by Leo Hunt
Paperback: 316 pages
Publisher: Knopf (February 2012)
Adelaine Pek’s ratings: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ / 5 hearts
I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.
August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school — until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?
I did not know what to expect when I bought this book, a suggestion from the shopkeeper of my favorite bookstore. I did not look it up on Goodreads nor have I heard of this author before, but he promised me that it will be good. And boy, was I glad to have bought it.
This book is a perfect mixture of funny and sad. It is considered a children’s book but to me, this story is so powerful and beautifully written that it transcends genre. I would recommend this to secondary school students, teenagers and adults. So if you opt to skip this book because you think it might be too childish or simple for you, hold your horses and give this book a try, seriously.
We are introduced to August (Auggie) Pullman, who was born with a severe facial deformity and, despite years of surgery, is still left with a face that scares small children and shocks adults. I liked how the author never quite described his face so we are always left wondering, imagining how his face looks like and how bad can it really be to receive such — most of the time — horrified reaction from the people around him. I loved Auggie; always positive despite the constant name-calling and being ostracized by his fellow peers. Sure, he has his down moments as well but for a boy so young, he can be so incredibly wise.
“What’s cool about really little kids is that they don’t say stuff to try to hurt your feelings, even though sometimes they do say stuff that hurts your feelings. But they don’t actually know what they’re saying. Big kids, though: they know what they’re saying. And that is definitely not fun for me.”
This made my heart hurt a bit because it is so true. When we are older, we tend to say the meanest of things and what’s worse? We actually mean them. Why do humans have to be so mean, anyways? Auggie has plenty of good quotes throughout the book and they all pulled at my heartstrings and motivates me to be a better person.
What I particularly love about this book is the switching of point-of-views (POVs), where we are able to see Auggie through the other characters. Usually, I do not favor books that switch POVs in between chapters as they can be choppy and disorientating but somehow, it worked for this one. It is certainly more interesting to see how others view Auggie as he braves through 5th grade.
If I have to choose a favorite character, it would be Via, Auggie’s sister. I can imagine growing up with a brother like that is not easy, especially as a teenager and at that age where she is still discovering new things about herself day by day. I loved Via’s character, she is tough as nails, headstrong, and very protective of her younger brother. But it is rather sad to see how growing up she learned to never complain, to never want or expect anything from her parents, always known that Auggie is first priority since her parents are so over-protective over him. It is even more heartbreaking to see her grow resentful, quietly but surely, and her hating herself for it.
Now for characters that I hated and absolutely mortified by, would be Julian and his mother. Oh gosh, those two are horrible! I cannot say any more than this because then, it would be a complete spoiler so I shall stop here.
This book did bring tears to my eyes and I am sure it will be the same for you. The story is so well-written, each page filled with words that are bound to squeeze your emotions so tightly that you can barely breathe. But at the end of the book, you will find your heart is full with even more empathy, compassion, and love than you thought possible. We expect to be surprised by cruelty, but how wonderful it is to also be surprised by kindness. What I liked the most about this book is the messages it brings, especially one in particular:
“If you act a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.”