I just read a book called Wonder. I know it’s been around for a while, and I learned after finishing it that it will be a movie starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. I am usually not too fast in picking up the latest book. So many good classics to finish first. Anyway.
The book is about a boy, Auggie, who has a facial deformity: “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse“. He has been home-schooled until now and the book picks up the story when he is about to start 5th grade. It takes tremendous effort and determination on his part as well as that of his parents, sister and few friends, but by the time the school year is over Auggie is a popular, well-liked kid at his school and goes on to win the “Henry Ward Beecher Medal” that “honours students who have been notable or exemplary in certain areas throughout the school year.” The book starts out as a complete tear jerker, sorry for using that word but I cried and cried through the first part as Auggie was settling into his school life. But after about two thirds of the way into the book, everything starts to turn sunny. Auggie makes friends, his schoolmates bond with Auggie and with each other, everyone (except the one villain whose story is appended to the end of the book) becomes understanding, empathic and friendly. Even Auggie’s sister makes her big break onto the stage when her former-bff-current-enemy gives up the role on opening night. All cheer, optimism. A Hollywood ending. Happy and well adjusted is one thing but a medal at the end? Come on. I smell screenplay. Let’s get some ice cream.
I am happy that things turned out OK for Auggie. He is a sweet, likeable kid and I rooted for him from start to finish. The character is fleshed out in detail, and other characters take turns throughout the different chapters so we get to find out about their perspective, too. The sister was my favorite character, she is supportive but has a bitter and angry side to her. So the character development is powerful, the premise is interesting and the story is captivating as it unfolds. But I was utterly disappointed by the anticlimatic ending.
The story is a sad one, mandibulofacial dysostosis and cleft palate are two disorders that can (and do) cause severe health issues for children. It is not easy to have this disorder nor to be in the same family/school with someone who has it. Why would the author turn everything around to make sure EVERYONE in the book is happy and cheerful at the end and that the one villain decides to change schools? There are good days and bad days; not only for them, but for everybody. Why does everybody need to be happy all the time? Why is it not ok to be sad sometimes?