I'm sure at some point in our lives we've all made judgements about people based purely on their appearance, even if not as an adult (although I find that very hard to believe!) then most certainly as a child. Too short, too tall, too fat, too thin, dumb blond, fiery tempered red head, bad hairstyle, poor skin - the list of things people criticise is endless! As much as we've all made snap judgements I'd also be willing to bet that we've all been on the receiving end to some degree or another too so really we should know what it feels like being judged for something you can't necessarily change about yourself.
Remember that pain of being teased for not quite fitting the "norm"? Now imagine you're a 10 year old child, one who was born with severe facial disfigurements due to a genetic disorder, one who has suffered through the pain of multiple operations but still comes nowhere near close to looking like everyone else. Imagine that you've spent your entire life being stared at every time you step out of the house having people pointing at you, whispering about you, some even screaming in terror and running away from you. Now you have an idea about how Auggie has felt every single day of his life, not nice is it? How do you think that would shape you as a person? Would it leave you feeling bitter? How about depressed, miserable or insecure? I think I'd probably be all of those things but that is where Auggie is a much better person than I am!
Despite the problems he faces Auggie is one of the most positive characters you'll ever come across. He is absolutely beautiful in every way that is important and I dare you to read his story and not fall in love with him. Auggie has been lucky enough to grow up with a supportive and loving family and that shows in his bright and bubbly personality. He has always been home schooled but his parents think it is time he faced the world and learnt to deal with people's reactions to him. Watching Auggie bravely go to school and cope with the stares and taunts he receives is heartbreaking but seeing him slowly find a place and getting to know his classmates is beautiful. Inside he is a normal little boy who loves doing all the things other children his age do and as people get to know him they start to see beyond his looks to the person he is underneath.
Wonder is a stunning book and one that will stay with me for a long time. It is written mainly from Auggie's point of view but we also get to see things through the eyes of his sister and a couple of his classmates and discover first hand the effect Auggie has had on their lives. From the minute I picked up this book I didn't want to put it down. I was on a real roller coaster of emotions from sad to angry to proud and right through to happy. I adored Auggie, his family and his new found friends. I hated the students at school who teased him but I really loathed some of the adults for their attitude. It was easier to forgive a young child for a cruel remark made without malice than an adult who should know better. I was outraged on Auggie's behalf and wanted to climb into the book to protect him.
Anyone who has ever been bullied for any reason will automatically be able to relate to Auggie but what I think is even more important is that it will make people think about the way they act towards others. It will make you appreciate what you have and it will make you want to be a better person. If you're going to read one book this year make it Wonder, I promise you won't regret it. Whatever R.J. Palacio writes next will be going straight to the top of my wish list.