Goodreads Blurb: August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?
Last week I finally read The Fault in our Stars – a beautiful book whose main characters are teens battling cancer – so first I had to decide whether it was the right time to read Wonder. The second thing on my mind was I already fell in love with August Walker last week, so I wasn’t sure about reading about August Pullman next.
I read the first chapter cautiously and immediately warmed to Auggie.
The main plot centres around the adjustments Auggie has to go through attending school for the first time. His social evolution naturally leads to changes at home as well as amongst his classmates. Auggie’s only ever had a handful of friends and people to interact with, and his mother thinks it’s time for his family to step back a little. Some various groupings and regroupings occur amongst the student body with regards to accepting or not accepting Auggie. The sub-plots weave beautifully into this foreground, and they add such substance and depth to the overall story.
I didn’t want to put the book down because there was always some new bit of information, character conflict or memorable quote to hold my attention. The scenes unfold well, even though – or because – there are multiple narrators. Auggie’s first-hand account of his life is interspersed with the voices of family and friends so that we see his perspective and then experience the same events from through another person’s experience. It’s interesting to see a character through their own eyes and then have a sibling, parent or partner describe them.
The characters are likeable, and their interactions easy to imagine. There were times I felt the conversations were a little more grown-up than I expected for 5th graders. Still, then I think back to my fifth-grade experience – which I vaguely remember – and I recall some very insightful interactions. August as the hero is likeable, and an average boy, so readers shouldn’t expect an angel. Expect a kind, deep-thinker who’s sense and sensitivity sometimes serve him well and occasionally leave him feeling angry and vulnerable.
Most of Auggie’s time is spent either at home or at school. I wondered if there would be many hospital scenes, and discovered that wasn’t the case. The world around Auggie is not about clinicians but about family, friends and the question of ‘fitting in’.
Although I shed tears, I don’t regret reading this story so soon after TFioS, because there are also laughs. There were several interesting characters, and maybe my inner Perdita* (critic) felt there was some schmaltz (excessive sentimentality), but my outer, sappy me was tearing up in a local cafe. There’s a poster that makes the rounds on social media amongst book lovers, and I’ve posted it here because Wonder made me feel this way.
* Perdita is the alter ego of Terry Pratchett’s Agnes Nitt, and although it was OTT I think we all have our own alter egos within, one made up of the many facets of our personality we don’t choose to use as often as the qualities we usually reach for…IMHO 🙂