I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the first Nosy Crow book club earlier this month and was so happy/relieved that the first title up for discussion was R.J Palacio’s Wonder. Already sat on my bookshelf and read earlier this year, I was more than willing to dive back into the pages of a book I thoroughly enjoyed first time round. The book group roundup can be found here but here are my thoughts on this incredibly moving book.
So many people have made the connection between Wonder and Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and, I think, rightly so. They are both very well-written novels giving a voice to the types of people society ignore because it’s uncomfortable or ‘against the norm’. However, Wonder is written for a slightly younger audience, with a protagonist who isn’t mentally or physically disabled but instead someone who looks different.
“I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”
This charming and uplifting tale is narrated through the eyes of ten year-old August (Auggie) and his friends and family. Each chapter brings a new narrative voice and therefore a fresh perspective, expanding the story beyond the perspective of the perceived ‘outsider’ Auggie. This narrative method allows the audience to really get to know each member of Auggie’s immediate world and how affecting and wide-reaching people’s opinions can be.
There were some instances, however, where the decision to include some characters voices seemed a little misguided. Interesting though they were, I was disappointed and left a little frustrated that there wasn’t more from Via, Auggie’s sister, or Jack, his school friend. But nevertheless the story does work really well as it stands and Palacio’s ability to create characters you really come to care about is utterly extraordinary. The opening chapter told by Auggie is particularly well written and gives the audience such a perfect insight to what life is like for someone who desperately wants to blend in but never can.
Any book centred on the importance of kindness and acceptance may be in danger of wandering into the preachy or overly sentimental and Wonder is no exception. Written for the 8–12 year-old market, some messages are rather more rammed home, particularly in the closing chapters, than most adult readers would like but I think for the age of reader this is aimed at there has to be some acceptance of this.
Wonder, despite a few minor faults, is still very moving and definitely had the power to tug at the heartstrings! Sometimes, in the cynical adult world, it’s incredibly refreshing to be struck by something as simple as the joy of kindness and Wonder examines that in abundance.
Towards the end of 2012, you couldn’t walk past a bookshop window without the iconic blue cover staring back out at you – it was absolutely everywhere! For a book centred on a little boy who is desperate to be accepted for who is he and not what he looks like, I found the huge exposure of this book and its striking cover (though thoroughly deserved) strangely ironic.