Born with several genetic abnormalities, 10-year-old August Pullman, called Auggie, dreams of being “ordinary.” Inside, he knows he’s like every other kid, but even after 27 surgeries, the central character of “Wonder” bears facial disfigurations so pronounced that people who see him for the first time do “that look-away thing” — if they manage to hide their shock and horror.
“Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse,” he says of his face as the book begins. He’s used to the stares and mean comments, but he’s still terrified to learn that his parents have gotten him into middle school at Beecher Prep and want him to go there rather than be home-schooled. But they persuade him to give it a try — and by the time this rich and memorable first novel by R. J. Palacio is over, it’s not just Auggie but everyone around him who has changed.
It began on a rainy morning, as part of a game played by Mark and his friends. It was a storytelling game, and the four friends took turns weaving tales about fairies and mermaids and horses. But Anna’s story was different this time: it was not a fairy tale or an adventure story. The story was about a young girl who lived during World War Two. Her name was Heidi, and she was Hitler’s daughter.
As Anna’s story unfolds, Mark is haunted by the image of Hitler’s daughter. He wonders what he would have done in her place if he had known his father was an evil man leading the world into a war that was destroying millions of lives. And if Mark had known, would he have had the power and determination to stop him?