Friday, March 09, 2012
Go read this book.
OK, OK. I'll give you a bit more than that. It deserves it. More than deserves it.
Ten year old Auggie (short for August) Pullman is a smart, funny, sensitive, Star Wars-loving boy. He was also born with severe facial deformities. As he says in the beginning of the book--whatever you're imagining, it's much worse (details revealed throughout the book give a picture of the severity). Due to numerous surgeries (and just not being ready for traditional school), Auggie has been homeschooled all his life....until his parents decide that it's time to step out and go to an actual school.
Auggie is torn. After all, he's seen how people react when they first see him. Oh, they try to hide it as best they can--but he can still detect their shock. After touring the school and meeting a few students (chosen by the principal), Auggie actually looks forward to starting his new school.
But then--it happens. The stares. The shocked glances. Most of the kids preselected by the principal as a "welcoming committee" don't really befriend him....except for one nice kid.
Except people are acting like they're afraid to touch him. Or even brush by him.
But then....Summer plops herself down in a seat next to him at lunch time. And she's way more than cool.
Sounds pretty great. Right?
Until Auggie overhears a hurtful conversation involving Jack, his supposed new friend. And Julian covertly bullies him. Ever meet a kid who puts on a good show for adults, but acts another way around kids? That's Julian.
But it's not all bad. Something truly wonderful happens near the end of the story, after something truly awful.
Something that will move you, and uplift you, and it's so not even contrived, or unrealistic, or anything that you might imagine. Because if you've ever had a child in your life that was similar to Auggie--either because of disfigurements or anything that immediately marks him/her as being different, really, really different--you know that there is the potential for a school community to rally around that child. Not every day, because teasing and bad behavior will probably, unfortunately, happen once in a while. But it can happen, and does happen.
Wonder will break your heart. But it will also move you in a way that's rare and extraordinary in middle grade stories. Wonder is mostly told from Auggie's perspective, but Via (his older sister), Via's friend, Miranda, and his new friends Jack and Summer also share their perspectives. Writing a novel with multiple narrators is risky, because there's a chance that mature characterization is lost when you split up the story. Not a chance here, because the multiple narrators actually enhance and deepen Auggie's story.
Although there are deeply sad moments in Wonder, this is not a maudlin story at all. Quite the contrary-this is one of the most positive, heartfelt, and life-affirming children's novels that I have read. Ever. It is extraordinary. You will love Auggie. And his parents. And his older sister, Via. And Summer. Even Jack--after you want to throttle him. And the principal. Mrs. G--the school secretary. You will remember it long after you have turned the last page.
Posted by Jennifer Schultz at Friday, March 09, 2012