“Rat boy. Freak. Monster. Freddy Krueger. E.T. Gross-out. Lizard face. Mutant. I know the names they call me. I’ve been through enough playgrounds to know kids can be mean. I know, I know, I know”(Palacio 79)
Wonder, written by R.J. Palacio, published on February 14, 2012, switches from the main character’s view to other characters in order to give the reader an understanding of other people’s thoughts and why they were doing what they were doing. Palacio is not only an American author, but she’s also a graphic designer. She’s written several books and was awarded the “Goodreads Choice Awards Best Picture Books” in 2017 (Lansing). She writes about August, a 10-year-old boy that has been homeschooled his whole life due to health concerns and facial deformities. August’s parents planned to send August to public school for the first time due to him about to begin middle school (entering 5th grade). However, there’s no reason to believe August was prepared to find out just how mean kids can be. Via, August’s older sister, will stop at nothing to protect him from the cruel world and sometimes, even himself and his own thoughts. Julian, your typical middle school bully that will do whatever it takes to make August feel like he’s inferior. Jack, coerced by the school’s principal to befriend August, learns what it’s like to have a true friend, and learns the hard way why you shouldn’t let people’s words get in your way. Summer, a sweet girl who started hanging out with August because he was being made fun of and she felt bad, made a friend forever closer than any friend she had ever had before. This book is an exciting, eye-opening, and genius read because of the relatable situations the characters go through expressed by incredible foreshadowing, alliteration that teaches the reader an important life lesson, and an amazing use of hyperbole that cannot be forgotten easily.
To begin with, nobody is 100% healthy, well mostly. However, it appears one minute you’re reading about the health August has found lately and how it seems to be that he’s on the rise, but that’s when the author’s incredible foreshadowing takes you by surprise. Palacio forms a good balance between hinting at what is going to happen, versus what’s going to happen, and finding good times to insert her foreshadowing into the text seems to be her superpower. “The doctors think that eventually he’ll need…” (Palacio 67) highlights that maybe August isn’t doing as great as his perspective in the story made it seem. Via is good at being an honest person, she appears to take pride in it, so when she’s thinking about how her brother might need further care in the future and the readers come across that part of the text, it’s mind-blowing to learn that the healthiness August portrays and acts like he has, isn’t really the case. The author creates this effect in order to prepare the reader for good, or in this case bad news about August’s health as the reader continues to read. While this happened towards the beginning of the book, before you really get to settle into Palacio’s unique writing style, you can still pick up on the foreshadowing effect on what will happen towards the end of the novel. One question I have for the author over this effect of foreshadowing, is why does August continuously put himself last and continue to be almost excessively kind to others, when he’s dealing with so much himself?
In continuation, the author highlights just what August goes through whenever someone new looks at his face. Palacio explains how August believes that when people look at his face for the first time, they try to hide their reaction, but he can always see through it. August states that it’s so bad, and embarrassing that he would change it given the opportunity. “I would wish that I had a normal face that no one ever noticed at all” (Palacio 10). Palacio uses this form of alliteration in order to highlight that people take even the smallest things for granted. Not a lot of people would go so far as to wish they had a whole new face, but August wishes that he just had one normal aspect to his face. In addition, those who wish they had a whole new face would wish this because they want to be more attractive; all August wants is to look normal. Alliteration affects the mood by highlighting exactly what August goes through whenever someone new looks at his face but attempts to hide their facial reaction to seeing him for the first time. It makes him want a new face entirely. So, the author emphasizes that if August were to receive three wishes, he would use one wish on an entirely new face. This leaves the reader with a question of why. Why would August want to be anything but himself? He’s already incredibly smart, funny, and of course, a Star Wars enthusiast.
Furthermore, Palacio allows the reader to feel how August feels every time someone looks at his face. Due to the significant number of facial deformities August has, he’s obviously extremely self-conscious. However, he always tries to stay out of his head and be the best he can be every day. “Then that thing happened that I’ve seen happen a million times before.” (Palacio 20). The author uses this form of hyperbole to express that even when you do things that you might not notice you’re doing, others notice it. Also depending on how you act around others, you could destroy their mental health significantly. Hyperbole affects the mood by giving the reader a feel of how many times August must go through people making a reaction to seeing him. It scares them even when they try to pretend that it doesn’t, and while they try to hide it, he can still see them make the reaction. This could leave the thought of how it is that August has the continued ability to persevere throughout the hardships of school, bullying, and many other things, while struggling with his own facial deformities and self-doubts.
To finish things off, this book really was an exciting, eye-opening, and genius read, it had relatable situations the characters went through that were expressed by incredible foreshadowing, alliteration that teaches the reader many important life lessons, and an amazing use of hyperbole that cannot and won’t be forgotten easily. Obviously, those who are interested in how those with facial deformities live day-to-day life should read this book as it sheds light on how a child deals with it, all while growing up. I also highly recommend this book to people who want to know just how deep their words cut like a knife. Another group of audience I would suggest this book to, would be kids who are dealing with bullying themselves. August has a really nice way of looking at the bright side of everything and I truly feel as though it could help a lot of kids through hard times. However, with all the high recommendations, I would not recommend this novel to those who are sensitive. There are a lot of times in the book where I was holding back some tears myself and unless you want to cry over a book, not a good idea. Another reason why I wouldn’t recommend this book is because it could trigger a lot of childhood memories of being bullied, or having health problems themselves, or family members having health issues. This book is highly entertaining (and funny at times). Wonder has already been made into a film, which I have not watched, but I’ve heard very highly about it. Palacio went on to write The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story as a type of sequel for the readers to know what was going on in Julian’s mind, and his side of the story. I feel as though this book has a serious ability to change the way a lot of people think about those who are different from them, and in my opinion that is an extremely important lesson.
2017 Goodreads Choice Awards: Best picture books. East Lansing Public Library. (n.d.). Retrieved May 27, 2022, from https://elpl.bibliocommons.com/list/share/728940097/1108194287
Crowe, C. (2013). Responsive CLassroom. Retrieved 2022, from https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/wondercover-500×768.jpg
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Smchitt, K. (2019). Is your child the bully or the bullied. Retrieved 2022, from https://www.gannett-cdn.com/presto/2018/12/12/USAT/6d150a26-f655-40a5-8a4d-b39540761ffc-GettyImages-854198472.jpg
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