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Listening to the Silence

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Wonder - R.J. Palacio If you ask anyone, they would tell you, August Pullman is not an ordinary kid. Yet despite his abnormalities, Auggie thinks that ordinary is exactly what he is. When, after years of homeschooling, his parents decide to enroll him in a local prep school at the start of his 5th grade year, Auggie, his parents, his sister, and most of all the students of his new school are going to learn just how extraordinary Auggie really is.

I don't even know where to start with this book. Yes, it is children's lit. Auggie is only 10, and this book is clearly written with a target audience of young middle schoolers in mind. It was an easy and straight forward read, but that doesn't mean it was simplistic at all. It definitely would appeal to adult readers as well, particularly those who enjoy young adult books.

Each section was told from alternating viewpoints, Auggie, his sister Via, his friends Jack and Summer, and a few several others, but never do we get an adult's impression. This method really worked in the book's favor. I don't think the message would have been nearly as powerful had we only heard Auggie's side of things. The only character we didn't hear from that I think could have really added to it is Julian. His thoughts would have just added a completely different dimension.

In addition to just being a well-written piece of literature, it really toyed with your emotions. Throughout the book I found myself laughing out loud, crying, angry, and everything in between. Auggie is a character that you can really root for. The other characters were also well-developed, and that's another place that I think the alternating viewpoints really worked to the book's advantage. By hearing the story in the words of the supporting cast, you got to know them too.

What I really loved though, was that this wasn't just a book about bullying. It was a book about friendship, growing up, acceptance - both of others and of yourself, and all the rest of the growing pains that you deal with in middle school. Some kids learn this better than others. And in fact that would be my one criticism of this book. I truly believe in the inherent goodness of people, but life isn't full of happy-endings, especially in middle school. While I am happy with how things ended up for Auggie, I can't help but feel that in real life, it wouldn't have been so overwhelming skewed in his favor as it was towards the end of the book. That's not just not realistic.

What I really enjoyed though, was finding out that my son's fifth grade class is reading this book in school right now. While I managed to read the whole thing in one afternoon, I know his class is going to be taking more time with it. But I could see how much he liked it too. He kept interrupting his homework, or dessert, or play to check and see where I was. I promised to hand over my library copy to him after I was done so he could catch up. I truly can't wait to discuss it with him. In fact I'd love to be there to hear his class discussions about it. I bet they'd be really interesting. This is one of those books that I can honestly see quickly becoming a must read in middle schools across the country and it deserves it. What a fantastic book and thoroughly enjoyable reading experience it was.