Sunday, May 5, 2013

Choose kindness

If there's one message that R. J. Palacio's novel, Wonder, conveyed to me, it's the idea that one should kindness. I do believe that it's kindness that's lacking in our world today. If we all choose to be kind, instead of choosing to be right, then everything might just be a little bit better, yes?

I'm getting a feeling that the writer might be referring to the act of kindness being extended to a person who haven't been a frequent recipient of it. In her debut novel, that person is one kid named August Pullman. Now why should people choose to be kind to him,  you might wonder. Well, Auggie, has been born with several defects, causing his face to have several deformities.

It's hard to picture what Auggie looks like. In the novel, he always says that he looks much worse that you could imagine. He mentions that his eyes droop to the level of his cheeks, that he has a perennial scowl, that his ears look like clenched fists, that his hip bone was grafted to his face so that he could at least have the semblance of a jaw. Are you picturing it already, dear reader?

But Auggie is one tough kid. Despite having been home schooled until the 4th grade, he goes along with his parents' decision to enter 5th grade in a prep school. I begin to recall what 5th grade was like for me. And I can't help but think that Auggie might have made the wrong decision. Grade schoolers can be pretty mean with the things they say. And it's around that time that they form cliques. I have my doubts as to the survival of Auggie.

And yet, Auggie develops real friendships in his school, with a group of people who choose to be kind to him. It is kindness that motivates Jack Will, a popular kid, and Summer, a budding writer, to befriend Auggie. It is not necessarily kindness though that made them stay friends with him, for they discover that Auggie is funny, smart, sensitive, and very friendly. Indeed, kindness paved the way.

I particularly liked the character of Jack Will. Like everyone else, he feels uncomfortable meeting Auggie for the first time. But pretty soon, Jack Will becomes Auggie most ardent protector. Yes, these two had some rough patches, especially when Auggie overhears Jack Will saying something to other students that he's rather die than be friends with Auggie. But all these things are just your typical situations in grade school, I think. And the way that these two become friends again, by a thread of email exchanges, is quite amusing.

Wonder is the kind of novel that you go through in one sitting. It's very episodic, with the book being divided into chapters written in the perspective of the different characters. Wonder is wonderful. It brings back fond memories in grade school when friends were someone you share lunch tables with and your teachers are people you really look up to as your second parents. Grade school was such a magical and wonderful time for me.

I loved Auggie, Summer, Charlotte, and even the school bullies who eventually make amends with Auggie. I loved Auggie's sister, Via, who overcomes her insecurities and realizes her place in the family. I loved Via's friend, Miranda, who treated Auggie as her brother. I loved Via's boyfriend, Justin, who is an adorable dork. Most of all, I loved Jack Will, who stuck with Auggie and made the good decision to be kind to him.

Read this book if:
  1. You had a wonderful time in grade school.
  2. You think that the friends you made in grade school are the best people in the world.
  3. You choose to be kind.


Louize Gonzales said...

"If we all choose to be kind, instead of choosing to be right, then everything might just be a little bit better, yes?"

Added this to my TBR. :)

Peter S. said...

Hi, Louize! I think you'll like this book. It also underscores the importance of parents' decisions regarding their kids.

Monique said...

Is the author a Filipino? :)

Peter S. said...

I'm not sure, Monique. I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the best people you meet are from your elementary class. That is, if you are kind enough to them to make them stick with you until the end.

Lynai said...

My grade school wasn't that fantastic but I want to choose kindness, so I'm adding this up on my TBR. Very convincing review, Peter! :)

Peter S. said...

Hello, angus! So true!

Hi, Lunai! Thanks! I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.

Tina said...

I loved this book. :) This was an uncomfortable read because it brought back memories of times when I didn't choose to be kind. I think it's a good reminder for us adults that we have a capacity for kindness, and it's the better choice even if it is harder one. :)