Friday, June 22, 2012

Choose Kind--a review of WONDER by R.J. Palacio

Auggie is hideously ugly.

I’d tell you how, but it would ruin the book for you.  Let’s just say people sometimes audibly gasp when they look at him.  He’s used to it.  But, it’s still hard on him when he goes to school for the first time ever, and middle school at that.  As his sister’s boyfriend says, “Middle School is just about as tough as it gets.”  Will he ever make any friends who see him for the really, rather normal boy that he actually is, despite his appearance?  This is a coming of age story, not only for Auggie, but for the other characters in the book as well, which really gives the reader a memorable wallop.  Auggie might be ugly, but Wonder is a beautiful book.

Palacio uses many voices to tell Auggie’s story, and it works because she does it well.  In a soft, subtle, but definite shift, she creates a montage-effect with each voice leaving the story a little bit further ahead than where the last person left off.  More than her story-telling skill, I appreciated the “message” of the book.  Choose kind.  See humanity in the world around you.  Choose to be more than kind sometimes, go out of your way to do it.  I just watched the viral video of some middle school kids bullying a bus monitor yesterday, so this message renewed some of my hope.  At least in books, people really can be kind.  The deal is, though, that sometimes this type of message gets schmaltzy and downright preachy, so it’s easy for young readers to tune it out.  I think that’s where this book will differ.  Just when it’s getting too preachy, the voices change and the narrative barrels forward.  I would love to try this as a read-aloud with a fifth or sixth grade class to see their reaction.  It would make a good companion to Mockingbird, So B. It, Freak the Mighty, or any other novel that teaches us how to get along.  It's definite summer reading.  You won't be able to put it down.

Rating: 5 tissues.

Selected Awards and Reviews
No awards yet because the book is so new, but it will get some.  Mark my words. 

"Palacio's novel feels not only effortless but downright graceful, and by the stand-up-and-cheer conclusion, readers will be doing just that, and feeling as if they are part of this troubled but ultimately warm-hearted community"—Daniel Kraus, Booklist, 02/12

"Few first novels pack more of a punch: it's a rare story with the power to open eyes-and hearts-to what it's like to be singled out for a difference you can't control, when all you want is to be just another face in the crowd."PW Annex Reviews, 02/12 

Check it out on Amazon--incredible buzz and a nice book trailer, too!
Author's Website

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