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WonderR.J. Palacio examines the issues of body image and self-esteem in the novel Wonder. Ten-year-old August has struggled with these issues his entire life because his appearance frightens other people. In a fantastically unfortunate turn of genetics, August has several visible birth defects that have shaped his appearance even after countless surgeries. After being homeschooled due to the surgeries in his youth, August’s family decides it would be best to send August to public school for the first time. When he enters the fifth grade, August really learns of the astoundingly mean capabilities of children. He is ridiculed, mocked, silenced, and shunned from most of the rest of the students, but August’s kind and funny personality make it possible for him to make a few genuine friends. While August struggles with his self-image, his sister Via struggles with her own identity, which has finally become separate from August’s appearance. In the end, August’s looks make him the target of kids from another school, and his own classmates back August up and begin to understand his genuine nature. In the end, August’s school awards him for making an impact on the people around him and for exhibiting incredible bravery in the face of cruel individuals.

Wonder, although perhaps a bit idyllic in the end, demonstrates the power of one single person to make a difference. August’s story is one of acceptance and love (even self-love) despite outward appearances. The characters, including August, Via, the school bully Julian, August’s friends Jack and Summer, and his parents, are all legitimate and redeemable.

R.J. Palacio writes August’s story from the perspective of several different characters, which gives the reader an insight into each of their impressions of August and their behaviors. Wonder is an adorable, sweet tale about one boy that changed his community with kindness, and I adore this story.

I would recommend this book to young people struggling with identity and body positivity.


Plot: 3/5

Language/Voice: 4/5

Characterization: 5/5

Readability: Moderate

Overall Quality: 7/10