Saturday, May 30, 2015

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder is the kind of book that shakes you to the core and makes you wake up the next morning wanting to change the world.

At least that's how it made me feel when I finished it at 2:30 in the morning.

Amazon's summary on this book is this:

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance. 

This story is so raw and honest, and it has taught me that everyone has their own unique struggles, even if it's not quite as obvious as August's. In all honesty, though August's narratives were very moving and heart-wrenching, it was the narratives of the other characters in Auggie's life that really intrigued me. It was very interesting to read about how other characters were affected by August (such as August's sister Olivia), and what their struggles are outside of the seemingly August-centric universe.

Out of all the characters, the two characters that most intrigued are the two that were seen as "the jerks" in the beginning of the story, but become characters a reader greatly sympathizes with at the end of the story. Throughout the story, the  two characters, Miranda and Jack, were portrayed as back-stabbing "jerks" who are that way for simply no reason. However, as I continued reading through the parts narrated by Miranda and Jack, I finally understood why they had been so hurtful.

These characters are not the simple "jerks" they appear to be; they are just like everyone else, struggling with their own secret battles. The hurt Miranda and Jack inflicted on others were not intentional, but accidents from desperately trying to shield themselves from hurt. 

(In the section below, I explain Miranda and Jack's struggles. As I mentioned in my biography, I am the kind of person who loves spoilers, and sometimes even need spoilers when reading books. If you're not that kind of person, scroll down past the starred section.)


Miranda did not begin to shun August's sister Olivia simply because Miranda wants to be "cool"; it is because Miranda's parents have recently went through a nasty divorce and Miranda is afraid of talking to Olivia because she knows that Olivia will try to talk to her about her problems. So instead, Miranda stopped talking to Olivia and made friends with people who Miranda knew would not care to ask about her miserable life.

The reason why Jack was trash-talking August behind his back was because Jack was afraid that he would lose all his friends at school from hanging out with August. Jack was afraid of becoming an outcast, and being alone at school, so he tried to pretend that he hated August around the "cool" kids, while deep down inside, Jack actually really liked August and though August was the funniest kid ever.

*End of spoilers*******************************************************

In conclusion, the biggest lesson that I personally took from the story is this:

When everyone opens their hearts and shows kindness towards each other, the problems in every one's lives become much easier to bear, and their lives become much brighter and happier. 

I would definitely recommend this book to everyone of all ages.
If everyone in the world read this book, I sincerely believe that the world will become a much more sympathetic and kind place to live.

(R.J. Palacio has written some other books related to Wonder, which include Julian, Pluto, Shingaling, and 365 Days of Wonder. I will definitely try to get my hands on them ASAP and I can't wait to read about August's story in more different perspectives!)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pilgrim At Tinker Creek by Annie Dillared

Pilgrim At Tinker Creek was one of the most interesting books I have ever read, and I would consider it  to be one of my favorite books, as well as one that I would reread. However, I would not recommend this book to most people, but if you're the science-y type or a lover of many random often gruesome topics, then you may want to try this book out. 

This book is 304 pages long, and it took me about a week to finish. It is a nonfictional work about nature and theology. According to Amazon, 

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is the story of a dramatic year in Virginia's Roanoke Valley. Annie Dillard sets out to see what she can see. What she sees are astonishing incidents of "beauty tangled in a rapture with violence."

Unlike many other book descriptions, this is a pretty accurate description of Pilgrim At Tinker Creek. I really enjoyed Dillard's inquisitive, humorous, and sometimes ridiculous tone throughout the book. Her little anecedotes contained in every chapter are delightful, and most of all, I am simply shocked by all of the random things that Annie Dillard is knowledgable about and has written about in the book. Some readers think Dillard is simply pretentious, but I just love all these random bits and pieces of interesting stories and information. Thank goodness the Kindle app allows me to easily look up all the obsurcure things she talks about on Wikipedia. 

This book was actually an assigned reading for an academic decathlon competition that I participated in, and it was by far the most hated-on assigned reading by my peers. I was repeatedly warned by every teacher/coach and previous readers of how verbose and tedious this book is, and told to just "grind through it".

But, being the stubborn person that I am, I was determined to force myself to like this book despite everyone else's opinions, and luckily, it wasn't very hard for me to enjoy it. I did start getting a little tired of it towards the end; this is not a book you can half-heartedly read while being half-asleep from studying APs.

In conclusion, this book really inspired me to ponder upon topics that I have overlooked throughout my life, and I learned many new tidbits of information from this read.