Author– R J Palacio
Rating- 3 Stars
Wonder is a good book. It has a minimalist cover, which gives just the right theme to the book. The blurb is somewhat mysterious, which adds to the story as a whole. If you read it, you’re probably going to love it: it’s a very sweet, heartwarming story. Its original and relevant. The protagonist, ten-year old August is the kind of character that you wish you could hug. Born with severe facial deformities and home-schooled all his life, Auggie must now go to a real school and interact with other kids. It’s a sensitive issue, but R. J. Palacio handles it brilliantly. And on top of that – it’s well-written and flows nicely enough. But there were parts that didn’t go well, and I did have problems with it. However, please do keep in mind that my opinions are not very common, and the majority of people will probably disagree with my dissent.
I want to start off by saying that this book got under my skin a lot more than I ever expected it to. I thought that my major complaint (if any) would be that it was too light, too sweet. But this book has a lot of depth. It contains six (or more – I kind of lost track) points of view. The narrative is handed off relay-style from one pair of eyes to another, starting with August and moving forward to his sister Via and then to his friends. I think this was partly successful; although, (and this is just my opinion) I think that if you need to distinguish multiple POV’s using differences in spelling/capitalisation/fonts then you probably shouldn’t be writing multiple POV’s. However, Via’s chapter really hit home for me. It was written extremely well, and it really gave a fresh, new perspective.
However, I think that the main reason that I just could not connect with this book is that I fundamentally disagree with its central lesson, which boils down to: “be kind”. Through this book, I got a small inkling of what it must be like to deal with that for your entire life: a constant wave of kind smiles and soft voices and helpfulness; a constant blindness to everything about you. It says: you are not someone to be taken seriously, to be respected. You are someone to be pitied.
A recurring theme in the book is the precepts, which August’s English teacher, Mr. Browne, presents his students with at the beginning of every month. These precepts are often addressed in the story, and one of them, probably the one used to underline the overall message of the book, rubbed me the wrong way. It is the following quote by an American psychotherapist and author:
“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer
Now, don’t get me wrong: being kind certainly isn’t a bad decision. But should I really value being kind over being right? Should I tell lies not to offend a person’s feelings for example? Should I omit my own feelings in order to not hurt anyone else? Tell me, where would this concept lead us? Towards a better world? I somehow doubt it.
In the end, when I recapitulate the whole book, there are simply too many “toos” that come to my mind: the different voices were too similar (which is probably how all 10-year olds speak, but the author should maybe have stuck to 2 POVs), Auggie’s parents too good and too understanding, the “villains” too evil, the ending too perfect, the overall tone a little too preachy. It was mostly life-lessons, disguised as a plot. Then again, keeping in mind the target age-group, this is probably half-forgiven.
However, it has its charm, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a story about life, hope, kindness, and prejudice. It makes its point pretty well, and the message definitely resonates within.