Auggie and Me by RJ Palacio (Three Wonder Stories)
To understand this review of Auggie and Me, you really need to have read Wonder first. Wonder is one of the best books ever written and you should go and read it now, or at least at the weekend. You won’t regret it, I promise. Then wipe away your copious tears, come back and read this review afterwards. But if you haven’t read Wonder yet, don’t read this review as there may be spoilers.
For those who have read Wonder- RJ Palacio’s 2014 book about August Pullman, a ten year old boy with cranial deformities trying to live a normal life- the distinctive front cover will have already jumped out at you. Auggie and Me, however, is not a sequel. RJ Palacio is swift to point that out in the book’s introduction. The truth is Wonder is not the type of book that needs a sequel. Having shared a year of Auggie’s life, we are rightly left to imagine what might happen next, much as we might love RJ to keep on telling us. What she’s done instead, is take three characters from the original book and write their stories, expanding the world of Wonder and pulling, what I would term as, a Binchy*.
Although this isn’t a sequel, it is a proper book. Rest assured, this isn’t the publishers cashing in on the success of Wonder and drip feeding a few extra details to anxious readers. What you’re buying here with Auggie and Me is three mini books- each story is over one hundred pages long- and they are all beautifully and thoughtfully written, as you would expect. Three stories about three children, each connected to Auggie, if not each other.
The first is The Julian Chapter. This is the big one for Wonder fans, as Julian bullied our beloved Auggie in the original story. It was always a shame that we didn’t learn more about Julian, and as the popularity of Wonder really took off and RJ noticed animosity growing towards Julian in images like this…
…she decided it was time to tell his story. And it’s a truly wonderful one to read, one that reminds us not to judge a book by its cover. Later editions of Wonder have been released with The Julian Chapter as an extra at the end, but I prefer it being presented it a different book as it provides a distance needed by its protagonist. By the end of this story, you will have all the information you need about Julian and will at last be able to make an informed judgement on his actions in the first book.
The second story belongs to Christopher. Chris is Auggie’s oldest friend; their mums would even spend time together when they were pregnant. The families became very close and although Chris acknowledges the past difficulties of being friends with Auggie, their friendship always won out. They got on like a house on fire. As younger children they were into all the same things and made each other laugh all the time. It was a normal friendship, in other words.
Now Chris and his family have moved some distance away, he’s finding it hard to see Auggie as he used to. Everything has changed for him: a new house in a new town, his parents has divorced, he has new friends and interests. He is struggling to visualise Auggie fitting into his new life and unfortunately he is beginning to regard him as more of a duty than a friend. Chris is at something of a crossroads, then one day things change and Chris is forced to think about his life choices. Again, it’s a bit of a tear jerker but another wonderful tale. Fair play to RJ Palacio: we barely knew Chris in the original book, but within sentences I was immersed in his life. Also, loving his description here of his hamster:
‘A hamster is basically just a warm potato with fur.’
I love this, but then again I am extremely fond of potatoes.
When Auggie first starts Beecher Prep, Charlotte is one of the children who is charged with being his ‘buddy’. She seems like an obvious choice, being an all-round ‘All American’ good egg. We don’t really get to know her in Wonder, but here she is marvellous. Charlotte’s story deals with the complications of staying neutral when those around her are in conflict. She watches the inevitable changes in social groups start to take place and although she remains steady and positive, she knows things will never be as simple as they used to be when they were younger.
Charlotte’s story is the most subtle of the three and probably my favourite. She is Wonder personified and her chapter works because through her kindness and altruism she represents the whole school community. Charlotte is the soul of all that is good at Beecher Prep and provides the perfect full stop to the world of Wonder.
And Extra Credit Goes To…
…the anomaly in Charlotte’s story: Maya, who seems not to change one bit despite all this emotional roller-coasting around her. Everyone needs a Maya I think, to keep them from keeling over.
GGGGG Of course. Auggie and Me is a pleasure.
* To ‘pull a Binchy’ refers to the narrative style of the late great Maeve Binchy, who wrote a billion or so books. Her stories were usually linked by connecting characters and often ran parallel to each other too.