Wonder (R.J. Palacio)

By R. J. Palacio

August is a 5th grader with severe facial deformities who has long since become accustomed to people averting their eyes and feeling sorry for him and generally just feeling uncomfortable in his presence. 

What he's never quite grown used to is the sting of kids screaming and running away from him on the playground, terrified that he is an actual monster.  

This is the story of August (Auggie) taking his first steps into "regular" school society...an utterly terrifying place for any kid.     

Via is Auggie's beautiful older sister who loves her brother but also struggles with the fact that everything pretty much revolves around August. 

Summer, Justin, and Jack are friends of the very best and very worst kinds who all play important roles in Auggie's first year at school. They also each serve as narrators at different points. 

I love the multi-narrator approach to telling a story, especially when each character has bits of enlightenment to reveal about one another. It takes considerable talent to pull it off, and Palacio does the trick rather well.  

My favorite aspect of the book is how it helps teens develop empathy for their peers. Auggie is every middle schooler in some ways, but so are Via, Summer, Jack, and Justin. They all suffer from Something that isolates them, but they also struggle with learning how to treat one another well...despite their own issues. 

And honestly, isn't that pretty much what life is about for us all?  

I loved everything about Wonder, and definitely plan to read it with some of my students this year. It is a work that would easily lend itself to life-changing dialogue among readers, and that alone makes it one of my favorites.  

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