Author: R.J. Palacio
Summary (from Goodreads)
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?
I came across this book after the Staffordshire Young Teen Fiction Awards – in which it was nominated by kids as the best book of the year, and won. After receiving such a high accolade from its intended audience, I just had to read it.
Further praise was heaped on it on the cover, which said it was ‘destined to go the way of Curious Incident.’ So, my expectations were astronomically high.
I wouldn’t say I was disappointed by the book – I enjoyed it enormously. It was a really sweet, and sad, tale of August’s struggle to be considered ‘ordinary’ by his classmates during his first year of middle school. There was lots of realism – both in the cruelty and kindness of the children. Via’s entries were particularly heartbreaking as she talked about the balance between loving and wanting to protect her brother, and her desire not to be known as the girl with the deformed sibling.
The voices seemed authentic – though the particular quirks of certain narratives (Justin’s lack of punctuation, for instance) did occasionally make reading hard work. And unnecessarily, I felt. As a reader, I suspend my disbelief that a ten year old could write perfectly punctuated, grammatically correct English for their first person perspective. A lack of punctuation drew me out of the narrative rather than immersing me into it deeper.
Another reason this got four, rather than five stars, was that nothing much particularly happened. It was very much about how someone extraordinary coped with ordinary life. And there’s nothing wrong with that – but one of the reasons Curious Incident transcended target audience and became such a runaway success – in my opinion – was the power of the mystery story running in the background. Wonder had nothing like that, so though it was powerful and moving in its own, quiet way, for me it lacked that extra something to be a truly sensation book.
This sounds like I didn’t enjoy it – I did. I would recommend you read it next time you need a good heartwarming, because it is lovely between all the sadness. And I do think it was a deserving winner of the award – just not quite special enough to warrant some of the comparisons it’s drawn.