Wonder by R.J. Palacio

  1. Did you like the way R.J. Palacio told the story from alternating viewpoints? Why or why not?  I appreciated being able to ready about August’s world from different viewpoints, but actually would have preferred more viewpoints, especially from some of the important adults in August’s life, like his Mom & Dad, Mr. Tushman, and even Julian’s mother.  The alternating viewpoints seem to create a more complete picture and allow the reader to more easily understand all the characters instead of just August.  One aspect that I particularly liked, especially since it struck me as quite realistic, is that Jack Will was so against the idea of being August’s “buddy” in the beginning, but slowly came around and eventually ended up becoming August’s best friend.  I can relate to this – there are so many things in life that happen this way.  As a child, I was a remedial math student…then in college I excelled in the subject and by college, it was my primary field of study.  The most difficult experiences in life end up being the opportunities where we grow and learn the most; where we truly get the most out of life.
  2. What parts of the story made you particularly sad?  I remember being so sad for August when he cried and said to his mother, “why do I have to look like this?”  It highlighted how powerless he felt over the significant challenge he deals with every day.  Particularly being so young and impressionable, I felt so sad for him.  Being that age is difficult enough – kids are especially mean!  Any child that has to deal with an additional challenge like August did must have to grow up quicker than others.  The bright side is that kids with challenges like his probably appreciate the truly important things in life at an earlier age and have more meaningful relationships because people have to truly fight for the friendship, in the face of adversity.  I appreciated the idea that the author brought up a couple times about how even though some people are dealt a difficult hand, the world has a way of providing strength and support for those people – in August’s case, in the form of support and friendship from so many people in his life, even some of the most unexpected people.  Another part that was particularly sad was when August overheard Jack saying he was only hanging out with August because Mr. Tushman told him to.  I felt the hurt that August must have felt when one of the few people he trusted the most seemed to betray him.  I am not surprised that August took it so hard – I probably would have taken it harder than he did!
  3. What parts of the story were funny or made you laugh?  I loved when August would make fun of himself!  It showed a healthy confidence, despite his condition.
  4. Which characters did you relate to? What kind of middle schooler were you? How are you now?  I related to Summer because I remember befriending a girl at a young age who I saw a lot of people ostracize, but that was earlier than middle school, probably closer to 4th or 5th grade.  In middle school, I had soul-crushing crushes on boys that were just out of my reach because I wasn’t quite cool enough.  I probably journaled a lot, spent a lot of time thinking about band, and always did my math homework first.  I wanted desperately to be cool but I knew where to draw the line, which was miles from the line that made you cool.  I loved playing piano – those moments alone, practicing and being creative, where probably some of my most peaceful moments.  I’m sure I cried a lot – I was a sensitive kid.
  5. If you have kids, did you find yourself feeling parental feelings toward Auggie — anger toward other kids, a sadness that he couldn’t be protected, etc. Which passages evoked the most parental emotions from you?(Example: when Auggie and his mom come home from meeting Jack, Julian and Charlotte before school starts, Auggie tells his mom that Julian said “What’s the deal with your face?” He says, “Mom didn’t say anything. When I looked up at her, I could tell she was completely shocked” (34).  Even though I’m not a parent, I did relate to August’s mom a lot and would understand feeling a lot of the same feelings she did – appreciation for such an amazing kid, worry, feeling the need to protect him and scared that that couldn’t always be done, and a feeling that an abundance of love is the prescription for a kid with medical challenge to grow a healthy confidence in himself.
  6. Which passages reminded you of your own youth?  I related to Via feeling like she was second in line after August, but for different reasons.  I wanted her parents to see how she felt next to August but happy that she got her chance in the spotlight at the play.  As a kid, I often felt that my brother’s opinions and sense of humor were so prized and glorified but my personality traits (admittedly not as entertaining) were not often recognized or held in as high esteem as my brother’s were.  I related to Via’s justification – how she realized that August needed more attention, so she accepted it and tried not to allow it to affect her that she was not given the same attention from her parents as he was.  My justification was always that my brother simply had more entertaining talents – he was always smarter, funnier – so it was natural that he received more attention, especially at the dinner table.
  7. All year the students learn “Mr. Browne’s Precepts” and then write their own over the summer. What did you think of these? Do you have your own?  I LOVED August’s precept!  And Amos’ too.  I loved the quote that Mr. Tushman said during the commencement speech about we should all make it a new life rule to be kinder than is necessary.  If I had to choose a precept, that would definitely be it.
  8. Did you think it was realistic that Amos, Miles and Henry would defend Auggie against the bullies from another school?  Not entirely, but I think there are stories like this out there.  Sometimes exceptional children like August will breed an exception circumstance and kids surprise others and probably even themselves.  I’d love to think this happens often, but I know it doesn’t.  I guess that’s why it’s such a special, heart-warming story – it doesn’t happen all that often, but when it does, it’s really amazing and touching…and I think it makes us realize how infrequently things like this happen and how sad that is.
  9. Did you like the ending?  Yes, I cried a little when he got the standing ovation and then I had a big smile on my face when his mom called him a wonder.  So simple but beautiful.
  10. Rate Wonder on a scale of 1 to 5.  I would give this book a 4.  Unique, heart-warming story.  Above average.
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