Wonder is a novel by R.J. Palacio about August Pullman, a ten-year-old boy who suffers from severe birth defects, as he navigates school life.
- August begins attending school, where he meets and befriends Jack.
- Classroom politics briefly come between Jack and August, but they reconcile.
- After Jack punches Julian, the classroom bully, for saying mean things about August, Julian begins turning the other kids against Jack and August.
- As the other kids get to know August better, they begin rejecting Julian’s cruelty.
- August is awarded a medal at his fifth grade graduation, and he appreciates the sense of normalcy that his friends have given him.
August Pullman introduces himself to readers in the first chapter of the novel. August was born with severe birth defects, including mandibulofacial 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 that 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 1 ends with August saying that he doesn’t want to go to school anymore.
Part 2 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...
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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 3 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 Savannah, who teams up with her boyfriend and tells Summer to stop being friends with August. Summer doesn’t listen to them. She invites August to her house, where they talk about his illness. This brings them closer together.
Part 4 of the novel is told from the point of view of Jack. Jack reveals that he first saw August as a little kid when they both happened to visit the same ice cream store. His babysitter warned him to never stare at anyone the way he stared at August. Ever since then, Jack has tried hard to act normal around August. He agreed to give August a tour of Beecher Prep with Julian and Charlotte.
When Mr. Tushman asked him to be nice to August, Jack agreed to that, too, despite his claims that he was forced. He really does want to be friends with August, so he gets upset when August suddenly stops talking to him. He doesn’t realize that August overheard his conversation with Julian. When he does finally figure it out, he feels guilty.
Jack goes sledding with his dad. He finds an abandoned sleigh on the hill, only to learn later that it belonged to one of his friends, an insufferable rich kid who tossed the sleigh when it grew too old for him. Jack becomes disillusioned with Julian and the rich kids. He punches Julian in the face one day after Julian calls August a “freak.” Mr. Tushman reprimands Jack and orders him to write a letter of apology to Julian over winter break. Jack agrees, but he refuses to explain his reasons for hitting Julian. Upset, Jack texts August and apologizes for what he said. They become friends again. Unfortunately, Julian has convinced their class that Jack is unstable and has a plan to shun Jack. Charlotte warns Jack about this, assuring him the girls are neutral for now. Jack is irritated, but he doesn’t worry about it. He joins August and Summer at their lunch table, and he and August work on their science project.
Part 5 of the novel is told from the point of view of Justin, Via’s boyfriend. Justin plays the fiddle in a zydeco band (zydeco being a form of music out of Louisiana). Justin’s parents are divorced and barely pay attention to him. He mostly fends for himself. On Valentine’s Day, he goes to dinner with Via and her family, amazed at how close her family is. Via convinces him to try out for the lead role in the school play, Our Town. He gets the part opposite Miranda, who will play the lead female role. Justin wishes Via had gotten Miranda’s role. On opening night, however, Miranda steps down so Via can take her place onstage for the night. Justin is pleased by the change. He can’t stop thinking about something Miranda says: “The universe was not kind to Auggie Pullman.”
Part 6 returns to August’s point of view. A kind of war has broken out between August and Julian, who has divided the class with his plan to ostracize Jack. People have been stuffing mean notes into Jack and August’s lockers. Things change, however, after Julian claims that an emotionally unstable Jack has hired a hitman to kill him. Everyone finds that ridiculous, and people start siding with Jack and August.
August resists getting hearing aids, but he grows to like them. He listens with his newly improved hearing as Via and her parents have a fight about how neglected she feels. She wants them all to come see her in the school play, but her mother wants to stay behind with August so the play’s attendees won’t stare at him. August hides in his room after dinner. That same night, the family dog, Daisy, falls ill and has to be put down. It seems she had an incurable mass in her stomach.
Part 7 is told from the point of view of Miranda. She reveals that her parents got divorced that summer before freshman year. Her mother shuttled her off to camp for the rest of summer. Miranda didn’t want to go, and soon after she arrived, she lied about having a deformed brother in order to get attention from the popular girls. Miranda undergoes a complete makeover that surprises Via. When the school year starts, the girls quickly grow apart. Miranda feels judged by Via, who clearly doesn’t like her new friends and new look, and she feels guilty about lying at camp. She misses August and the Pullmans, though. One night she even calls August to say hi. On opening night of Our Town, no one comes to see Miranda—not her parents, not even her boyfriend. Miranda decides to give up the lead role for the night and lets Via perform. She’s thrilled when Via’s parents invite her to join them for dinner.
The eighth and final part of the novel returns to August’s point of view. In spring, August attends a field trip to a nature reserve, where he and his fifth grade class will sleep in cabins and explore the woods. He has some reservations about the trip, and his mother advises him to bring a book in case he has any trouble getting to sleep at night. That first day, he takes a hike through the woods and the rain. The next day, he goes horseback riding and tree climbing. Then students from different schools arrive, and August worries how they’ll react to his face.
That night, the camp screens The Sound of Music. Jack and August get up to use the bathroom, but the line is too long, so they decide to pee in the woods. On their way back, they come across a group of older kids lighting firecrackers. One of the boys, Eddie, shoves Jack to the ground, then does the same to August. Somebody helps August up and tells him to run into a nearby cornfield. When he stops, he finds that Julian’s friends Henry, Amos, and Miles were the ones who helped him. August, Jack, and the boys bond over this intense experience.
Back at school, August learns that the story of the fight has spread throughout the class. As the one most directly responsible for saving August, Amos is dubbed a hero and becomes the most popular boy in school, ousting Julian. Miles and Henry also abandon Julian, leaving him friendless. August now finds himself with new friends and a new nickname: “little dude.” His parents also bring home a puppy, whom they name Bear. Everything is great, except for the fact that, during their fight, Eddie stole August’s hearing aids. August should press charges, but he doesn’t.
August is excited to learn from Mr. Tushman that Julian won’t be coming back to Beecher Prep next year. Apparently, the teachers figured out what Julian was doing, and Mr. Tushman decided to get rid of Julian. At the end of the year, August and his friends attend the fifth grade graduation ceremony. Mr. Tushman gives August the Henry Ward Beecher prize, which is reserved for an “exemplary” student. August is amazed by his win. He takes pictures with his classmates at the reception, then joins his family for a party afterwards. His mother pauses to tell him how happy she is. “You really are a wonder,” she says.