‘I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.’
Wonder is the story of an extraordinary grade-school boy, August ‘Auggie,’ Pullman, whose extreme facial abnormality means that he can only fit in with the other kids on Halloween, when everyone wears masks. It’s easy enough to fall in love with Auggie, but the book moves on from him after a lengthy opening section and also takes us through the perspectives of other characters; his beautiful sister Via, who adores him but who’s always struggled with the dual pressures of being his protector and coming second all the time, and the children in his class who want to get to know him but fear the reactions of their peers. Auggie is such a tough little nut that at the one point he breaks down in front of his mother, I was weeping openly in a Tube carriage. I don’t think I’ll be the only one, either.
Wonder is perfect for young adults and almost made me wish I was ten or fifteen years younger so I could swallow it whole, whereas for an adult audience, the children’s voices aren’t always perfectly sustained and there’s a slickness that’s sometimes distracting; but if it does manipulate the reader, it does so in a way that a beautiful piece of music tugs an audience‘s tear ducts. It doesn’t lose itself in its many messages and fancies, either; the final word goes to Auggie’s eccentric teacher, who tells his pupils, ‘When given the choice between being right or being kind, be kind.’