Wonder - R.J. Palacio image

It would be pretty impossible to properly review this book without getting just a touch spoilery. I think I could actually sum up rather succinctly what it was that made this book only get three stars from me, and also what I'm sure will be many readers' deciding factor as to whether they will love it or not. Basically, you should love this novel if you like stories that end with this:

"It was one of those great June days when the sky is completely blue and the sun is shining but it isn't so hot that you wish you were on the beach instead. It was just the perfect day. Everyone was happy. I still felt like I was floating, the Star Wars hero music in my head."

However, if you're looking for the slightly less spoilery version, you'll have to settle for me talking about the tone of this book instead. Turn away now if you want to be completely surprised.

So... this is a book about a boy - Auggie - who was born with a severe facial deformity and, despite years of surgery, is still left with a face that scares small children and shocks adults. He has been homeschooled his whole life, until one day when his parents decide attending middle school may be an important step towards Auggie gaining some kind of normality. He faces the stares, name-calling and ostracisation that come with being different in school - only a million times worse than normal.

My biggest problem with this book is just how happy and uplifting it is. I know that sounds terrible, but I wanted it to be grittier. Someone like Auggie must have so much emotional turmoil but I felt it was lost amongst the happily ever after-ness. It was too sweet, too nice, too unreal. It's like that moment when Neville Longbottom gets those ten kind-of undeserved house points that guarantee Gryffindor the house cup... except it's far worse because Auggie's story is supposed to feel real, not like he lives in a magic castle and has just defeated a dark wizard. It was too perfect to believe in.

There are bad guys in this book, sure there are, but only one of them remains unredeemed and he loses his popularity. In other words: the good guys triumph and the bad guys get punished. I wasn't feeling it. It seemed so unbelievable to me that the only person who doesn't get a happy ending is the evil kid.

But three stars still means I liked it! This book was an entertaining page-turner and I had no problems with the really young age of the narrators. Yes, narrators, because the book switched between the point of view of Auggie, his sister - Via, Jack, Summer, Justin and Miranda... and by some miracle this actually worked! The only one I didn't enjoy reading was Justin's, I thought it was a bit of a waste of paper. Other than that, I liked reading about how Auggie's looks affected his relationships with the aforementioned. However, I still think some of the kids were nicer and more understanding than they would be in real life at their age.

And one last thing, this book did bring tears to my eyes but it had nothing to do with Auggie - be prepared for one surprising and upsetting part that I wasn't expecting.