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Vishesh Unni Raghunathan

By R.J. Palacio
Corgi, 2012, pp. 407, Rs. 400.00


‘My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.’ A usual middle school life has fights, punches, suspensions, bullying, name-calling, dating, pranks—but when August Pullman a boy who loves ice cream and plays Xbox like any other kid goes to school, we see the true colours of children. Some immediately take to helping him, while others are repulsed and bully him. August is an endearing character, you would want to hug him straight away. It is difficult for a child to put up with the sort of reactions he has to deal with—yet he puts on a brave face and takes on the world. Middle school can be a task for any child, but August learns to deal with bullies and nasty pranks. R.J. Palacio is an arts director and a book jackets designer, who has always wanted to write, and no wonder! What she has produced is an endearing tale of an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face. The book is sort of penance for the author—she had bumped into a girl with facial deformity while buying milkshake and her son had started to cry. Instead of talking to the girl, the author had rushed away. August Pullman has been home-schooled and never attended regular school till date, because of his face. He had to undergo multiple surgeries to ‘fix’ his face, but it still shocks anyone who meets him for the first time. Now, his parents decide that it is time he went to a regular school. August at first finds the going tough, but what happens at the school camp changes the way he is seen. The book is made of first person accounts from various characters—August, Via (his sister), Summer and Jack Will (his friends), Justin (Via’s boyfriend) and Miranda (Via’s friend). There is also an account by Julian, the boy who gives August a testing time at school, which was published as a separate book, included in the review copy. The book begins with August’s account and the ones that follow give an insight into events already narrated, as well as taking the story forward. Each chapter has no more than five-six pages. While the writing remains simple, the ‘voice’ of each character is unique and identifiable.  The accounts from various characters help paint a complete ...

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