Book Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Posted March 5, 2023 by lomeraniel in Audiobooks, Fiction, Review / 0 Comments

Book Review: Wonder by R.J. PalacioWonder by R.J. Palacio
Narrator: Kaya McLean, Lila Sage Bromley, Dariana Alvarez, Santino Barnard, Ry Chase, Madeleine Curry
Published by Listening Library on 05-17-22
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Length: 7 hrs and 10 mins
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon/Audible
Overal Rating: three-stars

I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Beginning from Auggie’s point of view and expanding to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others, the perspectives converge to form a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope.

R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness”—indeed, every listener will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

I’m trying to read more about diverse characters in novels, and after reading great things about Wonder for a while, I decided to listen to the audio version. Wonder is a cute and sweet story about a boy born different due to a congenital defect. Auggie has undergone several surgical operations in his short life, but his face is still far from the norm. While it’s not mentioned at first, Auggie is also disabled, and during the second half of the book, he uses hearing aids.

Auggie has some difficulties in his first year at school, facing the expected challenges that anybody different will have to affront only for being far from the norm. The characters are not super developed, but what’s important here is the story told through August. I generally enjoyed the book, but had some mixed feelings at several points. For once, the story is borderline inspiration porn, and it’s based on an anecdote, not on lived experience. As I’ve said, I want to read more about diverse stories, characters inspired in real people, different lived experiences. And Wonder is sadly not this. The book was inspired by an incident about R.J. Palacio and her son stumbling upon a little girl with a facial deformity on the street. Palacio’s attitude was to attempt to remove her son to avoid an uncomfortable situation, which she felt guilty about afterward. I’d love to find out that the idea behind the book is more than this, that Palacio did some serious research, and interviewed people affected by similar disorders as August’s; but I didn’t find anything on the internet mentioning this, which is a shame. Maybe R.J. Palacio’s lived experience is in the book, but it’s not Auggie’s story. It’s the other children’s, the other parents’ story, but not Auggie’s.

It’s still a cute read, inspiring porn and all, with a clear message to spread kindness and look beyond what eyes can see.

The book is told from the perspective of six people, including August, each told by a different narrator. It was a nice touch, but their pacing and style were different, which took me some time to get used to. Some were better at interpreting and voicing different characters, but all in all, it was a solid narration.

Story (Plot)
Overall: three-stars