Friday, February 1, 2013

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

August has a severe facial deformity caused by a rare genetic disorder. It is the first thing most people know about him. To many, it is what defines him. If you get to know him, you would find he is a smart and funny ten year old who loves Star Wars.

This story revolves around August's appearance because no matter what kind of person he is, it always seems to come back to his face. August is getting ready to go to school for the first time. Due to many surgeries and related health issues, August has been home schooled. His parents disagree on whether he should attend school. August has no doubt that he does not want to go to school. A visit with the principal and some other students eases his mind a little. With mixed emotions, August heads off to his first day of school.

Yes, there are the usual stares, looks of shock, and whispering. August has grow used to it. But over time, a growing cruel movement happens.   It spreads like a disease through a good part of August's class. There are no words to explain the nasty behavior we inflict upon each other for no justifiable reason. Each day is a test of August's resolve.

Not everyone is against August. Summer sits with him at lunch from day one. Jack is cool, but August worries that he is only friendly because the principal told him to be. There are times when August feels almost like any other average kid.

If this story were only told by August, it might not have the impact that it does, but we also hear from others including his teen sister, her new boyfriend and her former friend who has known August her whole life. The different viewpoints always come back to the effect August has on them. We know what is going on in the minds of August's fellow students even when he does not.

It is heart wrenching enough to think about an innocent child who is burdened with something beyond his control. It is another to live in the life of that boy, to know his thoughts, to hear what others are saying and not saying, to know that he is fully aware of how others perceive him. To understand, you must read this book.

Generally speaking, this book is aimed at older elementary age and early middle school kids, but it is too amazing to restrict to just them. I recommend this one for teens and adults, too.

For more info about this book, check out the Westfield Washington Public Library catalog and the author's site.

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