters over that time, as well as the journey that his family and classmates take along with him.
I've waited until now to mention that Auggie suffers from a confluence of genetic abnormalities that have deformed his facial features to a point that he is genuinely frightening to most people upon their first encounter with him.  Palacio never really fully describes what Auggie looks like, but gradually reveals various aspects of his appearance, and you gain most of your understanding of the effect his face has upon others by the way Auggie himself and others describe their reactions when seeing him for the first time.  It's extremely effective.
The book is comprised of short chapters that generally are two or three pages long, and none longer than five pages by my count, and each one is really a short scene that carries the story forward smartly.  Hardly any of the chapters don't make you cry, smile, laugh, or move you in some way.  Ultimately, the book has what we'll call a happy ending, but it really feels genuine in my opinion, not something contrived.  The same is true of the dialogue in the book.  Palacio does an amazing job of creating realistic and believable dialogue in both the children and adults in the story, and every scene comes across as very realistic and believable, which further adds to the emotional impact of the story.
This is the type of book that I could see myself reading again, just to relive the story a second or third time.  A movie is in the works, which I could see being successfully done, but they will have to pick and choose which scenes to include because there are too many to put in a two-hour film!
Josh Thomas, Central Library

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