Wonder

By R. J. Palacio

From the back cover

My name is August.
I won’t describe what I look like.
Whatever you’re thinking,
it’s probably worse.

My thoughts…

August Pullman was born with a disease that caused facial deformity. But otherwise, he is a regular fifth grader. He had been homeschooled his entire life due to the many surgeries he had undergone as a result of his illness. In this book, we go on an incredible, heart moving journey of August’s first year of school. Middle school is especially difficult for kids to adjust into, but for August, it is even more challenging.
This is a wonderful book in the sense that it teaches empathy and delivers messages of strength and perseverance as we watch August grow and help everyone around him grow in one way or another. The Pullman family is full of love, happiness, and acceptance of predestination, which leaves readers in awe.
Parents need to note that there are mild mentions of crushes between male and female students in the fifth grade, as well as a kiss between August’s teenage sister and her boyfriend.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

  • August’s teenage sister, Via, states that she had an “instant’ crush on a boy she met at school in the chapter titled “Out with the Old”.
  • In the chapters narrated by Summer, there are some mentions of boy-girl attractions and dating. A boy sends a friend to see if Summer is interested in him so he can ask her out. Summer describes herself as “flat”.
  • A main character urges a boy to ask a girl out on a date because she likes him. He doesn’t end up asking her out though.
  • Via and her boyfriend kiss once.

 

Violence

  • August undergoes major bullying at school. From name calling like “freak” and “orc” to someone stating that he should kill himself because of his face. The kids at the school also avoid touching him or anything that he had touched afraid of catching his disease. August also faces some bullies that shove him and rip his sweater apart.
  • The Pullman’s family dog dies.

Profanity

Some name calling like “freak” and “orc”.

Smoking/Intoxicants

Miranda, Via’s friend, states that she smoked during summer camp of grade 9 and used to escape at night to meet with boys.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

  • A boy refers to August’s teenage sister as “hot” and also refers to one of their classmates as “hot” as well and that he has a crush on her.
  • Statement: “The universe was not kind to Auggie Pullman”. Allah is fair, and his love is all encompassing. Children should be constantly reminded that we are all tested in different ways and this world is nothing but a big test for all of us.
  • Ideology of incarnation in the following statement by Summer in the chapter “Warning: This Kid is Rated R”:”I think when people die, their souls go to heaven but just for a little while. Like that’s where they see their old friends and stuff, and kind of catch up on old times. But then I actually think the souls start thinking about their lives on earth, like if they were good or bad or whatever. And then they get born again as brand-new babies in the world.” To which August answers “I really like that, Summer. That means in my next life I won’t be stuck with this face”.
  • Some mention of ancient Egyptian gods when the kids work on a school project.
  • In one of the chapters narrated by Via, she remembers her late grandmother and questions herself: Will I really ever see her again or is that a fairy tale?
  • The author makes a number of references to the “face of God” being shown in the kindness of people. Towards the end of the chapter, the school principal also makes the reference to the face of God shown in humans and then he pauses and says “or whatever politically correct spiritual representation of universal goodness you happen to believe in.”

Positive messages

This book is full of positive messages. It gives the reader a glimpse into the struggles of people living with a certain disease or disability. The reader gets to experience a year in the life of Auggie with its struggles, endless bullying, but most importantly, empathetic helpers along the way. Seeing life through Auggie’s perspective will surely harbour empathy, compassion, and surely, some humility. One of the book’s main mottos is “When given the choice between being right, or being kind, choose kind”.

Aside from empathy and kindness, this book also portrays the following:

  • Summer calls her mom to pick her up from a “popular” group’s party, due to her feeling uncomfortable with the atmosphere of girls and boys partying together in a basement where a girl tells her that a boy is interested in her and wants to ask her out.
  • Summer states that her mother believes they are too young to date and says that she agrees.
  • Justin, Via’s boyfriend gets a glimpse of August’s struggles in life and tries to make sense of life:

“My head swirls on this, but then softer thoughts soothe, like a flattened third on a major chord. no, no, it’s not all random, if it really was all random, the universe would abandon us completely. and the universe doesn’t. it takes care of its most fragile creations in ways we can’t see. like with parents who adore you blindly. and a big sister who feels guilty for being human over you. and a little gravelly-voiced kid whose friends have left him over you. and even a pink-haired girl who carries your picture in her wallet. maybe it is a lottery, but the universe makes it all even out in the end. the universe takes care of all its birds.”

Final Verdict

The positive messages in this book are extremely valuable. Especially in today’s world of selfishness and vanity. The book emphasizes on the importance of love, acceptance, kindness, and finding happiness no matter what is thrown at you in this life. The concepts of life/death, predestination, and boy-girl interactions in Islam should be solidified in children’s minds before reading this book in order to protect them from unnecessary doubts.

