Haley Saffren ’20 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Wonder is a heartfelt story about Auggie, a young boy who was born with a severely disfigured face. R.J. Palacio’s first novel has become so popular and critically acclaimed, it is now in theaters in an adapted movie version of the book. Wonder is one of those stories that everyone should take the time to read for many reasons.
While the themes in Wonder are important yet common, the methods used to tell Auggie’s story make these themes stand out with newfound significance. Auggie is born severely disfigured and is homeschooled by loving parents, it is not until he is about to enter fifth grade that he shifts to public school. When Auggie goes to his new school, the other kids are reluctant to get close to him because of his face and many tease and ridicule him for his appearance.
However, Auggie uses humor and honesty to connect with people and to try to make friends; his attempts are eventually successful. He soon becomes one of the most beloved students at his school. The common themes of judgement based on appearances and that true beauty lies within are illustrated not only through Auggie’s voice and experiences but also through the perspectives of many other characters in the book including family members, Auggie’s classmates, and friends.
This gives a fresh perspective and deeper honesty to what Auggie and others are experiencing as he tries to navigate fitting into his new world. This method of story-telling can be hard to pull off successfully, but, in Wonder, it manages to give nuance to the characters, explain the motivations behind some of their actions and behaviors, and give the reader better insight into Auggie’s life. The switch between perspectives is surprising at first because Auggie’s thoughts seem to be most vital to the story, but as the story progresses, the multiple voice perspective allows the reader to gain insight into the people in Auggie’s world and how they see and impact his life. Usually in stories told from multiple perspectives, the secondary characters are caricatures or fill in some blanks. In Wonder, these voices are essential to telling Auggie’s story effectively and positively. The reader not only will root for Auggie but also for the other characters as well.
The theme of bravery through acts of kindness in an often cruel world is also illustrated in the honest upbeat tone in Wonder without sacrificing the clarity or harshness of bullying. For example, Summer, who becomes one of Auggie’s best friends, decides to be nice to him when she sees him eating alone. Summer, who was already sitting with a group of friends, easily could have ignored Auggie but chooses kindness and new friendship. Wonder is a story about love and acceptance, whether it be the love of family or friends and the acceptance of circumstance. Auggie has a deformed face, but his family loves him unconditionally which helps him overcome some of life’s difficulties.
Another reason to read this book and see this film is the lighthearted tone it offers while conveying deep lessons. Yet, Wonder is not a dark, depressing story. It’s a simple story about a boy whose condition is quite unique, and, due to the support in his upbringing, he is able to go out into the harsh world and succeed. While there is plenty of bullying and backstabbing, the messages are expressed with honesty, sincerity, and humor.
Everyone, on some level, can relate without having personally experienced Auggie’s situation. What many do not realize is that a quality literary piece does not always require that something terrible happens to the protagonist. Sometimes, the impact is stronger through the positive aspects of the story and how the story is told. Wonder is not only full of positive messages, it also uses a style of storytelling that is not too dramatic with many voices involved. The result is the reader is invested in the story and in Auggie, rooting for him to the end.