Wonder - R.J. Palacio
I have been really stymied on what to rate this. It is a well written story with decent characters, but there are some issues and it dips into some gimmicks that I generally hate.I want to be able to give this a higher rating. I think if it weren't for certain aspects I would have given this five stars. Right now I'm thinking it's somewhere between 3.5 and 4. I easily rounded it up to four because the story itself was good. It was the best middle grade/YA I've read in a long time, though that may not mean much because I don't read very many. It's age appropriate, which I don't see a lot of nowadays. Except these 10-year-olds being concerned with dating. Excuse me, but what? They're in the fifth grade! My biggest concern in the fifth grade was my Gameboy. (Some bitch stole it. It was a whole thing.) Sometimes the children sounded older than they are, but I thought in the end there was a pretty even balance of sounding like children and sounding older. It somehow worked for me because I didn't feel like any of the writing was dumbed down at all, which is how I usually feel reading YA so reading a middle grade book I was expecting to think so even more. Although my feeling that way may indicate that they really did sound way too old most of the time.If anyone has been paying attention to my reviews and status updates, it's obvious that I really hate POV jumping in first person. If you feel the need to jump to that many POVs (and by "that many" I mean more than one) to tell your story, then you need to write it in third person omniscient. Wonder went above and beyond when it comes to this. The POVs in this book went:August (the main character)Via (the sister)Summer (the friend)Jack (the other friend)Justin (the sister's boyfriend)AugustMiranda (the sister's ex-best friend)AugustYes, August was in there three times, but that still makes six points of view we jumped between. The only reason I wasn't envisioning throwing a book across the room while reading was because the writing was good and it was interesting to get a view of August and the situation from the outside. But it wasn't necessary to cycle through that many characters to accomplish that goal and, of course, could have been done in third person. I think jumping to and from so many people is what made it difficult for some people to connect with the characters. Also, I am still incredibly lost about Justin's chapters. The kid was on the canvas for all of five seconds and suddenly he has a POV but then, for some reason, his chapters lacked capitalization and quotation marks? What the devil? There was no indication of why it was this way. At first I thought maybe he was writing in a journal, but the narration had also switched into present tense with him. I don't understand. I don't get why authors feel the need to ruin what could be a perfectly good story with this silliness.There was a chapter that was all e-mails and text messages. If it hasn't become apparent, this is another thing that makes me twitch. They really weren't necessary. We already got the point that the parent of one of the children attending school with August was awful. Her hateful e-mail was overkill (though I did really appreciate the principal's response). We also could have gotten the point of the back and forth text messages between August and Jack in the exposition of one or both of their POVs. The worst was the spelling, or whatever you can call it, of the text messages. Here is where I use the word "literally," because I did, in fact, literally twitch while reading them. And then groaned. And then wanted to weep a little. Or maybe a lot. (Sidebar: So, is it normal for 10-year-olds to have text-capable cell phones now? Really? The hell?) The story itself was very good. We follow August Pullman's fifth grade year – his first year attending school with other children. He puts it best when he says, "[Getting through fifth grade is] not easy, even if you’re not me." Auggie, as family and friends call him, is a normal 10-year-old (who was pretty awesome in my book for his love of Star Wars), it's just that the world doesn't see him that way due to a few million to one shot birth defects. Up until this story he had been home schooled and he was understandably wary of people not in his family. If you've been through middle school (though fifth grade was elementary school in my school district), you know already that this is a story that aims for the heart. Palacio did a good enough job of capturing August's experience in such a way that I was having flashbacks.God, middle school sucked.Still, August was able to make some very good friends, though I think a fairly heartbreaking incident with one of them was resolved way too easily. His other classmates, however, had a hard time seeing past his face to the boy underneath. The ones that couldn't either whispered and stared, or were just plain cruel.Being an adult, and one that had a less than stellar middle and high school experience I, of course, spent a good chunk of the book thinking about the rough road ahead of Auggie. All the normal things he may never get to do or experience. Having to watch his friends get what he may never have. I had to make the conscious decision to only consider what happens within the scope of this story. This takes place over a fifth grade school year. I'm 30, I've lived through middle school, I've lived through high school, I've lived through various other life circumstances. I know how these things go. I can see what's coming toward August several hundred miles away. But I felt it would be unfair of me to ascribe the future circumstances I know are inevitable to the story I was being told. The book also covers August's sister Via's first year of high school and the issues she was having with her friends, forming a relationship with a new boyfriend, and always feeling like second place in the eyes of her parents. I was torn over her. She could get annoying, especially with her crazy teenage girl back and forth ('No, I didn't tell you about the play because I didn't want you to come but now that you know I can't believe you're not going!!!!!' 'Even though I totally made this about you, not everything is about you, August!!!!!'). But then it was also easy to understand how difficult her life has been due to her brother's illness and yet she has been a loving and protective sister through it all. The central moral of the story was fairly obvious and basically well done. However, (and you may or may not want to stop reading the review at this point as I'm talking about the end) Palacio dropped the ball on realism in the last quarter of the book or so. I'm all for a heartwarming story. I love me some HEAs, but not if realism has to be sacrificed in order to achieve it. I would have been content if, by the end, a majority of the kids had stopped playing the Plague game and at least treated him like a human being. Not most of the grade, nay the school, suddenly thinking he's a cool "little dude" after a pretty serious incident occurs on an overnight field trip. It didn't ring true. And the end was very much over the top. The entire time I was kind of expecting him to wake up to his alarm and find it all was a dream. I think I even started visualizing it with a sort of gaussian blur over everything.I feel like this review is all over the map, but I will boil it all down to this: even though I had issues with the structure of the book and the rainbows and lollipops ending, this was an engaging read that I think people of all ages may enjoy. *****Okay, I had a hard enough time finding some sort of organization for my review. So I couldn't figure out where to put in the following random musings, but I wanted to post them nonetheless.Did the description of the "New" Miranda remind anyone else of Stephanie Kaye from Degrassi Junior High (the original, not this TNG nonsense)? It amused me. Who the hell wears a tube top to freaking high school? Mine would have sent her ass home real quick. There were two jokes Palacio put in the book as a nod to older readers . . . or just to make us feel super old."Mom’s regular doctor wasn’t on duty that night, so Mom got stuck with this cranky kid doctor she and Dad nicknamed Doogie after some old TV show or something (they didn’t actually call him that to his face)."and"Do you know who Mr. T is?” he answered. “I pity the fool?” he said in a funny tough voice, like he was imitating someone. I had no idea what he was talking about.*facepalm* That was totally my childhood right there!