Anybody who has ever been involved with the education of middle or high school children will know that they really are a different species. Part alien, part zombie, part celebrity and wholly weird. The fact that they are collected together and required to sit in rooms with each other for several hours a day with, usually, a single adult is just downright bizarre. Rules are, invariably, made by the adults in order that control and discipline can be instilled, usually without care, consideration of or consultation especially with the young people in their "care". So schools can easily become feeding grounds for bullying, unkindness and distress unless very closely monitored.
The immediate precedent for "Wonder" was not "The Curious Incident" as has been quoted in so many reviews but Sapphire's "Precious" which also deals with a misfit child who finds redemption through unquantifiable kindness. Comparing "Wonder" with "Curious Incident" entirely misses the point of the book. August is a perfectly normal boy, though even the advanced publicity for the book ~ see the terrible Youtube promotion ~ seems to deny this. The descriptions of Augie's facial oddities are given quite graphically in the section from his sister Via's point of view and, as a reader, you either deal with it or you stop reading and as in the film "Mask" continuation is way beyond curiosity.
The winning factor of this book is not its honesty, which, on occasion made me feel like I was being totally manipulated, but then that is what fiction does, but its truth to language, the observation of the way children use language for both good and hurt and the subtle ways that Palacio depicts the adults through the words they choose rather than their actions (though nobody can deny the desire to slap the bitch of a mother who photoshopped the class photograph).
The book is a tough one and should become required reading for high school age students and anybody involved in education for that matter now that we are finally emerging from the ghastly imprisonment of political correctness.
August Pullman is a little guy who will stay around in your head long after you have finished the book because, in a sense, he is all of us. We all have a little Augie in us and we all learn how to overcome the difficulties we have being us its just that in his case it is writ large on the front of his head.