Wonder by R. J. Palacio (2012)

I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old. I mean, sure, I do ordinary things. I eat ice cream. I ride my bike. I play ball. I have an XBox. Stuff like that makes me ordinary. I guess. And I feel ordinary. But I know ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go (p 3).

August has many facial deformities. Coddled by his parents and protected fiercely by his older sister, August has been homeschooled until now. With his unique features, Auggie’s transition to middle school begins with a series of bumps: the kids stare at him, no one will touch him, and one boy is particularly cruel. But friends emerge and Auggie is ultimately glad of his decision.

Palacio uses various narrators to tell Aggie’s story giving it a wholesomeness I enjoyed. But as I read this as part of my system’s Mock Newbery club, I judge it by higher standards. It did not move me the way Gary Schmidt’s Okay For Now did nor did the writing impress me as Dead End in Norvelt did (both were last year’s contenders for our group). I do believe it will resonate with middle grade readers. While the main character’s condition is rare, all will relate to the awkwardness of middle school, social anxiety and parental troubles explored in these pages.

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