Reader's Corner: Wonder by R.J Palacio
Wonder undeniably lives up to its title. It’s wonderful in terms of its array of realistic, independent and thought-provoking characters, its simplistic, modern style with a Salinger edge- it's heavy in colloquial yet intimate dialogue- and in the journey of its protagonist, Auggie Pullman.
Auggie is a not-so ordinary ten year old boy who does ordinary things. In his words- he 'eats ice-cream, rides his bike, plays ball and has an Xbox'. He’s a Star Wars fanatic, something uncommon in ten year old boys. He has a nuclear family of four, plus their beloved dog Daisy, a childhood teddy bear named Baboo, which he hides in the closet, and a natural instinct to fit in.
Except, as the novel’s front cover points out in italics: “You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out”. Auggie stands out as an extraordinary child as he was born with a facial deformity, defined in the book as a craniofacial difference. He is considered a medical wonder for his unique, mysterious condition, has had 27 operations, and undergoes regular tests and trials which form part of his everyday life. Arguably the book's introduction, where Auggie in first person tries to justify he is ordinary by listing these ordinary things he does, sets an expectation and a question in the mind of the reader, that of what exactly is ordinary? This essence of the book is returned to again and again as we join Auggie on his way through fifth grade, challenging and moving the reader in so many ways.
As a creative writer, I find it so inspiring that this whole 312 page novel stemmed from a five minute experience Palacio had at a local ice-cream parlour with her two young sons. She told The Telegraph in 2012 that during this trip in New York, her family encountered a girl with what she now knows to be Treacher-Collins syndrome, a rare hereditary condition that affects the facial features yet leaves the child completely normal in every other way. Palacio panicked as she didn't know how her children would react and so she grabbed them and left, though it broke her heart to see the girl's mum's reaction. She describes this scene almost autobiographically in the novel.
|The main characters in Wonder|
|Me with the book cover!|
Palacio perfectly combines a weight of poignancy with an equal weight of humour and a lifestyle to empathise with, from clear depictions of family traumas that resonated with me as very close to home, to scenes of pure love. From reading this it is clear that we are meant to discover or remember that everyone is on life's journey together and we must help each other along the way. A book with so much charm, quirky little details, beautiful imagery and a main character you wish you could befriend- a must-read though don't forget the tissues.
|A quote featured in Wonder|