Thursday, September 12, 2013

YAck Attack : Wonder by R J Palacio



Published February 14th 2012 by Knopf (first published 2012)
Add it - Goodreads
From Goodreads: I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?
Warning: This YAck contains spoilers...
Steph:  For the few of us that were reading this month, what did we think of Wonder?

Chachic: I haven't started yet!

Nicole: Me neither, which I feel terribly guilty about.

Heidi:  I am not reading this month, but listened to the audio a couple of months back for the Audies. I was NOT a fan, though the audio production was really good for all of the characters save Auggie. It was all a little too Pollyanna for me. I don't think 'be kind to others' is a bad message, I just think indicating to kids that doing so will make everything in their lives turn out great is wrong. As is the entire treatment of Auggie. I felt like he didn't struggle enough and didn't really care about people being nice to him because of HIM, he was perfectly willing to accept their demeaning him and treating him like a 'little buddy' rather than an equal and peer. I guess I can see why this one is so popular, but I think that the book should be a jumping off point for discussion rather than the discussion itself.

Steph:  I mainly agree Heidi. I did enjoy it but sadly found Auggie to be the most insipid character, I felt the author really underdeveloped him. The chapters from the POV of his sister Via and his friends were much more interesting and believable - I especially enjoyed Via's struggle with the attention bestowed upon her brother. The whole thing felt a little bit fluffy and patronising : (

Nicole:  I keep going to read this and then doing something else. These comments are not helping my inspiration! *stares at WONDER, sighs*

Steph: It is definitely worth a read I would say. I was just a little disappointed that such an interesting subject wasn't explored with a bit more realism. It's all a little too "kid triumphs over adversity" in parts. Loved the characters of his sister and his parents though, just felt slightly like the author was shying away when it came to Auggie

Heidi: Yes, I totally agree with Steph here in that the other characters are much more interesting and compelling to read about--they're the reason I really read this book.

Oh and *spoiler alert* can I point out that the tactic of KILLING THE DOG because the author clearly didn't know how to resolve the current conflict and wanted to distract us was HORRIBLE. I hate hate hate when authors kill the family pet for plot convenience.

Nicole: The dog dies!? *tableflip*

Melissa: I liked it... sort of. I didn't get the whole chapter from the boyfriend's point of view. And while I thought the message was good, it was a bit heavy-handed. I felt manipulated at the end. And seriously: are we that bad as a society to give awards to kids for just existing?

Melissa: I just went and re-read my review for it, and I actually sounded positive. Like it was actually a Good Thing. Huh. Maybe my memory of it has soured.

Janice: I'm still listening to the audiobook of this (but only on disk 3 of 7). I didn't like the voice for Auggie either, so I'm with Heidi on that. Still in the middle so opinion not formed yet.

Heidi:  I did like the other two narrators! Hope you do as well, Janice.

Holly: I forgot that I hadn't commented yet. This book has a serious case of overrated syndrome, starting with Auggie and the rammed-down-your-throat message. I didn't find Auggie's character realistic at all. Why didn't he suffer more? Why was he so cool and well-adjusted? And then the message as Melissa said, is not subtle at all and overly simplistic. Instead of being moved I was manipulated. I did like the chapters from the POVs of his "best friend" and his sister though. But WHY DOES THE DOG ALWAYS HAVE TO DIE?? Seriously, that is becoming a cliche in YA. And I'm not even a dog lover (don't shoot me!). I like them but I'm not obsessed. :D Overall WONDER was a big letdown for me.

Melissa: I didn't even remember about the dog, Holly. I think you're right though: enough with the dead dogs. (And dead moms.)

Janice: I finally finished it!!!! I was a little spoiled about the dog, but I HAD noticed suddenly all the narrators were commenting on Daisy's age so I was beginning to suspect anyway.
Anyway: overall I felt kind of .. eh, shrug, about this book. It was rather straightforward with a few parts that I thought went a bit deeper, but I think I agree with the rest of you in that I struggled a bit with Auggie's character. There were a few times where I felt his hurt (especially the Bleeding Scream chapter), but he never really seemed to really internalize what was going on. He would just move on very quickly. Some of me thinks this is believable because I remember being oblivious about a lot of things as a kid and not really getting things until years later, and I also felt like Auggie's parents' love shielded him a lot.
I think that if I'd read this when I was Auggie's age I would like this and take to heart the message, but as a cynical adult, the ending felt pat and I had trouble believing it. He was lucky that he lived a privileged life where his parents owned a home, and they had a dog and yard and his mom could stay at home etc. They were well off and Auggie got the medical care etc he needed. I wonder how different things would be if it wasn't that way and Auggie had to go to public school instead of one where the class size was 30 students. Even here I don't know if I could buy into how people felt about Auggie in the end.
So I think personal experience affects my reaction a lot! I think that makes me feel like, wow I wish I had more faith in people, but I guess I don't. My life isn't like Auggie's but I sometimes DO feel stared at for being a minority and I have to pretend not to notice. There's a lot of people being OK to your face but also not including you that happens. Multiplying that with Auggie's condition and I just don't buy the "if you are a good person people will see it eventually and like you" balm. Not really in Real Life.

Janice: (Also I pinpointed what I didn't like about the audiobook reading of Auggie's character - it was that it was done in this breathlessly excited tone the whole time. I don't know if it was to make Auggie this upbeat character, or what it was, but that constant breathless excited voice wore thin. Ug, I am a ray of sunshine about this book, aren't I).

Heidi: Yeah I believe in my review I likened the narration of Auggie to a Simpson's character.


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