A couple of years ago, I fell in love with Wonder, a brilliant, beautiful novel by R.J. Palacio. (I’m not alone in this. If you haven’t read this book, you should. Immediately. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are. You need to read this book.)
In Wonder, we meet Auggie Pullman, “an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face.” He, along with a few other characters, tells us all about Auggie’s first year attending public school. We learn of his struggles with fitting in, being accepted, and dealing with bullies. One of those bullies is a boy named Julian.
We didn’t hear Julian’s side of things in Wonder, but now it’s his turn to tell his side of the story.
From the very beginning, Julian knows that he and Auggie are not going to be friends. Julian wants nothing to do with the strange-looking new kid who seems to have the power to jump-start Julian’s night terrors. And Julian doesn’t get what is so special about Auggie anyway. So what if his face is different? Does that mean that everyone has to bend over backwards to be nice to him?
Julian makes his feelings about Auggie widely known. He starts the game pretending that Auggie has the plague, he makes faces behind Auggie’s back, and he writes horrible notes and puts them in the boy’s locker. But nobody understands just how difficult it is for Julian to be around Auggie. No one except Julian’s mom.
When Julian’s mom gets a look at Auggie, she seems to make it her mission to get him out of the school. (Julian is actually kind of embarrassed by this. His mom often doesn’t know when to stop.) And as things snowball out of control, Julian wonders just what his place is at school. Now that everyone seems to love Auggie, what does that mean for Julian?
As Julian comes face-to-face with his own actions and their consequences, he has to examine just what’s behind his hatred for Julian. And when his grandmother tells him a very personal story from her past, Julian may come to understand more about himself and his treatment of Auggie.
Is there hope that Julian can find some kind of redemption? Will he make peace with Auggie? Is he really the bad kid people seem to think he is, or can this bully turn things around? Read Julian’s story to find out in The Julian Chapter.
I didn’t think it was possible to love Wonder more than I already did, but The Julian Chapter changed my mind. This story shone a spotlight on a perspective that is often not seen. How does the bully of the story feel? Even though I still thought Julian was horrible at times, I felt like I understood him a little better (especially since I saw a couple of my current and former students in him).
Speaking as an adult reading this story, I thought there was one character more awful than even Julian. His mom was terrible! No, her son couldn’t possibly do anything wrong! If he acted out, surely it could be blamed on Auggie! No child should have to deal with facing a kid like that at such a prestigious private school! (I’m sure the educators reading this are hearing the voices of the my-child-can-do-no-wrong parents in their heads.) I just couldn’t stand this woman. (And yes, I know I’m probably projecting the issues I’ve had with parents onto her.) I truly think she–and Julian’s dad, to a lesser extent–were the kid’s biggest problem. If they’d made him face his mistakes instead of making excuses for him, things may not have escalated like they did.
One adult I did like seeing in this story was Julian’s grandmother. I think hearing her experiences really opened Julian’s eyes to his own actions. If not for her, I can only imagine how far Julian’s parents may have taken their vendetta against Auggie and the people at Julian’s school.
If you love Wonder, you definitely need to read The Julian Chapter. In my opinion, it adds another layer to an already wonderful story, and provides readers with insight into what may be going on in the mind of a bully (especially one who doesn’t see himself that way).
The Julian Chapter is an ebook download available everywhere for only $1.99. (I was lucky enough, once again, to read a free copy via NetGalley.)
For more on The Julian Chapter, check out the video below for a closer look with author R.J. Palacio.