It’s very rare for me to be lost for words. Ask any of my friends. It’s more of a challenge to shut me up quite frankly! But now that I’ve come to capture my thoughts on this book, I find that I am. It was just that good and I know that I’m not going to do it justice; that I can’t possibly even scratch the surface. But here goes anyway, because you just have to read it and as I can’t justify reading it again so soon (even for a book nerd like me) then at least I get to relive it a little by writing about it.
To give some context – as I’m 43 so probably not the target audience for this book – I bought Wonder to read with my 10-year -old son as I’m trying to cultivate the same love of books that I have, in the hope that creative writing and all things the written word will come easier to him. But when one of his teachers commented that it was quite a mature text and I then saw the trailer for the movie, I thought that I’d read it first so that I could prepare for any challenging themes that he might need help to understand. And I’m so glad that I did – to have the book to myself before I had to share it – but am now worried that if I try to read it aloud that I’ll cry.
Because I can’t remember the last time that I’ve cried so much when reading a book; the scenes with August’s dog took me right back to losing my Irish Setter as a young girl – and it was devastating – and the graduation ceremony at the end was heartbreaking. Wonderful but sobs catching in your throat kind of heartbreaking!
So, aside from the tears and making me feel every emotion under the sun, what did I love about Wonder? I absolutely adored August and his family; how much love they have for each other, and how much hope, positivity and humour they surround themselves with, despite such adversity. As if you’re not familiar with the story and haven’t spotted the trailer, August was born with facial deformities which has led to a childhood spent in hospital having innumerable operations and being homeschooled by his mum; when we pick up the story he is about to go to school (middle school) for the first time and we experience that first year with him.
I love that the story is narrated from different perspectives and that you get to see Auggie through his own eyes as well as from different kids’ perspectives, getting an insight into their thoughts about somebody who is different; about their fears and their need to fit in and say the right thing, have the same view as everybody else. You also get to live the story through the eyes of the overlooked sister who has sat forever in his medical shadow and then bitterly hates herself for wanting to protect her new identity at her new school; longing to be just Olivia and not Auggie’s sister, the kid with the weird face.
I loved the school and the teachers (particularly Mr Browne and his wonderful precepts – what an awesome teacher!) and how the book ended with one last illuminating look at his classmates through their precept choices, particularly Julian’s, ‘Sometimes it’s good to start over.’
What else can I say? Read it read it read it..and then read it with your kids as they need to learn these lessons and ask questions and know that it’s okay to be different; that it never matters what we look like, it’s always about who we are.
I will be recommending this to everybody. It’s clever, tender, beautifully written and devastating. And it makes you realise, as so many things should, that we are so lucky, that we can get through anything together as a family and that we must moreover always choose kindness.