R.J. Palacio’s debut novel Wonder addresses difference, acceptance and kindness

How is one supposed to live their life normally when anyone who simply glances at you ends up screaming in terror?

In R.J. Palacio’s debut novel, Wonder, she tells a heartfelt tale of ten-year old August Pullman, who was born with a facial deformity that has prohibited him from having any semblance of a normal life, much less able to have a normal schooling experience. After years of being home-schooled, he is enrolled in middle school at Beecher Prep, where he is exposed not only to the daily tribulations of children turning into teenagers and the particularly mean streak that comes along with it, but to the relationships that can be created when one is finally able to accept others for what they simply and truly are.

We find in August an endearing main character: a sweet, humorous, and intelligent boy obsessed with Star Wars, but who is also just as easily hurt even after he has seen all sorts of horrified reactions directed at him. The story is told through different points of view, including that of August’s older sister Via, her boyfriend, her former best friend, and several of the children that August meets at school. The shifting narration allows for the reader to understand clearly how others perceive August, not just how he believes they see him, and the reasons as to why they behave towards him the way they do. The voices are clear, and believably honest and distinct enough to recognize each character as an entity of their own. They each help August’s story move forward by adding to his character growth from the beginning to the end of fifth grade, up to his ultimate realization that he’s not ordinary because others do not see him that way.

Although Wonder is a fairly quick and easy read, its strength lies in its power to draw out raw emotions from you. Simple lines will make you laugh, will make you cry, will make you yearn to protect all the characters from any kind of harm. It is a book that does not fail to emphasize the importance of acting with kindness, not as a vehicle for our own self-convenience, but simply because we can choose to do so.

You can learn more about R.J. Palacio at: http://rjpalacio.com/

And make sure to check out http://choosekind.tumblr.com/ where you can pledge the Choose Kind Initiative.

Maria Perez

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