|Author: R. J. Palacio|
Book Review By: Anshuman Nagpal
“Once in a while a book comes along that everyone gets really excited about. ‘Wonder’ is one such book . . . The title says it all,” a well-said remark from the ‘Red House’ that shows just how far RJ Palacio’s writing has reached.
From the world-famous ‘Wonder’ to the more recent book: Auggie & Me, it’s very evident that RJ Palacio’s stories have a knack of touching readers’ hearts.
The book ‘Auggie & Me’ digs deep into thoughts, emotions and feelings and shows great connection with themes like kindness, friendship, integrity and deception. It also gives readers a faint understanding of what goes on in the lives of middle and high school children. While the book isn’t a sequel to Wonder, the events in Auggie & Me do happen during the same timeline as the former, and so, in order to understand Auggie & Me, it is recommended to read Wonder first.
Wonder, to give one a gist, is about an 11-year-old boy called August Pullman who suffers from ‘craniofacial difference’. The book elucidates his journey from being Home-Schooled to his year at ‘Beecher Prep’ and the plethora of emotions he goes through, through his various encounters with people at school. Whereas, in Auggie & Me, the perspectives of three other people, namely Julian: August’s bully, Christopher: August’s childhood best friend, and Charlotte: August’s schoolmate, who hold a very pivotal position in Auggie’s life, are narrated and described. For instance, in ‘Julian’s Chapter’, Julian justifies his actions against Auggie by calling himself a victim who loses not only his status and reputation which he had acquired over the years, but also, his companions and friends and all due to Auggie.
Just like few other books that I have read so far, this book too is a treasure chest full of wonder. Open it, and one would find innumerable little details and events that make the stories of Julian, Christopher, and Charlotte interesting and significant to the readers. The events are described in such a way that they appear extremely close to reality and hence seem personal. It is quite fascinating to see everything and everyone the way the characters see them in the story. No character in Auggie & Me is wholly happy or content with their life; each one is dealing with one problem or the other, which is the element that bounds this story with the lives of its readers. The story paints a beautiful portrait of Middle School life and the challenges one faces due to collapsed friendships, spread of embarrassing rumours and how quickly secrets spill from one individual to another. The book also gives a fresh perspective on each character and poses quite intriguing questions like, Is Julian really a bully? Is Charlotte being “nice” enough to Auggie, or should she be more? And is Christopher right to conceal Auggie from his other friends? that change our opinions about the characters entirely.
It is for all the reasons enumerated above, both the books by the author including ‘Auggie & Me’ have embraced a lot of admiration from readers and reviewers worldwide, with several of these people surprisingly being able to connect the situations that they read about, with their own lives. As an avid reader and learner in Middle School myself, I find that this book reflects the experiences of kids in my own school. The peer interaction in the story, often between the new kids and those who have stayed in school for longer is picture-perfect and seeing discriminating behaviour like this through my own eyes, is excruciating. I question myself and think about how those with the urge for this kind of behaviour feel on the inside as well, since every coin has two sides and only the wearer knows where the shoe truly pinches. Even though I haven’t experienced any of this myself, it is a mistake to think that this doesn’t happen, which is why I try my best to make my life and others’ lives at Middle School, better in whatever little way I can!
Conclusively, like Wonder, this book too was able to break all barriers and took other stories out of the league by scoring nothing less than 4.5/5 stars on many well-known online platforms, such as Common-Sense Media, Goodreads, and Amazon. With a huge bank of excellent vocabulary, and sprinkles of French and Spanish words in different parts of the book, the story, without a doubt, presents an interesting word choice throughout. It also puts a lot of attention to human emotions and thoughts and conveys how they influence our perception of right and wrong, and hence action, which helps us to gauge how complex characters such as Julian really are, and how much more there is to them than what people normally see at a simple glance. The book lays a great emphasis on how humans behave in different situations viz. how they SHOULD ideally! The book through its plot and characters, makes a universal appeal and that is ‘kindness towards all’, which really tugged at my heart as a reader who sees familiar problems with his own eyes quite often. Palacio truly has done a remarkable job in weaving this sensational story that it won’t be easily forgotten! 199313
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