At the risk of sounding puntastic, this book was simply wonderful. Bought on a whim, attracted to it in Asda by the unusual cover, it has been sat on my shelf for quite a while!
A rarity for books which switch between character perspectives, I loved each character that we heard from. At first I thought the book was going to be primarily Auggie, and when I realised that we were going to see many different characters, I was a little apprehensive, but it worked beautifully.
The book is about a 10 year old boy named Auggie. Born with a genetic problem that has caused a severe facial deformity, he has never attended school; the number of operations he’s had to have meant it was easier for him to be home-schooled. But his parents have decided that it’s time for him to join the mainstream, and have got him a place at a prestigious local school. Auggie is unsure at first, he doesn’t like people to stare at him, and even when they’re not staring, he can tell that they’re sneaking a peek or talking about him behind his back. But he reluctantly agrees to try it out, with the promise that he can leave whenever he wants to.
Once there, Auggie has to put up with way more than any 10 year old child should ever need to. Among other things, the children in his school play a game called ‘plague’, where if they touch him or any of his things, they have a short space of time before they have to wash their hands or they’ll be ‘infected’. But Auggie doesn’t let this get him down, he’s got a cool new friend called Summer, and a guy called Jack who seems to be his friend too.
Auggie’s almost constant positivity was heart-warming, but there were many heart-rending parts of the book where his shell cracks just a little and you can see that the brave face that he’s putting on is just that, a brave face. He’s a normal little boy with normal interests, including a slightly unhealthy obsession with Star Wars, but no-one can seem to see past what he looks like.
Seeing the honesty from the other characters was heart breaking too. Seeing Olivia struggling with trying to forge her own way in a new school without just being known as ‘the girl with that brother’, and seeing Jack’s struggles with his desire to be Auggie’s friend, but his internal wish not to be ostracized, and the guilt he feels when he realises he’s made a huge mistake was not easy to read, it made me want to reach out and give them all a big hug and tell them that it was all going to be okay.
The book is a beautiful story of kindness and acceptance and learning that it’s not what’s on the outside that counts. And you can be as mean as you want, but people will eventually see through you and it’s not so nice when you’re on the receiving end. The book was written sensitively, but with a kind of honesty which was refreshing. Everything isn’t always okay, but with good people around you, it will all be okay in the end.
I had a few favourite quotes from this book:
“Shall we make a new rule of life…always try to be a little kinder than is necessary.” (Originally from The Little White Bird by J. M. Barrie)
“Such a simple thing, kindness. Such a simple thing. A nice word of encouragement given when needed. An act of friendship. A passing smile.”
“Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.”