FTWERA: Middle School, The Pure Kindness of Human Beings, Bullying, Family Ties, Multiple Perspectives

Wonder - R.J. Palacio

Wonder is technically a children's novel. It is located in the children's section of your local library. However, this book is so much more. 


August Pullman is an incoming fifth grader who was born with an incredibly strange facial deformity which sets him WAY apart from the other kids his age. Ever since he can remember, everyone has stared at him when he walked down the street. He has always been known for his face. In the beginning of the novel, his parents persuade him to attend Beecher Prep, a middle school for Advanced Smart Kids. This is the first "real school" he will ever attend. 


The story progresses as a tale of August's first year of middle school. It is told through the perspective of multiple characters, some very minor. This is an interesting addition to the writing style, as I was not expecting the POV change until the first one occurred, much less the multiple POV changes. I found it to keep me on my toes as well as tell the story in the most effective way possible. I loved the perspective changes.


As you can imagine, this book deals primarily with bullying. There are, of course, horrible scenes in which kids are just plain mean to August. In one tearful moment, August cries to his mom, "Why do I have to be ugly?" Seems hopeless, right?


However, the progression of the book both shocked and delighted me. The general kindness of people is put in a spotlight. From his very first day, a girl named Summer sits with him at lunch and proceeds to sit with him every single day. A boy named Jack sits next to him in every class and proceeds to become his very best friend. Throughout all the hardships, August still has kids to lean on. 


In the beginning of the year, kids are acting as if he has "the Plague;" they will not touch him and if they do, they must wash their hands within thirty second. During science demonstrations, they will stand on the other side of the beaker from him. August is isolated from almost all of the fifth grade class. 


However, they get used to August's face. The year progresses, and the games and jokes and stares die down. August is able to proceed with a pretty normal, if not extremely unpopular, middle school life. 


The best and most striking element of this book is the shift towards the ending. At the end of the year, the school goes on a camping field trip for three days and two nights. The last night, they attend a movie in a corn field with two other schools on field trips. Long story short, August and Jack find themselves in the midst of some seventh grade bullies who are very mean to August. Jack stands up to them, but he is too small. In that moment, three of the jocks who bullied August earlier in the year appear. One of them tackles the bully ringleader, and they all run away. It is apparent that a shift has been made. When it came down to it, the kids were there to protect their August from harm. 


The rest of the school hears of the incident, and they are all very sympathetic toward August. They are proud of his bravery. They are worried for his safety. Essentially the entire fifth grade class of Beecher Prep rallies in August's defense. These kids, who were so scared of him and his face just a school year ago, have found themselves protective over him.


My absolute favorite thing about this book was the way that it showcased kindness. Some of these kids were mean at the beginning, sure, but when it came down to it they did the right thing. They defended the little guy. They had big hearts. 


This book is absolutely fantastic. I would recommend it to anyone. It's a simple read, but more than worth it. Every single character draws you in and makes you want to give them a great big hug. This book will renew your faith in humanity. Beautifully and creatively written, gorgeous beginning middle and ending. 5.5 stars!