Release Date: August 18, 2015
For anyone unfamiliar with Wonder, it’s about a kid, August “Auggie” Pullman, with a severe facial abnormality. He starts at a new school and as kids can be cruel, he has to put up with bullying. I absolutely adored the book and believe it’s something everyone should read. Learning kindness is something humanity seems to struggle with. While “kids can be cruel” so can adults and children often learn the cruelness from the grown ups they observe. There are many books that attempt to tackle bullying and don’t get it right but Wonder got it absolutely right.
Auggie & Me is three novellas from the perspective of three other students we don’t hear a lot from in Wonder. For me Wonder was perfect as a standalone so I read these stories with the belief there didn’t really need to be anymore of Wonder. After reading the stories, I still feel the same way. However, that doesn’t mean I believe they shouldn’t have been written. They don’t add much to Auggie’s story, but there were other lessons additional perspectives provided.
The Julian Chapter focuses on the bully of Wonder and how he saw things. Humanizing the bully is often important for kids because they start to understand where someone’s meanness comes from. When I was in grade school, I remember meeting some of the bullies at school’s parents and starting to understand why they acted the way they did. Yet, I feel like an even more important life lesson for me was sometimes mean people are just mean and will continue to be mean. Julian eventually chooses to be nice and since the whole message of the Wonder world is to “choose kindness” I understand why it ended up that way. Julian’s story just didn’t feel like it worked to me. It seems more like a bully got rewarded in the end without doing much to redeem himself. Maybe I am just a grumpy, jaded adult who shouldn’t read books for middle school students. But I see too many Real Life bullies pat themselves on the back for the tiniest kindness.
Thankfully the first story doesn’t set the tone for the other two. The second book follows Auggie’s long time friend, Chris. This one worked better for me because Chris’s growth is more realistic. Chris isn’t a bully but like anyone, he has moments of not being the kindest. He’s not always the best friend to Auggie. He struggles with trying to be nice to another student in after school band while still impressing the older kids who play with them. While this story is short, he works through some of these minors flaws and is better by the end.
The final story is about Charlotte and the story I enjoyed the most. Probably because it has a female protagonist and brought me back to the grade school drama I remember. It also does a good job at exploring different kinds of friendships in a short amount of time. And when it comes to humanizing the mean kids, this story is much more successful. Charlotte’s story takes the drama of lunch tables and cliques and who is friends with whom, and sheds lights on these dynamics in a more subtle way. She learns which friends are true friends, which friendships to let go of, and which friendships don’t have to be close friendships. Throughout your life you’re always learning who is worth the effort and I liked a story about that that wasn’t overly dramatic. No one is cruel in this which offered something different than the bullying that happened in Wonder.
I think these stories worked better as something separate from Wonder. Although Auggie is mentioned, he barely plays a role and the stories ultimately feel disconnected from the original novel. They didn’t add to the Wonder story but Chris’s and Charlotte’s at least worked as something on their own. Julian’s was the most caught up in the original story which is ultimately why it didn’t work for me.
This isn’t a must read like Wonder. You won’t particularly be missing out if you skip it. But if you liked Wonder and need some quick reads, I think the second two stories are worth it.