A few months back, I wrote a blog post exploring the characters of one of my most treasured books, Wonder. At the end of said blog post, I hinted that further discussion of the character’s in Auggie & Me was to come. Since this book is an essential read in developing understanding of key characters of the first novel, I felt obliged to share my thoughts, and how they have changed from the first book to the second. Auggie & Me contains the perspectives of Julian, Charlotte and Christopher, both in how August’s arrival has impacted them and also other aspects of their lives that are unseen in the first novel.
Julian – The Julian Chapter
Julian Albans. The typical bully. It is so easy to categorise him as the villain of the story, because that is exactly who he seems to be. His refusal to see past August’s facial deformities, and his enthusiasm to ostracise, intimidate and harass make him an all round unpleasant character. In Wonder, we see this torment best. But as time goes on the amount of people that Julian has recruited to also alienate August diminishes, until he is left standing alone, scratching his head and wondering what went wrong. Whilst reading Wonder, I was inwardly begging for there to be a chapter for Julian, purely for the chance to comprehend how he could possibly treat another human being so poorly. Alas, there was no such chapter. So upon the release of Auggie & Me, I was certain that his story would be retold through his own perspective, and this time I was right. It is clear from the start of Auggie & Me that Julian is oblivious to how much hurt his bullying caused August (at the beginning of the school year). He begins his chapter as follows:
Okay, okay, okay.
I know, I know, I know.
I haven’t been nice to August Pullman!
Big deal. It’s not the end of the world, people! Let’s stop with the drama, okay? There’s a whole big world out there, and not everyone is nice to everyone else. That’s just the way it is. So, can you please get over it? I think it’s time to move on and get on with your life, don’t you?
This passage highlights his ignorance, and also his desperation for his life to continue the way it was before August came into it. However, as his chapter continues, there are hidden glimpses of the person that Julian could be, if he suppressed the nasty nature that he generally hides behind. This is seen firstly through Julian’s embarrassment of his mother’s behaviour, which is similar to that of Julian’s himself. She is overprotective over him in a way that is insensitive and thoughtless to others. Julian sees these qualities in his mother, and is therefore conflicted in how he should act in order to not follow in her footsteps.
The real shift in Julian’s attitude comes from his talk with his Grandmother, who uses an anecdote from her own past to show him the error of his ways. As a young Jewish girl, her childhood came to an abrupt end when she was forced to hide from the Germans during the Second World War. Tourteau, which is a cruel nickname given to a deformed boy who was taunted at school, offered her refuge and a safe space to hide. Overcome by gratitude, Julian’s Grandmother felt the guilt from her days of teasing of Tourteau well up inside her. While getting to know Tourtea on the lonely days and nights she had to spend locked away in hiding, it is revealed that Tourteau’s true name was Julian. This is why Julian’s father is named Julian, and finally Julian himself.
This anecdote touched Julian and caused him to rethink his behaviour towards August and apologise, showing that Julian truly does have the capability to change. Even facing adversity from his parents, who believe that he is making the wrong decision by apologising and facing up to his problems, Julian stands his ground and shows that, in spite of everything, he too can be courageous.
Christopher – Pluto
Christopher is unlike Julian and Charlotte in that he did not meet August at Beecher Prep school. Instead, Christopher is August’s childhood best friend. Although the pair have drifted since August moved homes, the connection they have had from their childhoods is unwavering. Christopher’s story focuses half on his present life, and half on flashbacks from his memories with August. I find Christopher’s chapter to be endearingly honest and relatable. He explains, as August’s older sister has also done, that he has felt ashamed and isolated by August’s friendship in the past, but is also wracked by guilt by even thinking such things. This embarrassment is mirrored in his embarrassment of his current friendship with John, who is not particularly as socially aware as Chris. By the end of this chapter, Christopher has learned that he can only be true to himself if he is treating people with kindness, which was the part of his identity that he was half-trying to suppress in order to appear ‘cool’. Christopher’s story is also an interesting account of the impact of divorced parents on a child, and rekindling disconnected family relationships. It was also heart-warming to see that Christopher depends on August’s friendship just as much as August counts on Christopher’s.
Charlotte – Shingaling
As Charlotte is not a major character in the first book, I was interested to see how her story would play out. Her only real connection to August is the fact that she was assigned as his welcome buddy at the beginning of the school year. Despite this, Charlotte’s perspective is probably the most relatable account in a school setting. Charlotte has problems similar to Christopher’s, as both grapple with fitting in with their classmates as well as staying genuine to themselves. Charlotte has won a spot as a dancer to perform at Carnegie Hall along with classmates Summer and Ximena. Summer is known to be an individual and cool girl, and is well liked by her peers. Ximena, in Charlotte’s words, is “so cool, and so pretty, and everything about her was always so perfect”. Charlotte feels like the outsider, and the reader goes on a journey with her as she battles against her insecurities and comes to realise that she is just as worthy of a spot on the dance team as the other two are. In a game of truth or dare at a sleepover, Charlotte discovers that Summer and Ximena also have hardships in their seemingly perfect lives. This shows us that Charlotte is doing the same thing as what the reader is doing: through listening to other people’s perspectives, she starts to see people in a different light. By the end of her story, Charlotte’s understanding of what makes a friendship is much fuller and more mature than what it was before.
THANK YOU FOR READING!