I’m not ashamed to say that I like kids’ books. You can say a lot in and with a children’s book that’s worth saying. Maybe more than anything, the typically simpler language and character arcs of children’s literature (and I don’t mean that pejoratively) often allow for valuable and rewarding examinations of interpersonal relationships.
R. J. Palacio’s Wonder is a quick little read that, despite a few tear-jerking moments, tends to be of the sugary, happily-ever-after variety. And yet I found the book quite captivating, primarily because Palacio communicates, through the voices of her many narrators, an excellent vision of the social minefield that is childhood and, right on its heels, adolescence. Characters grow apart and drift back together, familial bonds are tested under the weight of social prejudices, shit is talked – in some cases honestly and in others under the influence of peer pressure – and consequences are doled out and dealt with.
Children offer an excellent lens for the inspection of self-discovery and Wonder – which also earns points with me for using quotations from Natalie Merchant’s Tigerlily, David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity,’ and St. Exupery’s The Little Prince – is worth looking through.