R.J. Palacio’s debut book Wonder was first published in 2012. The author was working as a visual designer and writing the novel at the same time. The book focuses on August, who suffers from a facial deformation that stopped him from attending a public school (Palacio, 2012). However, this situation changes when he enters the fifth grade at a mainstream school. Thus, the book explores the challenges August had to face being a new student and looking extraordinary. To fully reflect on the novel, it is essential to learn more about its plot, characters, and primary purpose.
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The plot of Wonder covers the experiences of August Pullman throughout his first year at Beecher Prep. August’s medical condition causes many students to ridicule and bully him. Two students who stick up for August, Jack Will and Summer, become his friends over the first semester. There is the conflict between August and Jack during Halloween when Jack is overheard mocking August. August is bullied more frequently by Julian as the semester goes on, culminating in an overnight field trip outside New York. During this trip, a group of seventh-graders attacks August. However, his classmates are now more accepting of August as just a regular boy rushes to his aid and protects him. The book concludes with August receiving an award for being “notable or exemplary in certain areas throughout the school year” (Palacio, 2012, p. 210). August, feeling happy, thanks his mother for making him go to school.
The protagonist of the book is August Pullman, a young boy who suffers from facial deformation. August, sometimes referred to as Auggie, is often mocked by his peers for his appearance. August has support from his older sister, Olivia, who sometimes feels ignored by their family. At school, August makes friends with two other fifth graders, Jack Will and Summer. Jack Will is described as “a totally normal-looking kid with curly blond hair” (Palacio, 2012, p. 133). August’s other school-friend is Summer, who he states “looked like her name. She had a tan, and her eyes were green like a leaf” (Palacio, 2012, p. 45). By the end of the school year, August and his friends have gone through conflict but ultimately remain friends. August is bullied all year by Julian, who serves as the main antagonist of the book.
The author presented a compelling message about the value of compassion, understanding, and acceptance. The novel stresses that it is crucial not to be afraid to be different. Children might want to bully other students because they view these individuals as unusual in some particular way. In Wonder, the main character is perceived as different because he has a health condition that gave him a facial deformity (Palacio, 2012). Thus, August looks distinct from other people around him. Unfortunately, in real life, similar to the situation in the book, many do not want to accept differences because they cannot understand them. Auggie’s appearance might look extraordinary, but he is a friendly, helpful, and fun person, which is a reason to emphasize with him. Readers need to remember that differences between people make every person unique.
In conclusion, Wonder by R. J. Palacio is a novel about a boy with a facial deformity facing bullying and finding friends. It covers themes of compassion, friendship, and being different. I thought the book was thought-provoking and emotional, effectively putting the reader in August Pullman’s thoughts and feelings. It made me reflect on negative reactions people have when they interact with those perceived as different.
Palacio, R. J. (2012). Wonder. Knopf Books for Young Readers.