Wonder – the story of August “Auggie” Pullman, who was born with a severe facial disfigurement, to whom we are introduced just as his parents decide to send him to school for the very first time. From the premise alone, we know we are in for a heart-wrenching read.
As it’s largely character-driven, it’s not really possible to actually spoil the plot, since you can already guess what’s going to happen – he’ll definitely get bullied, for a start. However, I will be going into detail about some specific scenes, so I’ll let you know when we get to the ‘spoiler’ section.
‘I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid. (…) I feel ordinary. Inside. But I know ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds.’
This book has serious cry factor. Everyone loves an underdog and you feel for Auggie from this very first paragraph.
Auggie is memorable regardless of looks: it’s his upbeat attitude that makes you care for him and want to keep on reading. I read this book in two sittings, but I would have finished it in one if I hadn’t forced myself to put it down and go to sleep (my boyfriend had more to do with this than me; he was making noises about the light being on). It wasn’t because I was desperate to know what happened next. I just wanted to spend more time with Auggie.
Then I promptly sat down the following night and read the whole thing again from start to finish.
>>Spoiler section starts here!
The first time I teared up was when Auggie got his hearing aids. Because of the shape of his ears, they are fitted to a huge, bulky headband.
‘Do I really have to wear this, Mom?’ he asks, starting to cry. ‘I hate them.’
Now, Auggie is usually such a brave little soldier that a line like this, where his vulnerability shows through, hits you right in the feels. But it’s OK – he puts them on and hears clearly for the first time, so he forgets the way that make him look like Lobot from Star Wars.
I hoped that this would be the end of my tears, but no, two more cry-worthy scenes were on their way.
I’ll pause here because I know what you’re thinking: why are you telling me this, Emma? I don’t care if you’re a cry-baby. What bearing does that have on how good the book is?
But I think it’s hugely relevant. If a book can make you feel things, really feel things, and make you bawl and sob and have mascara running down your chin, then that book has more worth than any literary classic. (Unless there’s a literary classic that makes you bawl and sob, of course.)
The next scene that got to me involved a dog. I won’t go into too much detail, because if you’re reading this section you’re probably all-too-aware of the dog, but suffice to say I was not happy. If you’ve read my thoughts on the first book in a particular YA trilogy, then you know I can’t cope with sad scenes about dogs.
Now I thought I’d got through the saddest part – oh, but wait!
Auggie goes on a school trip where he camps in a field with his peers and some students from other schools. He and his friend go over to some trees because of the long line for the toilets, and they run into some older kids. Their reaction to Auggie is horrendous:
”What is that?’ said the kid who was pointing the flashlight at us, and it was only then that I realised that the flashlight was pointed right at my face, and what they were talking about – screaming about – was me.’
In the scuffle that follows, Auggie loses his hearing aids. The moment when he realises that they are gone and when he starts to cry still makes me want to curl up in a ball and sob. (Seriously, I’m tearing up as I type.) He’s such a brave, uplifting character that the image of this little boy crumbling just does something to me. I get the feeling in my chest that I normally associate with humiliation or guilt – that feeling where, for a moment, the whole world just feels really grim.
(End of spoilers) <<<
Please don’t think this is a depressing book. It is not a depressing book. Auggie is always laughing and poking fun at himself, and his charm wins many students over. I did think the author was a little too optimistic regarding the kindness of ten-year-olds; I certainly don’t think Julian would have been the only bully left by the end.
I know some people have criticised it for being unrealistically uplifting, and I do agree that the ending went overboard. One thing I didn’t like much was the swapping between viewpoints. I had gotten a fair way through the story and was enjoying Auggie’s voice, when all of a sudden I was forced to switch to Via. Luckily I did ultimately enjoy getting an insight into some of the other characters, but I still didn’t need to know exactly what Summer, Justin and Miranda were thinking.
If you didn’t guess, I gave Wonder five stars. I would have given it more if Goodreads would let me!