Wonder by R.J. Palacio follows the chronicle of a 10-year-old boy named August “Auggie” Pullman struggling through life as a child with a rare physical deformity. The award-winning novel published in 2012 is R.J. Palacio’s debut novel. It is told from the perspective of multiple characters, primarily that of the protagonist Auggie.
In the novel, Auggie lives with his parents, his older sister Via and his dog Daisy. The genesis of this story is set when Auggie’s parents decide it is time for him to stop being home-schooled and attend a mainstream school from the fifth grade. Auggie enrols in Beecher Prep, an affluent neighbourhood private school where he meets characters that change Auggie’s life including Mr. Tushman, Jack, Julian and Summer.
The story reveals the experiences of each character and their ups and downs of life from feelings of acceptance and friendship to the realisation of betrayal. It is the kind of book that can bring tears to the readers from having them laugh and believing that despite the ruthlessness of the world, there’s always a reason to smile. The novel will also change the way that readers view the world and make the truth of the fact that kindness triumphs above all.
Thematically, the story is rich in nature and encourages readers to think more critically about perspective. Some key themes explored in the novel are:
Kindness: Featured prominently in this novel as many of the characters’ struggles in life are linked to the unkind responses of others. As the story progresses, each character and those surrounding them learns the important lesson about how essential kindness is.
Acceptance: School can be a ruthless place full of children who are quick to pass judgement to those that stand out from the crowd. Auggie’s differences are evident the minute he arrives at Beecher Prep and despite the adversity of being bullied by his peers, they grow and develop throughout the novel, accepting Auggie for who he is. As these children spend more time with Auggie, they start to realise that his outward appearance has little to do with who he is on the inside.
Relationships: Life has been unkind to Auggie and he experiences the struggles of unkind relationships that ultimately defines a part of the challenges he faces throughout this story. Despite this, the most important aspect of life which Auggie is blessed by is the fact that he has a loving, supportive and caring family and network of friendships that gives him the strength he needs to get through the obstacles in life.
These powerful themes are embedded seamlessly in the novel Wonder. Wonder is an influential coming-of-age-novel which will make you think about and consider the world around us. The EXL Team recommends Wonder for readers of all ages and find it to be especially suitable for students as it provides meaningful opportunities to stop, reflect and grow.
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