Wonder – Book review of an exquisite middle-grade novel

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RRKReads book review of Wonder

Namo Namaha friends, this year hasn’t been easy on any of us. It’s like the worst sci-fi movie written ever!! Yet to see a day without disaster this year. If not a pandemic then there are deaths due to suicide or there is an earthquake or two or there is a locust takeover.

Except for an alien invasion and a zombie apocalypse guess the first half of the year has covered most of the nightmares. I am bone tired of the news, the lockdowns, the fear, and the anxiety.

Not really a conducive environment for my reading. But, I tried to read. More to maintain my sanity than to complete any sort of goals. Though I did read a few books I absolutely couldn’t make myself write reviews for them. ARCs are languishing for want of a review but Nah! I am too out of my mojo to get back to the reviewing or even commenting on any fictional books, especially when real life is far fictitious looking than any fictional book I have read.

This rant doesn’t mean I am not grateful to be in a position where my biggest concern is: not being motivated enough to read/review books. As privileged as it may sound, I am aware that I am lucky and I am grateful for the graces that I am benefitting from.

Especially in times when people are losing jobs, losing family members to the pandemic, where every day is a struggle. I can only bow my head in gratitude that I still am in a condition where I can help myself and others. Small mercies and great blessings from the powers that be.

Apologies for digressing. Now, I will continue with the topic of this post. Believe it or not, this post wasn’t intended to be a rant post, but the current scenario got to me and I couldn’t pretend any longer that the world of which I am a part of doesn’t affect me. This book Wonder just reaffirmed that belief in me. We all are a part of this cosmos and everything we do affects others and everything else that happens in the world affects us. We are not an island. We need each other. Covertly or overtly we are part of each other’s lives.

Book Name – Wonder
Author – R.J. Palacio
Genre – Fiction
Category – Middle Grade
Year of publication – 2012
Publication house – Alfred A.Knopf
Goodreads rating – 4.45
Representation – Disabled representation (Facial deformity)

Wonder is the story of a boy named August who has a heavily disfigured face due to a serious birth-related syndrome. After years of homeschooling, his parents are convinced he’s now ready to attend the middle school. Initially reluctant August eventually finds himself liking his school immensely.

The challenges August faces for being different and how he manages to not only survive but also thrive in a deeply body-image based society forms the crux of the story.
This book has also been adapted into a movie (I haven’t watched it yet).

Buy your copy here

Ruminations

Ok. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but, every Parent, Teacher, Student, and Child MUST read this book. This novel blew me over. It was excellent. I flew through this book and honestly I didn’t want it to end.

August is the most awwwdorable character I have ever read. The pureness of his character was just muaaaah! I wanted to meet him, be friends with him and talk to him, that’s how realistic and fabulous his portrayal was.

What appealed to me?

1. Writing

I haven’t read many books with a disabled representation, but, I think the author did a pretty good job of representing the trials and tribulations of a person who has a disfigured face.

In a society that’s obsessed with a pretty face, how does it feel to be the opposite of what society expects as normal?

This one quote from the book broke my heart and gave away the single line of commentary needed on the state of the society:

Believe it or not, people would think seeing a kid in an astronaut helmet was a lot less weird than seeing my face.

The best part of the writing is the way the author lets the reader empathize with the character rather than sympathize with him.

Yes, the dual whammy of two rare syndromes ravaged his face but not his spirit. This is the reaffirming point made throughout the book.

The writing makes it clear that the kid’s face is different but underneath all that he’s still a kid, a very human, normal kid who has the same needs, insecurities, and questions as other kids. Different doesn’t mean undeserving!

I loved the easy, matter of fact writing style. No melodramatics, no sermons or lectures, no virtue signaling, no blaming, no shaming. The writing was as natural as it could be.

2. Characters

August is easily the best protagonist I have come across in books, in recent times. A child who’s loved by his family and that shows. I loved all the characters in this book, the sister Olivia, her friend Miranda, Jack, Summer, the parents. All strong enough to have their own subplots.

Honorable mentions to Daisy and Bear ❤️❤️❤️.

3. The Speech

I don’t want to spoil the book for you but my favorite part of the book is the speech. Oh! it was so good. I highlighted most of the lines from the speech. Some of my favorite quotes:

Shall we make a new rule of life… always try to be a little kinder than is necessary?

What a marvelous line, isn’t it? Kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed. Why I love that line, that concept, is that it reminds me that we carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness.

(Sob!) There, that line choked me up again.

What didn’t appeal to me?

The constant pop culture references made in this book irked me a bit, ok, I agree, it irked me a lot. The star wars references etc. were completely irrelevant to me. I haven’t seen a single star war movie. I don’t know anything about the movie nor do I care, hence the constant reference to it was distracting.

Conclusion

I bawled like a baby by the end of the book. I liked everything about this book except the pop culture references.

This book is high on my recommendations list. Buy this book, parents, and teachers!

Kids need more empathetic role models and examples. They need to learn about their privileges. In a culture of entitlement and rights, kids must learn about their duties and be more grateful. This book might be that tiny step in the right direction.

I have always been a fan of middle-grade books. This book has simply encouraged me to read more of them. Go for it, I assure you, you won’t regret it.

Review, recommendation, and rating

Heirloom – book worth treasuring and passing on as an heirloom

Without a question, this is an Heirloom grade book. It’s a book that parents, grandparents, kids, teachers, and anybody who has anything to do with Kids must read.

My GoodReads rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

So that’s all from me for now friends. Stay safe and healthy. Om Shanti.

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