Thursday, 26 April 2012

Wonder





I was intrigued by this book from the first time I heard about it. The rather fascinating premise about the central character being a boy with a severe facial deformity. The many glowing blog reviews that I've read. The vaguely Clockwork Orange cover (not that I've read that either). I bought it the first time I saw it in the shops.

It is a fascinating premise. August Pullman is an ordinary boy. He likes icecream, to play on his Xbox, and he is moderately obsessed with Star Wars. He feels ordinary inside. And yet he's extraordinary too. August has a rare genetic condition that has given him an unusual appearance. He is 10 when we meet him. He has had 27 operations. He had a tracheostomy. Auggie has been home schooled by his mother because of all his surgeries and medical treatments. Now he is 10 and about to start school for the first time. Yet, despite all his surgeries people still stare and shy away. When he was younger he spent nearly two years wearing an astronaut helmet near continually. Halloween is his favourite night of the year- because everyone wears a mask that night, and noone stares at him.

I think the only person in the world who realizes how ordinary I am is me. 

Brilliantly told through multiple narrators (I do love the multi-POV, I really do). In 8 sections we hear from Auggie first, then his sister Via, some kids from school Summer, and Jack, Justin (Via's boyfriend) , and Miranda (Via's friend). Each narrator moves the story of Auggie's first year at school along. It's a great technique, and works well here. August has an engaging first person voice. I liked him from the first page.

We are left to imagine Auggie's face for quite some time. It is only through his sister Via that we finally see him as he appears to others. She takes over a page to describe his face. And it's over 100 pages in before we are given a name for his condition, although we're given a rather long, medical descriptive name. Debut author RJ Palacio says on her website in a great page of annotations that if she had to give a name to it, she would say that Auggie has Treacher Collins Syndrome, complicated by another syndrome that "made war on his face".

Wonder is a moving account of Auggie's first year at school. It is quite the page turner. I read it in just a few days. While it is a great read, ultimately, Wonder is a plea for us to be kinder to each other. There is a marvelous quote in the final pages of the book from J.M Barrie's The Little White Bird:

Shall we make a new rule of life...... always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?


2 comments:

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

What an intriguing story about this child and I agree with you about the effectiveness of multiple POVs. Your quote and the theme of this book should make us think, passing the message to our kids and grandchildren.

Bises,
Genie

fiction-books said...

Hi Louise,

I have heard nothing but good things from the blogging community about this book, so the author is obviously doing a great job of getting the message out there.

I also like to read a book which is told from several different viewpoints, especially if like this story, a book is well suited to that format.

I also enjoy a book which goes back and forth in time, although this has to be good and done well, or the whole concept can go terribly wrong and just end up as a confused mess.

Glad that you enjoyed this one, I still have it on my list.

Yvonne