Chapters 1-2 Summary

Ordinary

As Part One of Wonder begins, August Pullman explains that he is not normal. He likes the same things other ten-year-olds like, such as video games and ice cream and bike riding. But when he goes to the playground, other kids “run away screaming” at the sight of his face.

August was born with severe medical problems that caused deformity to his facial features and skull. In public, people stare at him, or they work hard not to look at all. They never just treat him like everybody else. He says:

Here’s what I think: the only reason I’m not ordinary is that no one else sees me that way.

After ten years of being himself, August has learned to pretend not to notice how other people react to him. His whole family pretends—except his older sister, Via, who sometimes shouts at kids for their reactions to her brother. To August, her protectiveness is a sign that she does not see him as normal any more than strangers do. His parents think he is “extraordinary.” This leaves him in an awkward position: of all the people he knows, only he understands that he is a regular kid on the inside.

At the end of the chapter, August speaks directly to the reader: "I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

Why I Didn’t Go to School

August is about to start fifth grade, and he is “pretty much totally and completely petrified.” Before now, he was always homeschooled because he had to have so many surgeries, and because his medical problems made him sick a lot. His parents thought it was better to keep him home. But now he is stronger, and he does not need another surgery for several years.

Though August has sometimes wished he could go to school in the past, he never particularly wanted to go as himself. He wanted to “be like every other kid” and play games and hang out. As it is, he has several friends he has known since he was little. He and his best friend, Christopher, are pretty close, and Zachary and Alex are pretty good friends as well.

But Christopher recently moved to the suburbs, and Zachary and Alex have hung out with August less since they started going to school. August still sees Christopher once in a while, and they attend each other’s birthday parties every year. Nobody else invites August to his or her birthday parties, at least not lately. He remembers all the kids who ever did invite him, but he has not seen some of them in a long time.