Julian was a bully to Auggie in the book Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. Apparently, he wanted to tell his side of the story…
As always, I’m late to the party. I didn’t even know Julian had his own “chapter” – which is actually several – until a few months ago. If you choose to read it, you’ll need to read Wonder first.
But you won’t miss much if you decide to stay away. I am not sure the point of hearing Julian’s side of the story. Maybe to evoke understanding that everyone is wounded, and that sometimes people lash out because they themselves are hurt? And yet, that isn’t quite the message that was conveyed. I think it missed the mark.
As it turns out, Julian was freaked out by a scary face on a movie when he was five, and then several more times over the course of the five years leading him up to ten. As a result, he has recurring nightmares. And as a result he Auggie’s face gives him nightmares. See? It’s all justified.
Of course, Julian is a spoiled rich kids whose parents will stop at nothing to prove their child innocent – even in the face of obvious facts that point to his bullying behavior. See? Julian doesn’t know any better. Or maybe he’s just lashing out.
But after the fifth grade year is over, Julian visits his grandmother in Paris. There he discovers that his name sake was a polio victim who hid his mother from the Nazi’s. That Julian was later taken to Auschwitz himself. Thankfully, this information has made bully Julian realize what a creep he’s been and he writes an apology letter to Auggie.
The Nazi story in the middle of the book was touching. And I was glad that Julian had a grandmother who cared enough about him to teach him a little empathy.
But in the end, I’m just not convinced. I’m not convinced that Julian was justified. I’m not convinced of what I’m supposed to take away from the book. I’m not convinced of Julian as a character. And I’m not convinced he’ll actually stay changed. Also, I’m still not convinced middle school kids talk this way.
…err on the side of kindness. That’s the secret. If you don’t know what to do, just be kind. You can’t go wrong.
A final note. Obviously, Palacio is still attempting to get her message of “be kind” across to the kids. If, by no other method, than through admonishments like this from the principal. That’s good, indeed. I’m just a little perplexed on how Julian’s Chapter contributed much to the dialogue.
What You Need to Know
- Role Models/Authority Figures – Julian’s parents are blind to their child’s faults until the end of the story. His grandmother is loving and tries to teach him empathy and kindness. Mr. Browne, too, tries to help Julian see his faults.
- Violence – Recounts the bullying Julian did to Auggie in Wonder. The notes he wrote, his arrogance.
- Langage – None.
- Sexual Content – None.
- Consumerism – None.
- Drinking/Smoking/Drugs – None.
- Religion – None.
- Other –
- Neat stuff –