Carnegie and Greenaway awards,  Little Book,  Middle grade

Carnegie and Greenaway: Wonder

R. J. Palacio
Wonder cover artMy name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.
August Pullman wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things. He eats ice cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary – inside.
But Auggie is far from ordinary. Ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go.
Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he’s being sent to a real school – and he’s dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted – but can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all?
Narrated by Auggie and the people are around him whose lives he touches forever, WONDER is an funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.

Wonder is quite frankly an amazing book that well and truly deserves its place on the Carnegie Shortlist. I read the book in a night and needed copious amounts of tissues as I neared the end. It should be made clear however that this is not a sad book, instead it is one that highlights the better side of human nature. Although the darker side does raise its ugly head from time to time, this book shows how human kindness can overcome it. Yes there are parts that are quite corny and twee, but I was left with such a feeling of hope after finishing the book, so much so that the corniness didn’t really seem to matter.
Auggie is the main character in the book, even when we read from the point of view of other characters. Born with a severe facial deformity he has had a lot to overcome in his 10 years. Previously homeschooled his parents decide to that now is the time he should start at mainstream school. Auggie is apprehensive but decides to give it a go, it’s not like he isn’t used to the way that people look at him. Initially ostracized there are a couple of pockets of light in the dark. In the end, despite the wishes of a boy who is obviously scared of being different, Auggie gains the acceptance of his classmates by showing a incredible quiet strength.
Wonder is written from the perspective of a number of central characters, all people whose lives have been touched by Auggie. I did miss the perspective of Auggie’s parents but at the end of the day this is a book for pre teens not for adults and the characters that they would wish to hear from are all covered. All points of view were written in the first person, but I always knew whose voice I was hearing. I liked the way that this was done, I don’t think that the book would have had nearly as much impact has it all been written from Auggie’s point of view as a large part of the storyline was how he, as a person, affected the lives of those around him. I also think that the decision to write the book in the first person was a good one. It is a very emotive book about a very emotive subject, the first person narrative reinforced this as the reader feels an intense emotional connection to what is going on.
I also liked the fact that although this book focuses on the better side of human nature, the ‘good’ characters weren’t perfect. Via sometimes resents her brother for taking her parents attention away from her and whilst she loves her brother doesn’t always want the hassle that being seen with him brings, their parents disagree on Auggie starting school, Jack gives in to peer pressure and talks about Auggie behind his back and Auggie does feel anger and resentment at the lot that he has been given. Had these characters not had these little imperfections then Wonder would not have seemed as real and I don’t think it would have succeeded in putting across the message that we should all take time to look at who a person is as that is what counts.
I’m not sure that it will win Carnegie, I think it may be a little sentimental to actually win the prize. It has however been a welcome break from the heavy darkness that can be found in some of the other books on the shortlist. And although I don’t think it will win part of me wishes that it would.
Verdict: A beautifully written, emotional book that give me hope for the nature of human kindness.
Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Corgi Children’s
Publication Date: January 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Genre: Coming of age
Age: Middle grade/ Teen
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None

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