The Scorch Trials: The maze Runner Book 2

By James Dashner

 

From the back cover

SOLVING THE MAZE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE END.
Thomas was sure that escape from the Maze would means freedom for him and the Gladers. But WICKED isn’t done yet. Phase Two has just begun. The Scorch.

THERE ARE NO RULES. THERE IS NO HELP. YOU EITHER MAKE IT OR YOU DIE.

The Gladers have two weeks to cross the Scorch—the most burned-out section of the world. And WICKED has been sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

Friendships will be tested. Loyalties will be broken. All bets are off.

There are others now. Their survival depends on the Gladers’ destruction — and they’re determined to survive.

NEVER STOP RUNNING

In a gist…

The plot for this book wasn’t as intense as the first one but not much less captivating. Thomas and the rest of the Gladers learn more about WICKED and themselves along the way. The Scorch Trials is filled with unexpected twists and intriguing surprises. It sure does not disappoint.

It is important, however, to note that the storyline contains much flirtation, some sort of love triangle, and kissing throughout. All that along with much graphical descriptions of violent encounters.

Extramarital Love/Relationship

– Feelings between Thomas and Teresa intensify in this book and they first kiss in Chapter 20.
– Kisses are followed thereafter throughout the book.
– A female character is very “touchy” with Thomas and is obviously attracted to him
– Thomas and another female character lay down side by side with their bodies touching and some feelings are described in that scene.

Violence

– This series is full of violence and graphic descriptions of gruesome zombie-like flesh eating creatures.
– Blood, scorching, and killing are all portrayed throughout the book, however, the sane humans are never violent against one another.

Profanity

Most swear words used in this book, like the first one in the series, are made up words that hold no meaning in English. One time one of the Gladers tells Thomas that he can kick his butt but that’s it.

Smoking/Intoxicants

Some of the main characters are ecorted to a party, against their will, where alcohol is served and drugs are used. Some of the party attendees are described to have passed out from the intoxicants.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

– In Chapter 25, a sever strom hits a city and is described with the following words:

The rain fell in torrents, like God had sucked up the ocean and spit it out over their heads in fury”.

– The “Creators” (WICKED) are evil and lead the teenage boys on a life threatening journey to test their survival rate. The main idea of the series is un-Islamic, however, WICKED is clearly portrayed as evil and definitely not glorified.

Final Verdict

This series is full of violence, evil governments carrying on atrocious plots, and some kissing between a male and some of the female lead characters.

The Maze Runner (Book 1)

By James Dashner

 

From the back cover

IF YOU AIN’T SCARED, YOU AIN’T HUMAN.
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers- boys whose memories are also gone.

NICE TO MEET YA, SHANK. WELCOME TO THE GLADE.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out – and no one’s ever made it through alive.

EVERYTHING IS GOING TO CHANGE

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever.
And the message she delivers is terrifying.

REMEMBER. SURVIVE. RUN.

In a gist…

This was a very intense book to read. It kept me engrossed from beginning to end! It contains detailed, graphic descriptions of violent scenes. The whole story is about some twisted individuals who chose to put teen lives at risk in some sort of a killing game to test human survival. Some subtle mention of attraction between Thomas and Teresa is present throughout the book. The whole story may be disturbing to some readers due to it’s psychotic concept.

Extramarital Love/Relationship

– The kids of the maze describe a girl as “hot”.
– Thomas and Teresa have some sort of obvious attraction/bond. It is mentioned throughout the book that they want to be together, Thomas feels that he does “not want to leaver her”, and at one point thinks of spending the night in a jail cell with her. The comments are subtle, not the focus of the book and does not go beyond descriptions of feelings.

Violence

The book is full of violence. Teens against teens, weird creatures against teens. And also, the whole maze was created by adults to watch teens suffering. Much killing, bloodshed, and some psychosis is portrayed throughout the book.

Profanity

None except for made up words that could resemble some profane words that we may know like shuck, slinthead, and shank.

Smoking/Intoxicants

None

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

No family ties present in this book due to the fact that the kids are trapped away from their families. Thomas does wish to be with his parents at certain times although he doesn’t remember who they are.

A point of concern that I think is worth mentioning is the obvious hate towards The Creators of the maze. Their hate towards The Creators is justified, but the repetitive curses at The Creators was getting me uneasy… would a child reading this start hating our Creator if he/she is put through a test in this life that they can’t explain?

Final Verdict

This book depicts lots of violence and some mention of attraction between the sexes but does not contain any type of intoxicants, or any degradation of family values.