Palacio, R.J. Wonder. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.
Reason read: I know what you’re thinking. This is a book inspired by a Natalie Merchant song and I haven’t read it until now. How come? I don’t know. I can’t answer that except to say I knew it wasn’t written by Natalie and it wasn’t about Natalie. And then there is that list of 5,000 other books I promised myself I would read…So. Why now? Two things. Wonder is mentioned in Natalie’s video memoir and…curiosity got the better of me.
The back story to Wonder as I understand it is this: “R.J. Palacio” was leaving an ice cream shop with her daughter when they passed a special needs child. Palacio reportedly steered her daughter away from the other child to avoid an embarrassing situation. Maybe she was sure her child would blurt out something inappropriate. Her obvious avoidance ended up being more of an embarrassment to everyone. Subsequently, after hearing Natalie Merchant’s song of the same name was prompted to write Wonder. Which is why you find the song quoted in several different places.
Wonder is written from the point of view of ten year old August Pullman, a boy born with severe facial deformities. Auggie as he is known to his parents and older sister, was home schooled for health reasons through fourth grade. Now as a fifth grader he is about to enter Beecher Prep. Auggie is used to people staring at him but a school of over 500 kids is a whole new world and we all know how cruel kids can be. How August navigates through the triumphs and tribulations will Break Your Heart (to quote another Natalie tune).
Book trivia: Other characters tell their sides of the “Auggie story” including Olivia (Auggie’s old sister), Summer (Auggie’s true friend) and Justin (Olivia’s boyfriend). It’s interesting to have their perspective; what it’s like to have a special needs brother, what it’s like to always be the strong one, what it’s like to be that good friend. Etc. Etc.
Author fact: R.J. Palacio admits that is not her real name.