Monday, December 15, 2014

Wonder by R J Palacio

Wonder by R J Palacio has a lot to recommend it and it is easy to love. The story is about a boy, August, who has been homeschooled because he was born with a physical condition that has distorted his facial features.  So for August, this is going to be a very challenging year.  The novel is told through various first-person voices, beginning with August’s own.   Unsurprisingly, the other children are not quite sure of what to make of this new student and August has to learn how to navigate the complicated politics of being in a school for the first time.

The characters are all interesting and, give or take, well-rounded.  The narrative arch is good, with highs and lows, and the shift in narrative voices allows for the novel to take on more layers than it could, otherwise, if it were focused on August’s story alone.  Also, Palacio doesn’t isolate her characters from the adults in their lives so parents and teachers play pivotal roles in what happens to the younger characters.

My only reservation regarding this book, and why I probably won’t be giving it to Bibi when she’s old enough to read it, is that there are references to heaven and a belief in god.  Given that none of the characters actively practice a religion, the conversations about heaven and god seem sort of dumped in, as if the author was more comfortable with a cliché conversation rather than the integrity of the characters.  This may not be a flaw to others but I found it off-putting.

 That said, I would still give this book to my niece, who is being raised Catholic.  I found myself thinking about the characters after I had finished reading.  And if I found the climax a bit contrived almost bordering on deus ex machina, I nonetheless enjoyed this book and am eager to read 365 Days of Wonder.

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