I am currently doing a ‘Readathon’ via Instagram and am therefore trying to read as many books as possible. For part of this challenge I decided to tackle R.J. Palacio’s ‘Wonder’ for some light relief after ‘War and Peace’. This was a book I had heard much about and of which I had read universally glowing reviews. I said on my Instagram that, based on this acclaim, I’d be disappointed if I didn’t love the book. Unfortunately, I have been left unable to understand the hype around this book and would now consider it to be incredibly overrated. As someone who usually enjoys the challenge provided by a hard read this book seemed boring and basic. I appreciate that the protagonist being a ten year old means the prose and story could not be overly sophisticated, however I found the novel to be severely lacking in both of those categories. Some beautiful young adult books such as ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ can be interesting whilst providing the reader with a slice of a character’s life rather than a conventional plot, but ‘Wonder’ did not work on this sense. The idea of providing the reader with a basic idea of what life was like for disfigured young August did not entertain me for long as I felt the book required more of a plot.
Furthermore, the characters in ‘Wonder’ underwhelmed me due to their lack of interesting traits and the fact I could not feel a connection with them. Even August himself had no unusual or memorable traits aside from his condition. His sister Via seemed to be a typical ‘smart but shy’ character in a young adult novel, although the fact she was a fifteen year old girl engrossed in ‘War and Peace’ made me smile! In a similar sense, the pair’s parents were your stereotypical mum and dad to a a young literary character who is attempting to overcome personal difficulties. Palacio obviously intended for the humorously named Mr Tushman to be the book’s kindly rolemodel, and I did like him, although that being said he did not inspire me. Similarly, August’s friends were the average literary characters who take some time to get used to their friend’s condition before gradually adapting to their unusual feature. Via’s boyfriend, Justin, was your average knight in shining armour who rushed to defend August and his friend Jack. In many ways, he was quite a stereotypical ‘nice’ boyfriend for a more central character. It transpired that, as an animal lover, my favourite character was Daisy the dog!
One of the main things that annoyed me about this book was the style in which it was written. I found Palacio’s writing to be rather bland and basic. In all honesty the style of writing was reminiscent of the prose displayed in the abysmal ‘Twilight’ series! Whilst it did not contain mistakes, the writing seemed somehow ‘safe’ in its style and simply did not interest or excite me in any way. Moreover, several of the things Palacio chose to include in the novel irritated me. The worst things of all were an entire conversation between Jack and August that was written in text speak, the fact the part of the novel told from Justin’s point of view included NO capital letters or speech marks and the fact Palacio so obviously referenced brands as a from of product placement. The lack of punctuation annoyed me most of all, eventhough it was part of Justin’s character. I understand that the author needed a way to set apart the characters and make their writing styles unique, but surely this ‘uniqueness’ did not need to be achieved by ignoring the basic rules of grammar?! As someone who is meticulous about such things I couldn’t cope with these frequent and deliberate errors. This being accounted for, I will still praise the author for the one thing she did well- entitling her chapters! Each of her installments had inventive titles that smartly referenced their content.
As a whole, I did not enjoy ‘Wonder’ at all. I felt as though it had no real story and that the story it did occasionally show signs of was both week and predictable. Everything ends well for the protagonist after his strife to overcome adversity, who’d have guessed such an eventuality would occur?! This is normally the paragraph where I would discuss the actual storyline of a book, however that is proving difficult due to the book’s lack of a story. In fact, what offended me was the writing style and characters I could not sympathise with rather than the storyline simply because there was barely a story TO dislike. I wouldn’t recommend this novel to anyone who likes a challenging book with a layered and interesting premise.