Auggie, Via, Jack, Miranda, Daisy, Julian, and Bear. There are other characters, too: Julian, Mr. Browne, and Mr. Tushman. But these characters from Palacio’s novel Wonder are so true to life that you may say to yourself, “I know him!” and “Yes, that’s the way she is!” aloud. If you are like most readers who appreciate the story first and the artistry afterwards, I cannot say enough good things about this book.
Wonder is first of all a story. The protagonist is August, a fifth-grade boy living in New York, who is just like oodles of other ten-year-old boys. He likes to play video games. He loves Star Wars characters. He has a dog, Daisy, that licks him in the face because she loves him utterly. He likes to dress up for Halloween so that others cannot discern who is behind his mask. He longs to be accepted by his peers. He sometimes squabbles with his older sister, but loves her beyond words. He has stuffed animals on his bed still, but doesn’t want folks outside his parents and sister to really know that.
Wonder is secondly an exploration of tenderness. We readers get to see how fragile we are, not just as fifth-graders, but as people. We see how we jockey for positions—not just as middle schoolers, but as adults. Who will we sit with in the school cafeteria? Are people staring at us? Will people like us? Mustn’t we be cruel sometimes to get ahead? Wonder explores these questions in such a powerful way that my son, wife, and I all read it. And we all wept and laughed, too. If you think that sounds maudlin or overly sentimental, just read this book. Wonder recaptured for me the tenderness with which many of us were designed but that we’ve allowed life to harden.
Thirdly, Wonder reconnects us to each other by showing what courage and kindness accomplish. Palacio has created convincing characters here by revealing their sins and their glories. She shows how they failed at times to live up to what they nonetheless acknowledged was right. But haven’t we all? The author shows redemption in life, too. We see goodness in the world . . . not just evil. We see self-sacrifice, endurance, courage, compassion, and forgiveness.
I could go on and on about Wonder. Read this book, and be reminded of the capacities we have. You may relearn the greatness of some fundamentals; among them are courage, forgiveness, redemption, and kindness.