August Pullman looks different. Really different. Born with numerous facial abnormalities and in need of a string of surgeries in order to do simple things like eat, August has learned to ignore stares and gasps, secure in the support and protection of his family. Though he has been homeschooled so far, his parents decide that the first year of middle school might be a good time to consider trying out regular school. With the assurance that he can quit if he decides that he doesn’t like it, August agrees to begin grade five at Beecher Prep.
August’s experience at Beecher is presented as an extreme, but not a special, case. Several characters acknowledge that middle school is a difficult time for many. The emphasis of the novel is not so much on how August gets through the year, however, or even on how he grows in facing the challenges of middle school. Instead, the story demonstrates repeatedly that finding ways to help one another — through kindness, encouragement, friendship, and, yes, perhaps a well-timed tackle — is one of the best ways to get through any sort of difficulty.
Wonder is told through the eyes of several characters — August himself, his older sister, Olivia, and a couple of friends from each sibling’s school — offer new perspective on friendships, family relationships, and real and apparent betrayals. Though the tone of the novel is kept relatively light throughout, the narratives are genuine and full of understated insight, leaving readers to ponder the implications for themselves. While the ending felt too shiny and dreamlike to quite fit the rest of the novel, overall, Wonder is a rich and memorable story that explores people’s ability to be good to one another. Recommended especially for readers who enjoy character-driven stories.