Well, I am going to give a “scholar-type” book review here – Don’t complain I being too formal.
August Pullman is a 10 years old boy who is about to begin his greatest adventure in his life – Starting school. As he is borne with extreme facial differences, this makes his classmates discriminate and bully him. However, he successfully overcomes all the difficulties and gets through the whole fifth-grade. He finally gets the acceptance of his classmates and ceases to become a kid under his parent’s protection, which leads him earning the Henry Ward Beecher Reward, which recognizes him as a student who has displayed courage, kindness, friendship and character.
The biggest theme of the book, no doubt, is discrimination. August, of course, is the victim of constant discrimination. As he doesn’t have a normal face, various characters in the novel held their prejudice against August. For example, strangers trying to look away when they see him. At school, he is discriminated against by Julian and his gangs – They always think August is going to be a poor student and they repeatedly bully him. Some even go further, Julian’s Mom directly complains to the school director, suggesting August is a student which is “deformed” and has “special needs”. These all make me very sympathetic towards Auggie’s sufferings. He has already been going through a lot of hardships during his childhood: Frequent surgeries, shots, appointments. Doesn’t he deserve a standing position in the normal society too? In our modern society, people have already tried hard to stamp out discrimination. Well, we can see some success. For instance, sex inequality is now generally ceased to exist. Nonetheless, there are still many types of discrimination that lay unsolved. In August’s case, physical deformity. Also psychological disabilities like autism, people’s race and also people’s religion. People with these characteristics are still getting discriminated against. We have to combat this prejudice, accept the fact that everyone deserves to be equally treated, starting by yourself.
Another problem the author, R.J. Palacio also highlighted is bullying. Bullying is a universal issue in school life. In the novel, even Jack and Summer, which are normal, also get picked and teased. It confirms there is no doubt August will also be a target of bullying too. Bullying seriously undermines a child’s development, if a child is being bullied too much, there is a chance it will lower his esteem, worsen his academic performance. In serious cases, it would lead to drop-outs, just like August nearly does. Many schools today (also includes August’s school) have implemented many stringent schemes to solve the bullying situation, however, most of these anti-bullying attempts to go unsuccessful. Why? Because the bullies always find ways to dodge the punishment, and some bullies don’t even mind being punished. This shows that the problem lies in the bullies themselves. If they stop, there will be no bullying and the problem will the bullying issue be solved immediately. The obstacle is: How to make the bullies stop?
Bullying is only one of the problems students will encounter in their school life. Another is friendship. Friendship is supposed to be good, isn’t it? In Wonder, characters sometimes gain friends and sometimes lose them. Friendships sometimes establish close, healthy bondings, but sometimes result in conflicts and separation. For example, August and Jack are good friends in the beginning but immediately broken up after Jack being accidentally mean towards August. This particular theme doesn’t only apply to August. Via, August’s older sister, is sidelined by her friends too. R. J. Palacio highlights how Via is badly affected when she starts to go to a new school. (Just like August does!) Via has broken up with her childhood friend, Miranda. The complication on why Miranda breaks up with her, aroused her desperation and anger. It is important to know that friends are undoubtedly essential in surviving school. Without friends, no one will support you when you are in need. Many do aware of this, like Julian, who uses various “forceful” ways to gain support from his classmates. Friendship is very vulnerable bonding, friends come and go. To prevent losing friends, one must demonstrate great qualities. Charlotte’s (August’s friendly classmate) percept is, “It’s not enough to be friendly. You have to be a friend.” What is the most important quality to be a good friend then? I think it is kindness.
Mr Browne’s (August’s English teacher) September percept states, ” When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” Summer faces this situation: She can choose to be right, which is to join Julian’s group, and reject August just like most of her classmates do. She can choose to be kind, which is befriending August. She chooses kind, which leads to the start of a great relationship. Her kindness gains her a good friend. Her action shows being kind is the first step of all dealings with other people. Being right may not be the right thing to do, sometimes being kind is.
Mr Browne’s December percept is, “Fortune favours the bold”. You may have heard this saying before. It means good things come when you are brave. In Wonder, August demonstrated in numerous moments: He is willing to go back to school after Via’s advice, accepting the death of his dog, facing a group of older bullies. We can notice August becomes increasingly braver throughout the novel. To a boy which has faced more terrible sufferings and unkindness than anyone had ever been before, we should see August as a role model, which can be brave when facing anything.
R.J. Palacio has used a unique organisation model in the novel. She uses the first-person point of view – but from different characters’ perspectives. For instance, part 1 is from August’s point of view, which let us know how he feels about his facial differences. Part 2-5 immediately changes to other people’s perspective, showing how other’s people thoughts about August. Part 6 briefly turns back to August, concluding his school life and also highlight the incident of his dog’s death. In part 7, R.J. Palacio puts more emphasis on the conflicts between Via and Miranda. From Miranda’s point of view, we now understand why Via and Miranda break up, further highlighting the hardship in surviving school. At last in part 8, it shows August’s bravest moments, then bringing the story to the end. This organisation model accurately presents the character’s feelings. Careful readers may be aware that some of the important characters like Julian, doesn’t have a chapter himself. This gets the reader to think about the reason why Julian bullies August that much.
August’s postcard percept reminds us this, “Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life because we all overcometh the world.” Everyone has the right to success, no matter how you look or who you are. We have to express our bravery while achieving our goal, and out down our prejudice while others are achieving it too.
Wonder is a very good book. The book discusses many universal issues about today’s youth. The book is for all ages – Everybody, ranging from kid to elders should read it too.
The book is adapted into a film.