by R.J. Palacio
Ten-year old Auggie starts fifth grade after years of being homeschooled. He was born with severe facial anomalies that required years of surgery- and his appearance is still so disfigured that strangers often recoil in horror or shock on seeing him- even if they\’re trying not to. He\’s used to the stares and remarks, but understandably gets frustrated because on the inside he feels totally normal. He\’s smart, funny, sometimes whiny and stubborn. Going to school is hard. Some kids are nice or polite to his face, but say things behind his back. Others are outright rude and mean. One particular kid tries to turn the whole student body against Auggie, making up a game where anyone who accidentally touches him is contaminated. Sounds really juvenile, but it\’s very hurtful. Auggie does find a few real friends, and in a nice surprising turn of events (nice because I thought it would turn out much worse), draws even more good friends to his side when at a school outing he\’s harassed by some older kids. Meanwhile his parents are trying to avoid being overprotective, his older sister is dealing with her own issues at high school and some resentment at all the attention Auggie gets- the extra care and support from her parents, and the negatives she fears from her peers. I wasn\’t expecting the book to have alternate viewpoints- from those of Auggie\’s friends, his sister, the sister\’s boyfriend, etc. It was nicely done and showed a lot of empathy for how Auggie\’s condition affects all those around him. And how his humor and spirit inspires them. I did find the closing scenes with the speeches a bit- overdone- but some very nice sentiment. A book I\’ll gladly put into my kid\’s hands.
I found out there\’s a sequel Auggie and Me, which tells the story from three alternate viewpoints- a childhood friend and two classmates- which I\’d very much like to find at my library (now open again!)
Rating: 4/5 315 pages, 2012