The book WONDER is what it says

I just finished Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Oh, yeah, it is so good. Auggie, the main character (a 5th grader), was born with a facial deformity that makes him shocking to look at.  He’s surrounded by lovely parents and a good sister. They can’t protect him forever. 5th grade is his first formal year of school. Luckily Auggie is brilliant and reflective and funny. Yes, your heart breaks for this kid and had the story been constructed entirely from his POV that would’ve been true.

What makes the book totally killer, however, is Palacio (a nom de plume) allows just about every kid that matters in the book to speak. Auggie’s friends, his sister, his sister’s former best friend, his sister’s boyfriend. Each POV sheds a little more light on this world (and more understanding). Each adds depth, a new sensibility, a new perspective on a shared set of events, and a different pace. These different POVs work thematically (the theme is revealed so beautifully through different eyes).  They work to reveal Auggie’s true character (he’s not always aware of his impact and his strength). They work to engage and re-engage (each section change, when a new POV is introduced, is exciting).  Holy cats, all these POVs just work!  

In class, I sometimes warn against shifting POV.  I suggest students might be copping out, avoiding the pain from their protagonist’s eyes.  I suggest students will be sorry if they pull the story away from its center.  None of that happens in Wonder.

Why? How did Ms. or Mr. Palacio pull this off? (I talked to myself a lot while reading the book.) How!?

Oh yeah, the hero’s journey. Wonder is a great riff on that classic form

I wasn’t even aware of it.  I didn’t look for an act structure.  The mechanics of story were never in the open (until the very end).  But, Auggie, contained by a school year, gets the call, refuses the call, finally accepts the call, then plunges into a wonderful second act journey told by many (who reveal their own true character as they speak). There’s a beautiful nod to Luke Skywalker’s journey (a modern classic of the form) in act III.

Wonder is a wonder of classic structure, not just of character or POV. In fact, I think the experiment of the multitudinous first persons depends on that structure. Even as we’re given the asides of other kids’ lives, Auggie’s journey creates a central, gravitational pull that never gets lost.

Holy nuts, I love this book. I’d recommend it to anyone who can read English.



5 Responses to “The book WONDER is what it says”

  1. 1 Melanie Conklin November 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    I just reviewed WONDER this week on my blog as well! I knocked my socks off, too. Really inspiring stuff, for writers AND readers alike.

  2. 3 Pat Schmatz November 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    I loved it too. I am often annoyed by shifting POV but in this case, I was excited to move into each new character’s head. soso well done, and totally inspirational.

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I am…

Geoff Herbach. I am the author of Stupid Fast and Nothing Special, among a bunch of other stuff. When I'm not writing, I teach writing at Minnesota State, Mankato.

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