Auggie has been through more in his first few years on the planet than most people do in an entire lifetime. Born with a facial difference, he has had to endure endless surgeries and hospital stays. Up until now he has been home-schooled by his mother but things are about to change. Auggie is going to Beacher Prep and starting the 5th Grade. He’s wary of meeting his new classmates but Wonder shows that while children can be cruel they can also be encouragingly compassionate when adults aren’t.
The dynamics of Auggie’s family shift as he steps out into the world. His relationship with his older sister Olivia struggles as they settle into their new schools. Olivia has always been ferociously protective of her younger brother, confronting anyone she sees as a threat and her love for him is unconditional, but it’s put under strain when she starts high school. She doesn’t feel seen by others, is recognised because of her relationship with Auggie and high school is a chance for her to start fresh. It isn’t easy and when she has problems she doesn’t feel she can confide in her parents because compared with Auggie’s problems they seem insignificant. It’s heart-warming to see how they find their way back to each other by the end of the book. Auggie’s relationship with his parents also changes, and his mother starts to tentatively let go a little more.
Beacher Prep is only as good as the person in charge and Mr. Tushman is a kind, and compassionate man who encourages those traits in his students. He sees beyond what the children say and do, and gently tries to coax Auggie out of his shell. He handles problematic parents swiftly and diplomatically, and I cheered for him a lot while I read. If only every school had a Mr. Tushman. His friends Summer and Jack Will are also brilliant.
The frequent changes in perspective didn’t always seem necessary to me. I liked that we got to see what the other children were dealing with; Jack’s embarrassment at not having much money, Summer’s refusal to bend to peer pressure and Olivia’s estrangement from her friends. Justin and Miranda’s chapters didn’t have the same impact for me.
Wonder is a story about Auggie’s strength and tenacity. He never tries to hide who he is and his first year at Beacher Press is a lesson in how ungenerous we can be with our kindness but also how those small acts of compassion can make a huge difference.