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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

"Wonder" by R J Palacio

August was born with a deformed face; after endless plastic surgery he looks like a cross between the elephant man and a zombie: "I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse." (p 3) "I feel ordinary. Inside. But I know ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds." (p 3)

And Auggie has a challenge. After years of home schooling he is going to a real school. He has to face all the normal perils and pitfalls of young adolescents growing up and in particular the issue of no one wants to be my friend.

This is a delightful story about growing up, full of the language of young kids and the magic of their on-off relationships and their insecurities. But what makes it even better than the usual is that it is told from multiple perspectives:

  • August
  • His big sister, Via. She has problems of her own. And they are not helped by being Auggie's sister. "I've gotten used to not complaining, and I've gotten used to not bothering Mom and Dad with little stuff. I've gotten used to figuring things out on my own: how to put toys together, how to organize my life so I don't miss friends' birthday parties, how to stay on top of my schoolwork so I never fall behind in class. I've never asked for help with my homework. Never needed reminding to finish a project or study for a test. If I was having trouble with a subject in school, I'd go home and study it until I figured it out on my own. I taught myself how to convert fractions into decimal points by going online. ... My worst day, worst fall, worst headache, worst bruise, worst cramp, worst mean thing anyone could say has always been nothing compared to what August has gone through." (p 83) 
  • The girl who sat at his table at lunch when every other kid avoided him as if he had the plague
  • His best friend although the relationship is a bit on and off. Jack has problems too. He is very poor compared to the other kids at school and he desperately wants to be accepted by the cool kids.
  • Justin, the boyfriend of the big sister who lives half the time with his mum and half with his dad and neither of them seem to care (he avoids capital letters except for Names): "if it really was all random, the universe would abandon us completely and the universe doesn't. it takes care of its most fragile creations in ways we can't see. like with parents who adore you blindly. and a big sister who feels guilty for being human over you. and a little gravelly-voiced kid whose friends have left him over you. and even a pink-haired girl who carries your picture in her wallet. maybe it is a lottery, but the universe makes it all even out in the end. the universe takes care of all its birds." (p204). If it was a great idea having multiple perspectives on the action it was an even better idea to have a character who is virtually on the fringe of it all and who can therefore observe and pass judgement like the Chorus in a Greek drama. 
  • The big sister's best friend who loves Auggie even though she is no longer friends with Via.

In fact the other characters were often even more interesting than the 'main'.

A great read. May 2017; 313 pages

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