Wonder by R.J.Palacio
Published: February 14th 2012 by Knopf
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Middle grade
“I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”
So begins the tale of August, a boy with a facial deformity about leave the safety of homeschooling to start fifth grade at an actual school. We get some insights to his appearance anyway and quasimodo comes to mind. It’s the focus of the entire book.
The book is about August and his challenges, but it changes narrators to the people around him, and still it’s mostly about him. And because it’s a children’s book, it works. Had it been a grown up book, I would have had many issues about this.
August talks about feeling completely normal, but we never get to see that. I didn’t once let go of the “problem” with August and see him as a normal boy, because I was constantly reminded that he was different.
It would have been nice to read some stories of August and everyone around him completely forgetting about his deformity. For isn’t it so that if you live with something long enough you stop noticing it?
I felt like August wasn’t allowed to be “normal” even by his own family, he was always treated differently. And while I don’t have too much experience on the matter, I would hope that people with challenges aren’t constantly reminded of their limitations.
But again, it’s a children’s book. And children have different focal points than adults so maybe this works better for the younger audience. Maybe it teaches them something, and I really hope it does. For around the core of the struggle in a nice circle are the people that care for and take care of August. I hope they learn to have compassion for others. For in the changing of the narrative, we see that everybody has their own struggle, no matter who they are. And that is something we should all keep in mind.
But of course it holds the fairytale happy ending where the “good” people get their reward and the “bad” people get their punishment. It’s written for the young ones after all.