Wonder by RJ Palacio
|Wonder - RJ Palacio|
My goodness, Wonder is RJ Palacio’s debut novel and it rocks! But somehow this book has ended up on Little M’s bookshelf. I wonder if she’ll miss it if I move it to a prominent position on my bookshelf??!!! Wonder is simply beautiful and it deserves a special spot on a bookshelf so that when someone comes into the house I can casually say, “Oh yeah, that’s a really good book for anyone to read”.
Auggie is 10 years old and suffers from a horrible face defect that makes him look beastly. People shy away when they see his face. It is a miracle that he survived birth, he has had numerous surgeries, and he has never attended a school. Contrary to the jacket image, he does have two eyes but he doesn’t really have ears, he has a snouty mouth like a tortoise, and eating and hearing are difficult for him. He has had a really, really rough start to life and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier just yet. But now, his mother thinks it’s a good idea for him to start middle school. Just great.
The story begins with Auggie narrating and you heart just wants to break for him.You can probably imagine how awful it must be for him with everyone staring, whispering, avoiding him; and you think things couldn’t get worse. But then on page 77, about a quarter of the way through, they do. I’m sure my heart stopped for a very long second. It was as if time froze and all the life in me dropped right down to my toes and everything went cold. Oh Auggie….
And with your heart in your toes, the story continues…. but from the perspective of other characters – Via, Summer, Jack, Justin, Miranda. It occasionally returns to Auggie’s perspective and it ends with his voice, a voice that is so different from the moment you first met him at the beginning of the story. Interestingly, none of these narrators are adults so the whole book is from children’s points of view.
Wonder brings two other recent reads to mind. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon which has a much older central character. But he too has a disability which causes problems with social interactions. There are also echoes of Annabel Pitcher’s My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece which come through in the main characters' voices. For me, what stands out in Wonder particularly in comparison to these two novels is the portrayal of the adult characters. None of these novels include an adult narrator but most of the adult characters in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and in My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece are portrayed as quite vile. In contrast, most of the adults in Wonder are kind, loving and supportive. And what is remarkable about this is how it affects the overall tone of the novel. There are no magic fixes but Wonder is honest, it is humbling and incredibly uplifting.
What is so special about Wonder too, is that it is a book for every reader. Anyone who has the technical ability to read it could enjoy it immensely. Wonder is definitely on my list of best books ever. It’s sitting there snugly next to Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (which I definitely would not recommend to younger readers!).
Wonder will make you do a double take about the way you look at the world and treat people. Wonder is simply wonderful.
2012, Bodley Head, London, hardback
This copy: Bought by us