The Appeal of Wonder
Some books are action-packed, compelling the reader to turn the pages, if only to find out what happens next. Other books are compelling because they invite the readers to engage with characters who are real, who come alive off the page, pulling the reader into their story. Wonder, a book for 9 to 12 year olds, is the latter kind; very little happens in the course of the book, and yet readers will find themselves affected by Auggie and his story.
Wonder: The StoryAugust Pullman (Auggie to his friends) is not an ordinary ten-year-old boy. He feels like one, and has the interests of one, but he has a condition that makes him different. And in an obvious way: it’s his face that isn’t ordinary. It’s the type of face that scares kids, that makes people stare. August is pretty good natured about it all: This is the way he is, after all, and while he doesn’t like it that people stare, there’s not much he can do about it.
Because his face has required many reconstructive surgeries, Auggie has been home schooled. But the surgeries are done for a while, and now August’s parents think it’s time that he goes to school, beginning with fifth grade in the fall. The idea of this terrifies Auggie; he knows how people react to seeing him, and he wonders if he will be able to fit in at school at all.
However, Auggie is brave,. He goes to school and finds that it’s much like he expected. Many people laugh at him behind his back; in fact, there’s a game called the Plague going around where people “catch” a “disease” if they touch Auggie. One boy, Julian, leads the bullying attacks; he’s the sort of kid whom adults find charming, but in reality, he is quite mean to anyone not in his group.
Auggie does make two close friends: Summer, a girl who actually likes Auggie for who he is, and Jack. Jack started out as Auggie’s “assigned” friend, and when Auggie finds this out, he and Jack have a falling out. However, they patch things up at Christmas, after Jack gets suspended for hitting Julian for badmouthing Auggie.
This leads to a “war” among the boys: the popular boys against Auggie and Jack. While nothing more than mean words, in the form of notes in the lockers, fly between the two camps, the tension between the camps culminates in the spring. There is a confrontation between a group of older boys from a different school and Auggie and Jack at a sleep-away camp. They are hopelessly outnumbered until a group of boys who were formerly against Auggie and Jack help defend them from the bullies.
In the end, Auggie has a successful year at school, making the Honor Roll. In addition, he gets an award for courage at school, which is not something he understands: “If they want to give me a medal for being me, I’ll take it.” (p. 306) He sees himself as ordinary, and in the face of everything else, he really is just that: an ordinary kid.