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R.J. Palacio
ISBN 9780375869020
Knopf/Random House, 2012.
5 stars
Keywords: bullying community family friendship palacio school wonder

by R.J. Palacio

This extraordinary book makes you see the world differently.

R.J. Palacio’s debut novel, told through six different first-person narratives, forms a composite of what life is like for and because of 10-year-old August Pullman. When he was a baby, the doctors didn’t think Auggie would live. A rare genetic perfect storm occurred that “made war on his face,” as Auggie’s sister, Via, puts it. Via loves her brother, but she is also a realist. So is Auggie, as he makes plain in his own words on the first page, “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” Their bond forms the foundation of this inspiring story.

The book follows the academic year as Auggie, who will begin school for the first time as a fifth grader at Beecher Prep, and Via as she starts at the prestigious Faulkner High School. In addition to Auggie and Via, we hear from two peers of each of the siblings. We watch the changing dynamics as Auggie leaves the protection of home, as Via sees an opportunity to shed her identity as Auggie’s sister, and as both of them experience friends who betray them and perceived enemies won over to their side.

Things are not always as they appear, as Auggie will be the first to tell you. His presence in people’s lives acts as a catalyst to bring them face to face with themselves. And if they look deep enough, they find humor, courage and friendship. May this be the first of many books to come from R.J. Palacio.

This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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