Wonder Summary

R.J. Palacio


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Wonder Summary

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Wonder is a novel by Raquel Jaramillo, written after an incident getting ice cream with her son and published under the pen name R.J. Palacio in 2012. It tells the story of a young boy with a facial deformity who learns to live and accept who he is after going to a local school.

The main character is August “Auggie” Pullman, a 10-year-old with a rare facial deformity and a cleft lip. Because of his many surgeries, his mother had been home-schooling him, but his parents had come to decide that he should be at a local private school, Beecher Prep, for middle school.

Auggie first visits Beecher and meets the director, Mr. Tushman. He is also introduced to three students, Jack Will, Julian Albans and Charlotte Cody. Auggie is uncomfortable and self-conscious around other kids, but he slowly learns to get around at school. He befriends both Jack and Charlotte, plus another girl named Summer who sits with him at the lunch table when no one else will. Julian refuses to interact with Auggie, telling him that he is disgusting, and berating him whenever he can.

During Halloween, Auggie is supposed to wear a Boba Fett costume, but he doesn’t. Instead, he wears a different costume, with a mask that covers his face. He is able to walk around the school, and no one recognizes him. In his homeroom, he overhears Jack telling Julian that he’d kill himself if he looked like Auggie. Auggie decides that he will quit school, and he confides in Summer about what happened.

Jack knows that something is going on and he asks Summer what it is. She promised Auggie that she wouldn’t tell, but she gives Jack a hint by naming the costume Auggie was wearing. At first, Jack doesn’t understand, but he comes to realize that Auggie overheard him while wearing the costume that Summer mentioned. Later in the school year, he finally realizes what happened and that Auggie thought he was pretending to be friends with him. When he is partnered with Auggie in science class, and Julian requests to be his partner instead, Jack refuses.

Julian calls Auggie a freak, and Jack punches him, getting himself suspended for two days. Auggie’s mom considers pulling him from school, but Auggie stays and Jack apologizes for what he said. During the remainder of the year, Julian continues to bully Auggie, leaving threatening notes in his and Jack’s lockers, and they write notes back using humor.

During a school trip, Auggie and Jack are attacked by some seventh graders, but a few of Julian’s group comes to their rescue since Julian is absent that day. Overall, Julian’s popularity declines, and people begin to accept Auggie more fully.

At the end of the year, Auggie receives and award, the “Henry Ward Beecher” medal, something given to students who show something exemplary throughout the year. He receives a standing ovation, and then he does something he’s never been willing to do before; he takes pictures with other people. At the end of the ceremony, they all go back to his house for a party and the book closes with his mom whispering to him that he was always a wonder.

Appearances are superficial, but they impact our social lives so strongly that they sometimes don’t feel superficial. For Auggie, the first portion of his life was spent in and out of hospitals, isolated, and being thrown into school felt like a huge hurdle. He wanted to be seen for who he is but his classmates find this difficult.

His isolation isn’t complete, however. He is well liked by the few friends he has and loved and supported by his family. He likes the idea of going to school, but the thought of students not being able to see past his facial features is frightening. He wonders in the story if the social aspect is worth it. Other students through the book express the same struggles with isolation, and we learn that it doesn’t always show up where we think it will.

A big theme in the book is the concept of friendship. Auggie is a great friend and fun to be with, which makes friendship with him easy, but there are social consequences of being friends with someone who isn’t like everyone else.

For Summer, she is quick to defend Auggie when she is criticized for hanging out, but Jack takes much longer to develop the friendship bond. He experiences all the good things about having a friend, but at times refuses to return the sacrifice. He even denies the friendship when things get really tough, but in the end, he learns the value of friendship even when it isn’t easy. When Jack realizes how his choices affect Auggie, he begins to make different choices.

The book is a look into how our friendships can affect the quality of our lives, and it’s important that we look beyond physical appearances to find our friends. People who might look different can be some of the best friends that we will ever make.