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A Reader of Fictions: For Good - Kristen Chenoweth & Idina Menzel

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Thursday, February 9, 2012

For Good - Kristen Chenoweth & Idina Menzel

Wonder

Author: R. J. Palacio
Pages: 313
ARC Acquired from: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
August Pullman is deformed. Because of an unfortunate combination of genes, an unfortunate roll of the universe's dice, he has a face that causes many people to feel horror or disgust. This is after years of surgeries to correct his cleft palate and some other things. His eyes are too low, his ears are tiny and not particularly functional, and his face looks as though it's been melted. He is used to seeing the looks on people's faces, even the nice people, but that doesn't mean it ever stops being hurtful. Since he won't be having another major surgery for a couple of years, his parents decide it is time for him to go to school for the first time, having previously been home-schooled. Middle school is painful enough without a deformity.

Review:
Middle school sucked for me. You may think I'm exaggerating, but I'm really not. During the entirety of middle school, I never had any real friends. I may have looked normal, but I was still definitely an outcast. I cannot imagine going through what Auggie went through. His strength of character to be able to face that situation is incredible.

Part of why he could survive the experience was just Auggie. He's a smart kid and really loved the learning part of school. When people stop to notice, he's funny. Having gotten to fifth grade and maintained a fairly positive attitude despite the staring and the people screaming at his visage is just courageous. In addition to his own strengths, he was lucky enough to have supportive people in his life. His parents and sister would do absolutely anything for him; their family is so loving and happy. Plus, he made a couple of friends to stand by him on the first day of school, Jack and Summer.

This book nearly made me cry. Multiple times. For those who don't know, this is pretty rare. Unlike one of my friends who I will refrain from naming, tv shows and books are not constantly making me cry. The tears that threatened were caused both by sadness and happiness, which is pretty awesome.

Kids are cruel. Never once have I doubted this, having been the victim of some verbal bullying myself as a child. Being surprised or scared at an unfamiliar face is unfortunate, but really cannot be helped; that response is instinctual. What is absolutely awful is the way that people continue to judge him, refusing to get to know Auggie's amazing qualities. Just because he's ugly, they do things like pretend that if they touch him they'll get The Plague. Like ugliness is catching. It's not like Auggie has a transmitable disease.

Even worse than kids, who know what they're doing but at least have ignorance as some amount of an excuse, are the parents. One parent in particular tries to get Auggie kicked out of the school, because she feels like he's brought the level of the school down, even though he's a trillion times smarter than her son. This same mother photoshopped Auggie out of the class photo.

Anyway, I'll stop with that now, because, really, you should read the book for yourself. I also want to mention that the method Palacio used to tell the story was highly effective. The narrative begins and ends with Auggie's perspective. In the middle, you hear from classmates, his sister, and some of his sister's friends. By bookending the story with Auggie, you're really able to see how much he has grown, and the other people's perspectives reveal how much he touched their lives too.

I was planning to use one of the songs quoted in the book, but, just as I was finishing, this song came on my shuffle and it really struck a chord, since the book is all about friendship growing out of dislike and prejudice.

Rating: 5/5

"I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return"

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