Sunday, September 30, 2012

Arty -- Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Ah, genreless fiction.  How you continue to surprise me.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school - until now.  He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be.  The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face.  But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

Simple.  For once, a summary is sufficient.

This book could have flopped many, many times, and it came pretty close a few times.  But, in the end, it was just really good.  Mostly because of Auggie, who I love.  

Auggie is... I don't know how to describe Auggie.  He's a normal kid, really.  He just has a twisted-up face.  He's happy, usually; he's friendly, he's funny, he's trusting.  He's just a really sweet kid, and by the time the book ended, I wanted to give him a huge, bone-crashing hug.

The emotional connection you make with Auggie helps carry some of the plot points that would have been cheesy if they had happened to someone less... lovable.  But Auggie is Auggie.  When he's sad, you're sad.  When he's happy, you're happy.  When people mistreat him, you want to punch them in the face.

Auggie is like everyone's best friend's little brother.  You just... take care of him, even though he's capable of taking care of himself. (And his obsession with Star Wars is adorable - he knows the story, as opposed to so many 'geeks' in genreless stuff who know Darth Vader and 'Luke, I am your father' but nothing beyond that.)

The othr characters are interesting, too - Via, Auggie's older sister, is a particular favorite.  We also get parts of the book from other characters' perspectives - Jack and Summer, Auggie's school friends, and Miranda and Justin, Via's once-best friend and boyfriend, respectively.  All of them were easy to like (except maybe Summer, she was a bit too perfect to be believable), and they all introduced different aspects of Auggie - living with Auggie, how the world treats people like Auggie.  They put the book into perspective.

The plot, which goes through Auggie's first school year, can seem a little long and winding at times - almost pointless - but every time it starts feeling like that, something else will happen, and the story sort of sucks you back in.  It's addictive.  I hated putting the book down because I wanted to see what came next.

Cons.  Sometimes Auggie sounded ridiculously mature for an eleven-year-old.  It was a bit jolting sometimes, when he'd act like a little kid and then suddenly come out with something 'old' and deep.  And, like I said, sometimes the plot got a little slow, or a little unrealistic.  But it's still so good, mostly due to the characters.

So, basically, Wonder is a wonder.  (Sorry, I had to.)  Read it.

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