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Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel
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Wonder

Wonder - R.J. Palacio Okay, I’ll admit it. I don’t normally read middle grade fiction, even as I begin the process of co-writing a middle grades book with a darling friend of mine (and another book blogger). Maybe it was her insistence that MG had stuff to discover that drew me to try a MG book, or the suggestion of this book from a friend on a website I commonly visit. All I knew going into this was that it made some people cry and that it was about a little boy with a facial deformity. Not my usual reading fare at all, but this book really surprised me.WONDER is about August Pullman, a boy beginning fifth grade and school for the first time. The reason? He was born with a genetic defect that left his face rather unsightly (according to most of the people he has encountered in his life). I did some research and, while never explicitly mentioned, I wonder if he has Treacher-Collins Syndrome or something similar. Google it if you’re curious! Anyway, August is starting his first year of school at Beecher Academy, where the kids have never been exposed to someone like him. The story is about his trials and tribulations, along with the experiences of the young people around him, as he makes his way through this brave new world and the life that awaits him.Auggie has never known any different than what he is. He was born with a strange face and grew up with it. People have always treated him like he was a monster, from little children to adults. But he is a strong character, powerful in mind and conviction. Being sent to school is something he is hesitant about, especially for the first few months, but he grows and changes – just as the people around him grow and change.The story is told in a number of points of view – August, his sister Via, schoolmates Jack and Summer, Via’s boyfriend Justin, and Miranda, Via’s old best friend. From these people, the story of August is painted, from the friendships he has to the experiences of what it takes to know and love him. As the reader, we’re exposed to every angle of the story, even though at least one POV wasn’t really necessary (Justin). The differentiation between narration also ignored me. All six sounded very similar in tone, although Justin’s POV was…weird.What I had a problem with in this story was the fact that the story was neatly tied up in a perfect bow. I won’t give things away, but the story became predictable in its message from page one. It’s a MG book and of course MG isn’t going to go down the dark road taken by adult stories. Oh, wait, does this spoil the story? Well, let me just say it’s predictable. End of story.This story did not shy away from the hard-hitting topics otherwise. Readers play witness to bullying, intimidation, fear, childhood drama, and medical conditions that drag the reader into the hard life our protagonist and his family has had. This story is touching, heartbreaking, and uplifting all in one.Oh, and I should mention that I actually cried. But it wasn’t because of Auggie himself. I won’t spoil the story, but it really struck a chord with me (the event) because the exact same thing happened to me.Even if you are not a fan of middle grade fiction, WONDER is worth a look. I believe most readers will enjoy this story through and through – the characters, the plot, the setting of a fifth grade full of turmoil. This was a great introduction for me into the world of MG fiction, and although I don’t think I will become a HUGE reader in the field, I do plan on trying to read more into the lives of tweens entering the world of middle school, which I admit, I personally enjoyed a lot more than high school.VERDICT: Touching and warming, WONDER is a unique take on something many fear to tread on. A must read for newcomers to today’s middle grade fiction.