Monday was pretty rough. The day before, we came home from church early because I wasn’t feeling too hot, and I ended up awake until about two in the morning fighting heartburn that felt like a lizard was clawing its vengeful way up my esophagus. Also, the lizard was on fire. Needless to say, neither of us got a lot of sleep Sunday night, and Ethan woke up at five to get to his student teaching position the next day. Meanwhile, I tossed and turned on the couch and desperately clung to sleep. Then I woke up and discovered I had zero energy whatsoever.
I was craving Halloween candy, but decided it wasn’t worth it. I would have to put on pants to go shopping, and I just couldn’t face that reality. By the time Ethan got home around three PM, I still hadn’t put on pants, and I was still on the couch. He was also out of energy, and eventually we got enough energy to get to Panda Express for dinner (with pants).
Long story short: I had a lot of reading time Sunday-Monday! I burned through Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, in a matter of days. (Most of the reading happened while Ethan was trying to sleep, and my heartburn wouldn’t let me lie down yet.) And I’m inclined to agree with my husband on this one – it’s a great book, but the author doesn’t write ten-year-olds very well.
Wonder does a really good job of pointing out the daily challenges of a child with an obvious birth defect, a facial abnormality (or deformation). Basically, August Pullman is a normal kid with a really messed-up face. And he’s starting the fifth grade, which he knows is brutal even for a “normal” kid. The book follows several perspectives, pulling in characterization beautifully, and teaching some wonderful lessons about dealing with challenges and basically facing life in general. The author points out the struggles we all face every day, and even August acknowledges that his struggles with his appearance don’t necessarily outrank his friends’ struggles with money, family, grades, or friends. He starts to recognize that his challenges are just a little more visible than most.
I also really liked the attitude his sister Via pointed out toward the middle of the book: August is ready to quit school after facing some serious drama, and Via comes to talk to him. He tells her how rotten everybody treats him, and asks if it’s always going to be like that. She admits it might be – but he won’t have the luxury of just going home and crying every time that happens when he’s an adult. His face is going to be with him for the rest of his life; he needs to figure out how to deal with it eventually.
This book would be an absolute 5-star rating, were it not for the ten-year-old voice. The book is told in first-person, and frankly, I had a really hard time believing it was a fifth-grader. August and his friends were talking about girls they wanted to ask out, the jocks and cheerleaders at their school, and their stuffed animals, all in the same breath. If the author had made them all thirteen or fourteen instead, it would have been a lot more believable, but when I was ten, the boys still thought we had cooties. With that exception, if you can pretend the kids are just a little older than stated, it’s a fantastic book. ♦