The first time I saw the odd cover of this book, my brow furrowed and I turned away. Then I kept hearing about it on social media. When I finally picked it up I was hoping the over 400 pages would be worth my time. It was. And more.
August is a 10-year-old child born with severe mandibulofacial dysostosis (severe facial distortion). He has been homeschooled up to grade 6 because of the many surgeries needed to improve his health. Now, his parents want him to attend a private middle grade school. August has had enough experience with the reactions of unfamiliar people to feel great trepidation at the prospect of entering a building filled with strangers. He knows there will be bullying, but he does not expect betrayal. He knows there will be shock, exclusion, and awkwardness, but he is surprised to find genuine friendship as well.
Palacio tells the story of August’s traumatic, inspiring, touching, heartbreaking, and uplifting experiences through the viewpoints of several people. August has the most chapters. But there are also chapters written from the points of view of Viia (Olivia), his 14-year-old sister; Summer, the only person in middle school who befriends August by choice; Jack, who likes August’s company but doesn’t want to be excluded by others; Justin, Via’s boyfriend; Miranda, Via’s best friend in middle school who now socializes with a different group of people; and Julian, the leader of those who bully August. No one is perfect. Palacio shows the flaws and weaknesses, kindness and courage of each character with genuine insight. It is never maudlin or overblown.
Because the story is told from different viewpoints, middle grade readers, young adults, and adults will all connect to the story. I am not ashamed to say that I cried at four separate times in the novel. This little boy, and his exceptional family, crawl inside your heart and take up residence.
While the over all message of this novel is the importance of kindness, courage to face our mistakes and fears, and the qualities of friendship are also explored.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough.