YA Highway's Blog Lovefest for Valentine's Day, I thought I would probably skip it this year, since a subject didn't spring to mind. Then about five minutes ago I finished Wonder by R.J. Palacio.
This is, in short, an amazing book. On the surface, it is about a boy named Auggie who was born with a perfect storm of birth defects affecting everything from his facial features to his hearing. After spending his childhood being home schooled due to his extensive surgeries leaving him hospitalized much of the time, he finally joins a regular school for the fifth grade. He feels like a normal kid inside, but he looks anything but. Naturally, this leads to many new challenges for him and his classmates, both friendly and not.
That's the plot. But that's not what this book is really about. It's about the connections people make (and fail to make) with each other. It gently unfolds to encompass the web of Auggie's influence and the hearts and minds of those he touches. The narration is so subtle and so sweet, seldom going where you expect it, that the powerful emotions contained inside will sneak up on you. While it might officially be middle-grade fiction, I would put this up against the finest of adult literary work. This book is special.
I'll leave you with a quote, but with one caveat. If you are already going to read Wonder, stop here. It will probably be better to encounter this organically, in context. If you still need convincing, see if Justin's words from page 204 can help:
"no, no, it's not all random, if it was really all random, the universe would abandon us completely. and the universe doesn't. it takes care of its most fragile creations in ways we can't see. like with parents who adore you blindly. and a big sister who feels guilty for being human over you. and a little gravelly-voiced kid whose friends have left him over you. and even a pink-haired girl who carries your picture in her wallet. maybe it is a lottery, but the universe makes it all even out in the end. the universe takes care of all its birds."
Wonder is published by Knopf Books for Young Readers and retails for $15.99 (hardcover). I got my complementary copy from the publisher (although this review was not solicited or otherwise compensated). You can get yours at Left Bank Books today.