I did. I read it. I loved it. I cried my eyes out.
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this story; Wonder is a book for the ages. I’m not quite sure how to describe it. “Beautiful” is too dramatic a word; that makes it sound cheesy, and the book is anything but. This author has the rare skill of developing simple themes without preaching them. What could have been a sugary story emerges instead as both heartbreaking and heartwarming—but mostly heartwarming. (And I just re-read that sentence and apologize for using the word “emerges.” How annoying. You deserve better.)
Right after you fall in love with “Auggie,” our disfigured hero, you will fall in love with his parents. Oh, those parents! I want to be that mother; I want my husband to be that father. Parents who love and live for their children—and whose children actually love them back—is such a nice deviation from our Disney-soaked culture bent on pumping out kids’ shows with parents who are either a) stupid, or b) dead. (Not sure which is more toxic, but I’d say they’re both pretty bad.) And beyond that: the sister loved the brother, the brother loved the sister, and they all loved the dog. Love was a Big Thing in this book. And I loved it.
The most impressive thing about Wonder is how its heavy themes are handled with such a light touch; I think that’s an overlooked skill possessed by the most adept writers. The best thing a writer can do for his readers is to simply disappear, and through the stilted and fumbling dialogue of her young characters, the author of Wonder does just that (i.e., “he, like, totally cracked me up” and “I don’t know why but I just started bawling,”) So when you hear Auggie talking, you hear your own ten-year old son talking (at least I did), and you care deeply about whether or not he gets hurt. Too many books offer dazzling characters that fascinate us but don’t convince us that they’re real, and that makes it hard to truly care about the ends they meet. In Wonder, you care. A lot.
Wonder lived up to its hype. I recommend this book to anyone of any age who has a heartbeat and tear ducts. I loved it, my friends loved it, my teens loved it, and I can’t wait to read it with my fourth-grade son who will love it, too. (Love is a Big Thing with this book.)
And I am praying—fervently, passionately, with a beating heart and beating chest—that Hollywood does not touch this book. It’s too soft, too subtle, too tender to flesh out onto film. Perhaps I’ll be proved wrong, but remember what they did to The Book Thief? Spare us that fate, and leave Wonder on the bookshelf where it can keep spinning its magic and doing its good.
Or, as Auggie’s beloved principal would say, “be kinder than is necessary.” I’m thinking that may just be my single goal for 2015. Along with getting you to read this short, sweet, smart little book.
p.s. Be sure to read the kindle edition, because it has “Julian’s Story” at the end. You’ll understand when you start reading. And you’ll thank me.