At a Glance

August Pullman is a ten-year-old boy suffering from severe birth defects, including mandibulo-facial dysostosis and a cleft palate, which have left him disfigured. His parents decide to enroll him at Beecher Prep after years of homeschooling him. During a tour of the school, August meets Jack, Julian, and Charlotte. Jack is nice to him, and August believes he has found a friend.

  • On Halloween, August overhears a conversation between Jack and Julian in which Jack says he's only nice to August because Mr. Tushman, the school principal, asked him to be. Upset, August stops talking to Jack, who feels guilty about being mean. He really does want to be friends with August.
  • One day, Jack punches Julian for saying mean things about August. Mr. Tushman mediates between the boys, giving them winter break to cool off. After break, Charlotte warns Jack that Julian is turning the entire class against him, convincing people that Jack is unstable. Jack starts eating lunch with August and his friend Summer.
  • At a wilderness retreat, August is attacked by a group of seventh graders. Henry, Amos, and Miles, Julian's best friends, help August and Jack escape. Public opinion swings in favor of August and Jack, and Julian is ostracized. In the end, August wins the Henry Ward Beecher medal, which is reserved for an "exemplary" student. August is amazed that he survived fifth grade. His friends and family make him feel like a regular kid.


August Pullman introduces himself to readers in the first chapter of the novel. August was born with severe birth defects, including mandibulo-facial dysostosis, which has left his entire face disfigured. "I won’t describe what I look like," he says. "Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” In his ten years, August has learned to live with people's reactions to him. He doesn't like it, but he knows people will always stare at him and think of him as a freak. His parents have been protecting him by homeschooling him, but that changes when his mother decides it's time for him to start attending a regular school. August's parents enroll him in Beecher Prep, a private school. During the tour of the building, August meets future classmates Jack Will, Julian, and Charlotte, his guides. Julian reveals himself to be a bully when he asks if August is a burn victim. Charlotte admonishes Julian for being rude, but Jack remains silent. He gives August a smile at the end of the tour, though, and is friendly toward him.

On his first day of school, August deliberately sits in the very back of every class. Everyone besides Jack steers clear of his desk, refusing to sit next to him. August appreciates Jack's gesture and starts to think of him as a friend. In homeroom, his teacher, Ms. Petosa, asks August to introduce himself. Julian asks if August's braid is a "Padawan thing," referring to Jedi knights in training from Star Wars. Julian pointedly asks if August likes Darth Sidious, a character whose face was melted in a fire. His classmates don't get the reference, but August knows that Julian was trying to get under his skin. At lunch, August doesn't sit with Jack and instead finds an empty table. His deformities make him kind of a messy eater, and he feels self-conscious. Soon, a girl named Summer joins him, and they strike up a friendship. This bright spot doesn't change the fact that August's first day of school is rough. At home, August cuts off his Padawan braid and asks his mom why he's so ugly. September is hard, but October is better. October 10th is August's birthday, and he insists on hosting his birthday party at a bowling alley. Jack Will, Summer, and three other kids from school come.

Halloween is August's favorite day of the year because it gives him an excuse to hide behind a mask and pretend to be someone else. He initially plans on dressing up as Boba Fett, but at the last second he changes into a Bleeding Scream costume. On the way to homeroom, August sees a boy dressed like Darth Sidious and realizes that it's Julian, who is waiting outside the classroom with his friends to bully August. The boys don't recognize August, however, expecting him to be dressed as Boba Fett. August overhears a conversation between Julian and Jack, whose voice he recognizes under the costume. Jack says he doesn't want to be friends with August, but Mr. Tushman practically forced him to. Jack is just lying to save face in front of Julian, but August doesn't know that. He cries in the bathroom after class and decides to stop being friends with Jack. Part One ends with August saying that he doesn't want to go to school anymore.

Part Two of the novel is told from the point of view of Olivia, August's older sister. Olivia describes how, after August's birth, her parents focused all their attention on him. “August is the Sun. Me and Mom and Dad are planets orbiting the Sun," she says. Via, as she's called, has learned to take care of herself in light of her parents' neglect. She arranges her own rides and does her own homework with little to no guidance from her parents; but she loves August very much and only occasionally resents him for being the center of attention. Her first week of high school is rough. Upon arriving, she learns that her best friends, Miranda and Ella, have undergone makeovers and want to join a popular clique. Via is left friendless and without a ride home after school, so she uses the subway against her mother's wishes. After Halloween, she talks August out of leaving school.

Part Three of the novel is told from the point of view of Summer. Again, the narrative jumps back in time to explore previous scenes from a different perspective. Summer describes how sad she felt for August when no one else wanted to sit with him at lunch on the first day of school. She decided she would be friends with him despite backlash from the other kids in her class. On Halloween, Summer attends a party hosted by a popular girl named...

(The entire section is 2022 words.)