Wonder: tearjerking novel is an inspiring meditation on kindness

RJ Palacio's new book Wonder is a middle-grades novel about August ("Auggie"), a young boy born with severe facial abnormalities who, at the age of 10, leaves the safety of his parents' homeschooling and begins attending a New York private school. August has cleft palate, no cheekbones, asymmetrical eyes, and other deformities that are caused by a rare genetic disorder; he has spent his life going in and out of surgery, beating the odds and surviving. He is smart and engaging, but also sheltered, immature, and terribly frightened of human contact.

Wonder's story unfolds through a series of point-of-view jumps, beginning in Auggie's head, then shifting to his sister, his friends, his sister's friends, and then back to him. It is through this device that Palacio manages to produce a story of intense action and intense introspection, a series of interiorized monologues that show the frailties and foibles behind each of Auggie's trials and hurts. Thus, Wonder becomes more than a story about a poor disabled child who overcomes bullies to find acceptance in school -- instead, it's a beautifully told lesson in empathy that requires that the reader find sympathy for each of the principle actors in the story.

Palacio is a wonderful storyteller and her characters are bright, well-rounded and intensely likable. Wonder is a beautiful book that is full of sorrow and triumph, emotional without being manipulative -- highly recommended.


  1. Thanx for that post.  I don’t find too many fictional books that I want to read from cover to cover. I rely on trusty recommendations, as in someone who would read The Salmon of Doubt for the fifth time, rather than give Twilight a go.  I have a suggestion as well.  I got this book for Christmas, and I read it in a couple of evenings.  The book is: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  It’s not long, so not a huge time investment and reads very quickly.  It takes place post WWII in the UK, and reflects on Guernsey during the German occupation, but that is not what the book is about.  The story is about human spirit and how we all have the same basic needs, but our reactions to the same events can be so different.

  2. My daughter was born with a bilateral cleft. She’s 11 now, and recently told me that some older girls at her school made fun of her lip. This is actually, and thankfully, the first time it’s happened (because, I suppose, her deformity is not *that* bad and her personality always endears her to people). It infuriated and saddened me. All I could think to tell her was that those girls were jerks and that no one has the right to make fun of *anyone* over something like that.

    I’m wondering if this book might be good for the two of us. If it might be something that would be like a “it gets better” thing for her.

  3. > August has cleft palette

    A cleft palette is quite common (to accommodate the hand). A cleft palate, perhaps?

  4. There’s actually a trailer for the book that stars my nephew, tho you never see his face (which is, in reality, normal & cute) nor features his voice, but check it out nonetheless: http://youtu.be/QOXDD3atWco

    1. There’s a fantastic documentary/short special  about children auditioning for Peanut’s voices. Your nephew could be a definite shoe-in for Charlie Brown. 

      Now that I think about it, I can’t   recall  ever seeing a high quality video advertising a book, like a movie trailer; this one will have this book flying off the shelves. 

  5. “(which is, in reality, normal & cute)”    Words fail me.   Somebody please explain to the cute nephew’s uncle.

        1. And where, pray tell, did you see me do so? I said my nephew’s face is normal (which it is) and cute (which it is). THAT IS ALL I SAID. It was you who took “abnormal” to mean “not cute.” You may wish to examine your own prejudices before you indict mine.

  6. “Wonder becomes more than a story about a poor disabled child who overcomes bullies to find acceptance in school ”

    And the cynic in me thinks that’s *exactly* how a hollywood version of this book would be sold…

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