KidSpirit

A Review of Wonder

The PsycheMedia

There are kids in my middle school, like in every school, that just don’t fit in with the crowd.

Some are disabled. Some have a mental disorder or a facial disfigurement. They are hidden among the other children at school, camouflaged and unnoticed. Students don’t bully kids who are different at school, but no one makes an effort to invite them to hang out or sit with them at lunch. When I entered my new school last year, I was so engaged with the people around me that I never noticed the hidden children. There was a girl in my social studies class named Alana who always had an aide with her. She had tangled blonde hair, was a little overweight and wore the same loose jeans and baggy sweater almost every day. You couldn’t tell when she was smiling; her mouth was always positioned in a half-smile. She sat with others in her assigned seat and no one talked to her except for her aide. Not a single student dared to be rude to her, so she remained as invisible as a ghost.

I don’t know what disability or disorder she had. As a new student I jumped around lunch tables often, once landing on hers. She sat on the far edge while I chatted with my friend across the table. We began discussing the popular band One Direction and she jumped in. The discussion eventually changed to plans for high school. She slowly sank back into her seat, mumbling, “I wish I could change middle schools first.” I might have been the only one who heard it, because I was the only one who seemed shocked. When I glanced at my friend, she shrugged. As my friends brought up a new topic, I couldn’t focus on my lunch. Why would Alana want to leave this middle school and start over? After that day, I began noticing these hidden children.

The first day of school is a nightmare for every new student. Last year, when I started seventh grade in a new school and a new town, I felt like the third wheel for a long time but I wasn’t one of the hidden children. Although I didn’t have any firm new friends, I brought myself into friend groups even though it felt awkward to tag along at first. I remember walking down the halls, watching friends scream with delight when they saw each other. I know from experience that new students often feel they are invisible, but in reality everyone notices their presence. When I was new everyone was foreign to me. I couldn’t classify anyone as popular, nerd, geek, or friendly. As I looked for friendship, the hidden kids came into focus. Soon I was able to tell who was ignored and who was praised. After a few months, the invisible kids kept becoming blurrier until they were unnoticeable specks in the hallway.

These experiences wandered my head as I read the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio.

In Wonder, August Pullman, the main character, was born with a facial deformity. He had been homeschooled all his life because of all the surgeries he had to fix his deformity — 27 to be exact. August thinks of himself as completely ordinary on the inside, but he knows he is the only person in the world who thinks so. His parents think he is extraordinary, his birth doctor fainted at the sight of him, and the kids on the playground run away from him. The summer before fifth grade, August’s parents decide he should start going to Beecher Prep, a private middle school in Manhattan, because he needs to experience the outside world and learn more than his mother can teach him at home. August is terrified. He was used to people trying to hide their reactions when they saw his face. August knew that young kids didn’t understand the effects of their words, and in fifth grade kids say what they mean.

Throughout the book, August adjusted to school. It was a lot like he imagined, with people laughing behind his back and calling him names. From my experience as a new kid, some kids just blend in with the background after a while, but as August said, “You can’t blend in when you are born to stand out.”

Students who touched August sometimes claimed they caught a disease, but they feared teasing him directly. As the reader might expect, August did not have many friends. His principal assigned three kids to help him: Charlotte, Julian, and Jack. They faked friendship with him around adults and didn’t really seem to care. Halfway through the school year, after August had endured his classmates’ snarky remarks, some of the students change their harsh behavior towards him.

Throughout the book, the author switches narrators, from August, to his teenage sister, Via, to their friends. These shifts in point of view enlivened August’s life. They showed what people thought of him when they glanced at him, and what it was like to be an out-of-the-ordinary boy’s best friend. While it was compelling to learn Via’s feelings about August and August’s new friends, some points of view were unnecessary and they decreased my interest in the book. In some sections, I felt frustrated that I couldn’t figure out how August felt.

Wonder was a fairly easy book to read with understandable words for middle schoolers. The author uses great words to describe the students’ feelings. And I liked that the author was very straightforward in the book, pulling us through August’s challenges in middle school. However, she gave me no reason to sympathize with August and some parts of the book were heart-breaking. The author expresses how August knew he was an ordinary boy on the inside and that made the book more inspirational than upsetting.

I gave Wonder a 4.5 rating. It is a book which inspires kids to stand up for who they are. Wonder is sanguine, humorous, and life-affirming. It can affect the reader in a positive way. The author expressed all her thoughts in this book very well and presented some important life lessons, such as don’t judge a person by his or her face. I think the book is titled Wonder because of the last sentence in the book, when August’s mom bends down and whispers, “You really are a wonder, Auggie. You are a wonder.”

After reading the book, I realized the hidden kids in my school are prevented from being exposed to all of the other students. No one knows the special needs students in my school because they are excluded by most students, who avoid them, and protected by their aides.

Books like Wonder are important in helping people understand that everyone should be given an equal opportunity to play a role in school. I recommend this book to readers of all ages because it can teach everyone a lesson about tolerance and can change their perspective on people who seem different. I believe the book is aimed mainly at middle school readers because they experience what August felt in the book; though people of all ages would enjoy it as well. No one can develop if they are separated from others. Everything that someone does impacts someone else and no one is self-sufficient. Just as in the line from the poem August reads in English class: “No man is an island, entire of itself.”

Vanita Sharma is a 13-year-old 8th grader at George Washington Middle School in Ridgewood, New Jersey. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, writing short stories, and reading fiction. She is interested in astronomy and plans to watch the next lunar eclipse.

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