AUTHOR: R.J. PALACIO
“My name is August, by the way. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”
August Pullman is ten year old and likes the same things every other ten year old boy likes; Star Wars, his X-box, ice-cream and his dog. On the inside, Auggie feels like an ordinary boy too, on the outside though, he anything but ordinary. August was born with an extreme facial abnormality and even though he has had numerous operations to “normalise” his features, he still looks anything but ordinary.
For the first ten years his parents have kept him at home. Initially because of all the operations and other health related issues, but also to protect him from a world that can’t deal with his features. Now that he is ten though his parents decide that it is time for him to start going to school and to enter the world where he will have to deal with how others see him for the rest of his life.
August doesn’t look forward to going to school. He is well aware of how people react to him and fears the worst. Soon, it seems that all his fears are confirmed. All most all the other kids ignore him, treating him as if he has some deadly contagious disease. Although there is one girl, Summer, who, from the very first day, accepts him just as he is, Auggie’s time in school is lonely and painful, especially when Jack, who Auggie thought was his friend, appears to betray him.
Have Auggie’s parents made a horrible mistake in sending him to school or will he manage to convince the others that he really is just like everybody else?
I’m not entirely sure what to say about this book, or even how to grade it. On the one hand it is a beautiful and well written story about overcoming differences and discrimination. The story deals with prejudice and bullying, tries to show the reader that a person is more than what you see on the outside and that it is important not to judge a person by their appearance.
And, I think the book almost succeeds in that.
My problem is that the very important message in this book is lost a bit as a result of the too good to be true, Walt Disney like fairy-tale ending. While I love a happy ending as much as the next person I think the anti-bullying and trust your inner strength message would have come across more clearly if the book had ended on a positive but not magically so note.
As much as I would like the world and the people in it to be and react as described in this book, I’m only too aware that just isn’t the case. And that makes me wonder. This book will be read by kids who face their own struggles against prejudice and people who can’t look beyond the obvious. Is it fair to parade a magical but ultimately unrealistic happy ending in front of those real kids facing problems in the real world?
Read this book as the wonderful fairy-tale it is and my grade would be a 5. Because I feel this book could, and maybe should, have been more I’ve settled on a grade 4.
“Here’s what I think: the only reason I’m not ordinary is that no one else sees me that way.”