Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Wonder~R J Palacio | Review

Title: Wonder
Author: R J Palacio
Genre: Middlegrade Contemporary
Length: 316 Pages
Release: Feb 2012

It's unpopular opinion time.

I wanted to love this book, I really did. And honestly, I expected to love this book. Maybe that was the problem, maybe I let this get too hyped in my head and expected more than it was. Maybe it's just that I'm in a weird reading mood. Maybe the audio made me like it less than I would have otherwise, I don't know. All I know is that I didn't love this book like so many others do. 

This book follows a boy named August who, due to genetics that cannot be controlled, doesn't look like other kids. He's had many surgeries to improve the function of certain portions of his face and head, but he still doesn't look like everyone else. And that makes him odd. To some it even makes him scary. So we follow, through the eyes of six different characters, August's first year in a school with other kids. It's fifth grade (which I guess is middle school in New York) and not everyone is kind. 

I liked the premise, but I was not a fan of how the story was laid out. It's told in first person from six different perspectives, as I mentioned. Of the six, we probably get the most page time in August's head. Then we have his sister Via, his friends Summer and Jack, and Via's friends Justin and Miranda. And honestly, August was my least favorite perspective of the six. It makes sense to show his insecurities, because everyone is insecure at some point, and looking different and being noticed would obviously be hard for a ten-year-old, but August felt too sorry for himself. And that never seemed to change as the story progressed. There was too much self pity for me to connect with him. From the eyes of the others this wasn't that noticeable and I actually did enjoy his character. Jack was my favorite perspective, I had a lot of fun in his head. 

Everything in the story is focused on August. And I know that's the point of the book, to show his adjustment to school, the way that people react to him, and to highlight the good and the bad sides of humanity, but it felt too focused on him. This is a personal thing, but for me the story would have been more powerful had it not focused so much on August and instead told a story around him. Obviously the way it's written works for most people, which is great, but for me it lessened the message when it made it seem like everyone was always talking about, thinking about, and worrying about August. 

And maybe the environment that I grew up in was just very different, but I had a hard time believing that everyone would react the way that people reacted to August. Yes, bullying exists, and yes, I have seen it in action, but it was still hard to picture all of these people, adults and children alike, having to do a double take, unable to hold eye contact with him, refusing to talk to him, and calling him names. Yes, all of those things happen, but the scale seemed very heavily weighted toward that mindset in this story.

One of my goodreads friends, I can't recall who at the moment, mentioned in their review that this was too sweet, and I have to say that I agree. It's a good message to teach--not everyone is the same and we shouldn't hate because of those differences. At the same time though, this was a little over-the-top for me. Sometimes things don't go well, sometimes people don't like you, sometimes people are jerks and there is nothing you can do to change that, but you have to learn take it all, the good and the bad. 

This isn't a horrible book or a bad book, it just didn't work for me. It has a powerful message and I think that it's important to remember to be kind, no matter what. There are some things about us that we can't control, but we can decide how to act. 

I know this was made into a movie and is being released later this year, and I'm actually interested to see how they adapt it. It seems like some of my personal issues with the style of story telling might be negated in translation to film, so I'm interested to see how the two compare for me.


  1. Yes! I totally agree. I thought I was the only person in the world who didn’t love this book. I feel like a horrible person for not liking it, but the ending is sappy, and I just couldn’t handle it. Great review!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. We are definitely in the minority here. But yes, it was far too sappy. The entire book really was, honestly.