The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story | R. J. Palacio

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“Put a mask on, Auggie! Get your face out of my face, please,” our main character introduces himself to the apparent conflict of this story, a young boy who is physically disfigured. Actually, to be very specific, it is not Auggie himself who is the problem, but his facial deformity, which makes everyone else uncomfortable and disgusts many of the other students and parents in the new school which Auggie has been transferred to.

If being disfigured wasn’t enough punishment for a child, Auggie also becomes a victim of bullying. “I know it can’t be easy for him to look in the mirror every day, or walk down the street,” Julian thinks to himself, even though in several places throughout this story, the wording doesn’t sound much like that of a 5th grader, even though it is narrated from the 1st first point of view, and therefore need to adhere to the age and mindset of the storyteller (who is not an adult in this instance.”

Julian, to me, is downright unlikeable, the kind of kid that all decent children avoid. He refers to Auggie as  “the kid with the face.” Which comes as no surprise when the reader is introduced to his parents, especially his mother, who grates on my nerves throughout the course of this book. She tells her son “I want you to remember your fifth-grade year at Beecher Prep. Okay, Julian? Good memories. Not ugly ones, ” in reference to the rough year they’ve supposedly had by being unable to accept Auggie, who is actually a very nice child, because of his facial deformities.

Julian does get a bit of good advice from the principal of the school.

“You know,” he said, “one of the things you learn when you get old like me is that sometimes, a new situation will come along, and you’ll have no idea what to do. There’s no rule book that tells you how to act in every given situation in life, you know? So what I always say is that it’s always better to 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.”

Let’s hear a few thoughts of the privileged assholes that are Julian and the woman who gave birth to him:

  • “This is what happens when you make little kids deal with issues they’re not equipped to deal with! They’re just too young to be exposed to this kind of stuff!”
  • ” ‘What kind of school is this? I thought kids didn’t punch each other at a school like Beecher Prep. I thought that’s why we pay forty thousand dollars a year, so that our kids don’t get hurt.’”
  • ” ‘We don’t blame Jack, really. I think he just cracked under the pressure of having to be this kid’s caretaker.’ “

    Of, course, none of these people can accept that Jack might be Auggie’s friend because he actually likes him as a person. She’s an asshole. she should be teaching her son to be accepting, but, of course, like an entitled jerk, everything has to always be someone else’s fault.

“After all we’ve done for this school!” Julian’s mom exclaims in her uppity way after Julian gets rightly expelled from school after he takes his bullying of Auggie too far. “It’s not your fault, honey… They have it in for us,” his mom continues, completely refusing to let her son take responsibility for his actions. Also, the when the principal tells Julian’s mom that someone has put a mean note in Julian’s locker (by this point in time, Julian has done this same thing to Auggie at least twice), his mother responds with “it probably hurt his feelings,” but yet, Auggie’s feelings are irrelevant. Still. Even though Julian was the one who started this awful game of name-calling in the first place, his mother refers to Auggie as “a child like that”. Without even saying anything else, the wording and tone of the phrase is rife with an insulting insinuation that Auggie is somehow inferior to her own child because of his facial deformity, which was no fault of his own. But Julian, with his foul behavior, which, I might underline, he is in full control of although no one has referred to her son as if he is from a sub-human species.

Furthermore, Julian’s mom is fake as hell. She will make up any excuse to get rid of the ugly child who’s traumatizing their sweet, beautiful, WONDERFUL kids, who, by the way, if you haven’t caught on yet, are absolutely vile and horrid bullies.

And this is straight from the mind of Julian himself, “He had to choose, once and for all, whether he wanted to be on Team Auggie or Team Julian and the Rest of the World.” I must admit that this does sound like something a child would say, a mean and horrid child.

The Julian Chapter attempts to drive home a few points, including:

  • Children can be mean and susceptible to participation in groupthink (for anyone who has ever read 1984, and for those who haven’t, like me, and only halfway listened in English class).
  • Children can choose to be cruel and sometimes do not see the subtle differences between right and wrong, especially if their parents are negligent about instilling proper moral values.

It is clear by the end of this book that Julian’s mom is the dominant personality in the husband/wife relationship. Julian’s father was bothered by his son’s behavior almost from the very beginning of this book, but for the longest time, said nothing to stop Julian. Finally, his Grandmere holds him accountable for his horrid behavior. ” ‘Sometimes we hate the things we are afraid of,’ ” she explains using a personal anecdote in which she meets the love of her life.

Honestly, this book grated on my nerves about 20 minutes into it. Julian is a prime example of the child nobody wants to give birth to, except possibly the devil. He is also the stereotype of the kind of behavior that is expected, and often accepted from wealthy people. I had to find real determination to finish it because I really hated the character of Julian’s mother. She is a bad parent who uses her money as a weapon and essentially attempts to buy her son’s affections.

The Julian Chapter gets some redemption when the reader is finally introduced to Grandmere, who is a wonderful and loving person and, although she is only featured towards the end of the story, is dynamic and well-rounded.

As I didn’t much enjoy this book, which is the first I’ve read from RJ Palacio, I will definitely pass on the rest of this short book series.

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