Friday, December 5, 2014
Wonder, RJ Palacio
What a beautiful book!!!! Auggie is an 11 year old boy who is about to enter public school for the first time. He's been home schooled his entire life because most of his early childhood was spent getting many, many surgeries and recovering from them. He's had so many surgeries because of a cranio-facial abnormality. In laymen's terms, his face is severely deformed. He was born that way.
This story is told by many different perspectives. I had a little trouble following which point of view it was coming from, since there are a few different peers of Auggie's that get a section as well as his sister, her boyfriend, and another friend. Out of all of them, I felt the voice of the boyfriend was the weakest, although the type set was different which gave constant reminder who was narrating. It wasn't like that for anyone else.
Anyhow, this story takes you through Auggie's first year in public school, 5th grade, which where he's at happens to be the first year of middle school. Crazy! The earliest I've seen/experienced/taught, middle school was 6th grade, sometimes not even until 7th. But regardless, that age, 10-12 is a rough age. There are many, many mean and horrible things that kids do to each other. But along side that, there are many, many good and wonderful things kids do for each other. Sometimes they do them out of obligations-or at least that's how it starts-and some do it out of the goodness of their hearts. Some kids put on a great face in front of adults, but turn 180 when adults aren't around. And some kids learn their hateful-or at least hurtful behavior from their parents. I particularly loved the section that Auggie's sister told. How she grapples with labels of her past that she is trying to ditch as her first year of high school unfolds. How she's always been known as "The girl who has a deformed little brother" and has had friends too scared of his face to come over for play dates. She loves her brother so fiercely it's almost motherly, yet she has conflicted feelings about being associated with him. She's angry with herself for feeling this way, but can't seem to dismiss them as easily as she'd like.
I also appreciated how Auggie described things, such as people "not staring" or "smiling too wide" or "trying to hide their shock at seeing my face for the first time". As a person, it's sometimes near impossible to NOT have some sort of knee-jerk response to seeing something outside of the norm. And Auggie gets that. He knows people are not trying to be mean or rude, that it's just a normal reaction and he doesn't take offense. It's what happens AFTER that, that counts. It's hard sometimes not to overdo it and treat someone like that in a "special" way-they don't want that-they want to be treated normal. And the person in this book who shows the most perfect example of this is Summer. This character has a heart of gold and I just love her to death! She is not caught up in who's who, she's not caught up in what "crowd" she ought to be a part of. She does her own thing. She's friendly to everyone. She is the ONE person who goes out of her way to be friends with the kid who has "the plague" because she WANTS to. Not because she has some guilty conscious telling her that this is the right thing to do, or this is probably what she should do-although she probably did have an inner voice telling her it would be the right thing to do-the motivation was that she just wanted to be his friend. No ulterior motive. And it wasn't after she got to know him that she even breached the subject of why his face was the way it is. And Auggie knows those questions are innocent curiosity. And having people ask and him telling at least might stop the whispered assumptions that probably go on. I wish we could all be more like Summer-who can treat everyone the same-and that people who are classified as "different" were all like Auggie-not take offense to the tiny things that some people do-especially when they don't mean to offend and are obviously trying to do the right thing. I don't know a ton of "Auggie's" but a overwhelming majority have been a LOT like Auggie. There's just a few who have become bitter and have made it hard to be pleasant towards them and it has absolutely NOTHING to do with outward appearance!