Wonder by R.J. Palacio

wonderbanner.jpg“I’m just me. An ordinary kid.
But hey, if they want to give me a medal for being me, that’s okay. I’ll take it.
I didn’t destroy a Deathstar or anything like that, but I did just get through the fifth grade.
And that’s not easy, even if you’re not me.”

 
Deviating quite a bit from the heavy, serious fare I’ve been devouring lately, this melt-your-heart sweet and touching novel was just what I needed to lighten up an otherwise blue week. It’s an endearing, lighthearted read that had me in stitches as often as in tears.

August Pullman is, in his own words, just an ordinary kid. He loves Star Wars, science, his dog Daisy and lives with his older sister Via, his mom, and dad. And this year he will be starting middle school. All of which is perfectly ordinary, only Auggie has not been dealt the kindest hand. He was born with severe facial abnormalities and, at ten years old, he has become accustomed to curious stares and often rude comments. Navigating middle school will be as much a challenge as a new adventure.

I adored the characters in this book. It’s a quick read with short chapters, easy to breeze through on a lazy afternoon. We get to experience Auggie’s story through various perspectives, each distinct and wonderfully written. I usually balk at kid narrators, but Palacio’s cast is so relatable and compelling, it’s impossible not to be enchanted. From kind-hearted Summer, best friend Jack Will, unfortunately named but encouraging Principal Tushman, to class bully Julian – each character’s life is touched and changed by the courageous Auggie. I admired the spirit with which Auggie tackles whatever comes his way – he is often humorous, always honest. There are lessons to be learned, perceptions to be challenged and Auggie himself finds that while encountering jerks is inevitable, kindness and respect always win out in the end.

I think this is one of those books that everyone needs to read at least once. It’s told with heart-warming empathy and sincerity, with the importance of friendship, family and compassion at its centre. I dare you to read this and not feel uplifted and inspired by Auggie’s story. He truly is an unforgettable, extraordinary middle schooler.

Recommended if you’re in the mood for a brave, feel-good read that will change your every perspective. Remember to keep those tissues handy.

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

florabanks“I am really here.
Yet I know I am not.
I am inside something that must be buried in my head.
I am layers deep in my own brain.”

Reading this book is like eating bittersweet cotton candy. It’s such a wonderful story about everyone’s favourite brand of treacled torment: the perils of first love. And yes, the pile of teary tissues on your duvet will grow with every turn of the page.

Flora Banks is 17. She has just kissed a bespectacled and forbidden dream-boat on a beach. And she remembers it – which is a rather big deal for Flora, because she suffers from anterograde amnesia. Helpful sticky-notes, scribbles on her arms and her parents’ and best friend’s guidance shape her day-to-day world. She has not remembered a single event since she was ten. But now Flora cannot forget that kiss. There’s just a slight obstacle: the boy on the beach is moving to the Arctic. Convinced that he is the key to unlocking her memories, Flora decides to risk leaving her sheltered life and travel to the Arctic to find him. But, as she soon discovers, this is not the type of book where the young lead gets her miraculous and dreamy ending.

Flora is definitely the sweetest character I have met in a long time. Her naivety and bravery and her absolute believe in that cure-all called love, is so endearing. I rooted for her from the very first page and I applaud Emily Barr for how incredibly well written this character is. Not only is it difficult to write a convincing 10-year-old, but to write about an almost adult trapped in her 10-year-old self’s memories, and do it with such depth, is truly something special. I was initially worried that I would grow bored reading about a character who has to remind herself of where she is and what she is meant to be doing, every few pages, but the plot moves along quickly and the story stays interesting throughout. Flora’s is an unforgettable journey with a beautiful soul.

The One Memory of Flora Banks is slated for release in January 2017. Perfect for fans of John Green, or anyone who has just suffered a broken heart and needs something to read while they hibernate beneath the covers and devour an, upon reflection, appalling amount of chocolate truffles.