Life is filled with many things that are beautiful and ugly. Life can be easy and hard, sometimes cruel and yet sometimes full of compassion. The ups-and-downs are the beauty and the essence of life. It is what makes life and death meaningful. In literature, we often see this essence of life played out in a myriad of stories. To Kill A Mockingbird is one of these stories, and the others include The Hunger Games series and The Fault in Our Stars. And in this article, I present a children’s novel: the Wonder series.
Wonder was written by Raquel Jaramillo, under the pen name R. J. Palacio. The novel Wonder is about a boy named August Pullman with “Auggie” as his nickname. He (literally) faces a different childhood due to a medical condition resulting in facial deformities. It’s story based around how he copes with the deformities and how it affects his relationship with family and friends. Apart from his condition, he is a normal child with normal hobbies, and describes himself as a “normal kid.” He lives with his family, consisting of a selfless but love-starved older sister and two loving parents, who home-school and try their best for August.
We all know children can be cute and innocent, but again, this innocence can sometimes be a brutal honesty or just an outright menace. Auggie’s hardships in this story were caused by the cruelty of this children’s innocence, just because he was born with Treacher-Collins Syndrome. Through Auggie, the author shows us the novel’s theme about the importance of kindness and inner beauty.
Life is full of hardships and every living being is trying their best to survive in this world, but a little kindness along the way could help make life easier and worthwhile. That’s why we should be kind to every living being. Although in reality, looks and aesthetics do indeed matter, but, it isn’t everything.
Auggie’s mother believes that August should start living ‘normally’ and not be shut away from the world. She decides to take August out of homeschooling and enrols him into a private school Beecher Prep in hopes for Auggie to experience true friendship in real life. At first, Auggie tries to skulk through his school days without catching any attention from the other students. However, for the same reason he wants to lay low, his classmate Julian ends up bullying him for it. His mother’s goal of helping August develop friendship was not in vain, as he soon bonds with classmates Jack and Summer.
Through the school year August’s torment does not ease, the bullying gets increasingly harsh for August, Jack also receives harassment due to his association and defending of August, and Jack physically assaults Julian for the bullying of his friend. Alongside August’s story, his sister Olivia (Via) gets her story and character fleshed out progressively. While Via is a selfless and kind sister to her brother, she also faces her own insecurities. Via feels that she doesn’t receive the same kind of love and attention that her brother receives from their parents, and while she is kind to August, she isn’t comfortable with her friends or classmates who attend another school seeing August.
Via has an upcoming school play and pleads with her mother to not let August attend due to her insecurities of August’s condition affecting how her friends and classmates view her. August overhears this discussion and refuses to converse with his sister for a brief period of time before reconciling. Finally, through a series of Julian’s bullying, his ‘evil’ deeds are found out and the bullying stops.
Then Auggie’s school went on an end-of-the-year trip to a lush nature reserve for a three-day camping trip. August initially didn’t plan to attend this trip but changed his mind briefly after learning that his bully Julian would not be attending this trip. The trip goes well until a group of older students tries to attack the pair. However, Julian’s friends defend the pair from the attack, which leads to the group bonding with Jack and Julian’s friends…
The plot stops here! Although this plot does spoil the story, a lot of the details are still left out to prevent major spoilers and give you a chance to read this novel. 🙂
All in all, the Wonder series was a heartwarming read that might also be a tearjerker (if you’re an emotional reader like me!). Auggie was unfortunate to be born with deformities, and it made him stand out. However, Auggie was kind to himself and accepted himself for who he is. Auggie never let his demise stop him from making friends and living like a normal boy, thus his courage and kindness was indeed inspirational. Although, personally I think the author just wanted to tell us that no matter who you are, how you look like, or what you are, you’re just a living being who’s just living. In our case, we are humans who just needs love, understanding and kindness.
The Wonder Series also comes with two other books: Auggie and Me and 365 Days of Wonder. The books 365 Days of Wonder presents a little story about Mr. Browne and a collection of quotes. 365 quotes were collected by Mr. Browne by walking through his journey of life, as well as some by his students. Auggie and Me shows the perspectives of 3 characters: Julian, Christopher and Charlotte. These characters talk about what they did in the series and why the did what did. And here’s a quote for this article:
If you only hear one side of the story, you have no understanding at all.Chinua Achebe, A Nigerian Novelist
Written by Tan Jian Hong