“Set Aside Your Differences”
A Book Review of Wonder, by R.J. Palacio; Knopf: New York, 2012; $15.99
Just take a moment to imagine that you are a boy, about eleven years old, with a deformed face, caused by a syndrome so rare that it doesn’t even have a name! This boy, August Pullman, the protagonist of R.J. Palacio’s novel Wonder, has to endure the stares, gossips, and taunts of insensitive people. All August ever wanted was to be just like any other child, to be accepted by everyone else, to be able to go anywhere without being stared at like an animal at the zoo. Until the beginning of the story, August has never gone to school, because his parents are worried that he might be humiliated. Yet, finally, his parents decide August should get a chance to go to school. He is welcomed warmly by the principal, teachers, and staff, but most students detest him. Luckily, August makes some friends, but that doesn’t stop the other kids’ cruelty against him.
August’s sufferings make us reflect on how insignificant most of our problems are compared to his. We may feel anguished at not having a fashionable dress, or embarrassed at our weird accent, but August has to deal with issues far worse than all of ours combined.
Despite his misfortune, August demonstrates exceptional courage. He and a few friends get cornered by bullies who insult him with words like “monster” or “zombie boy” or even “ogre”. August tries to stand up to them, and that act of bravery changes the students’ perception about him. At the graduation ceremony, August wins the special Beecher Prep Award, which, at the end of the book, makes his dad tell him that how he got through all his ordeals was a wonder. That’s why the book has this title.
I think the book is extremely well written. The author captures the emotions of each character so well that I could actually imagine I was in that situation. I could picture myself as August walking down the street, feeling the eyes of everyone boring into the back of his head. I can imagine the knot he’s feeling in his stomach when he goes to school the first time at eleven. And I think any child can relate to the pain of being bullied.
Wonder has really helped me empathize with others. Before reading this novel, if I saw people with problems I would not be particularly involved. Now I think how hard it is for them to be in this situation, and hope that they can count on support, care, and affection. I have learned it is important to respect everybody for who they are. We are all different. Each of us is unique, and August’s strength has taught me to accept myself with my flaws and weaknesses. For all these reasons, the book deserves the many prizes it won. I recommend Wonder to anyone who likes stories without a lot of action, but with strong emotions and a touching message: never judge others by their face.