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Wonder: the Kind Thing Over the Right Thing

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The first time I read Wonder, back in in middle school, all I could focus on was the unhappiness portrayed in the novel. It seemed to merely be a collection of heartbreaking stories about an unfortunate young boy. However, as I reread the book as a junior, what now stands out to me is the hope and compassion portrayed by the characters.
Wonder follows a fifth grader named Auggie. He has a genetic mutation that caused his face to be severely deformed. Fifth grade is his first year at a, as he calls it, “real” school. The story follows Auggie’s journeys through fifth grade, with the narrators alternating between Auggie, his family, and his friends.
As could be expected, Auggie’s classmates are not always kind to him. I was horrified by the reactions the other kids had to him. The sight of him openly disgusted some; others tried to covertly stare and whisper about him. He was severely bullied, and at first, it seemed that no one cared about Auggie.
However, I was later amazed at the kindness some of the children and adults showed him. When Auggie is sitting alone at lunch on the first day, a girl named Summer goes to sit with him. Auggie’s principal, Mr. Tushman, makes it clear he will support Auggie and look out for him.
I loved how much emphasis the author R. J. Palacio puts on kindness and compassion. On the first day, Auggie’s English teacher writes on the chalkboard, “When given the chance between being right and being kind, choose kind.” I had always thought of the right thing as the kind thing.
However, R. J. Palacio points out how that is not always true. It is easy to fall into agreement with what we are told is right without thinking about it, but it is always better to do the kind thing than the right thing.
Seeing all the different characters who interact with Auggie, I really had a sense of each character’s individual personality. I loved Palacio’s ability to turn a bad situation into a hopeful one.
I think the ending of the book was a little unrealistic. The school comes to accept Auggie, and while I do think that more people would have leaned to be kind by the end of the year, they fact that almost everyone comes to love him seemed far fetched. In general, though, I loved the novel’s positive message.
Although it is not a true story, I know that there are stories like Auggie’s happening all over the world. Wonder was released as a major motion picture last month, and although I have not seen it, hope the film captured the same sense of hope the book portrayed. Both the book and the film left me with one striking message: Always choose kind.

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Wonder: the Kind Thing Over the Right Thing