I’ve really been in an MG kind of mood lately, so when my little sister came home raving about a book she and her classmates were reading, I thought I’d give it a try, just out of curiosity. Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, completely blew away all my expectations. It’s funny and heartwarming and there are some beautiful messages – not even going to pretend there weren’t some tears shed over here.
Plus, it turns out R.J. Palacio is a music buff! Those of you who’ve read the book will know that it’s divided into sections, each narrated by a different character, and at the beginning there’s a song lyric that encompasses either an overarching theme for the section or just a significant moment. So in honour of Miss Palacio’s awesome music taste – because seriously, the ones she chose are beyond amazing – here’s Destiny Laughed, containing some songs from Wonder and some of my own picks. Check it out on 8tracks by clicking on the cover below!
All bookish playlists contain major spoilers for their respective books!
i. The Outside // Taylor Swift
so how can I ever try to be better?
nobody ever lets me in
I can still see you
this ain’t the best view
on the outside looking in
At the very beginning, August is basically shunned by everybody expect for the people who were forced to befriend him. It’s terrible to read about the things that his classmates say and do to him – some of them are downright deplorable (but of course, it’s also the reality of elementary school bullying). This song talks about the feeling of desolation that comes from constantly being the outsider, and it’s a feeling Auggie knows too well.
ii. Space Oddity // David Bowie
for here, am I floating in a tin can
far above the world
planet earth is blue
and there’s nothing I can do
Oh my gosh, I was SO EXCITED that Palacio included this song in such a special way – it’s one of my favourites in the entire book. Of course, this is for Auggie and Miranda and their friendship, but also for all of the characters who are outcasts (and I’m about 99.9% sure that they all are in one part or another). There’s so much hopelessness in the feeling that you’re getting farther and farther away from earth and no one knows how to connect with you anymore.
iii. Best Shot // Birdy & Jaymes Young
I’ll be here, giving it my best shot
baby, your love’s got more than I need
here, crying from the rooftops
nothing can stop us if we believe
here, giving it my best shot
baby, I find that we can be free
when you’re here, here with me
Via and Auggie have a lovely relationship. They’re much closer than most siblings, and Via is protective of Auggie in a way that might be almost overprotective had it not been for Auggie’s situation. Still, she can’t save him from every single hurt, and I think she kind of feels the loss once Auggie starts school and is bombarded with bullying from all sides. This song shows beautifully how she finally learns to make peace with the fact that even though she can’t guide her baby brother every step of the way, she’ll always do her best to help him find his own path.
iv. Vienna // Billy Joel
and you know that when the truth is told
that you can get what you want or you can just get old
you’re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through
why don’t you realise Vienna waits for you?
when will you realise Vienna waits for you?
But at the same time, thinking about Via always makes me sad because I feel like she’s had to grow up so fast. After everything with August, she seems to be overlooked – she’s always known as “that girl with the disabled little brother”. Having to protect Auggie 24/7 has turned her into somebody who’s constantly on the defensive, waiting for people to call her out on flaws that, most of the time, don’t even exist. And there’s something bittersweet about this because, on the flipside, there are people looking out for her, just as she looks out for August. After all, as Justin says, the universe does take care of all its birds.
v. Count On Me // Bruno Mars
you can count on me like 1, 2, 3, I’ll be there
and I know when I need it I can
count on you like 4, 3, 2, and you’ll be there
’cause that’s what friends are supposed to do, oh yeah
And then there’s Summer. There are no words for how much I love her and the steadfast way she sticks with August – without prompting, without drama, just in her quiet and constant way. She’s always there to catch him, and I don’t think she gets enough credit for that. While the rest of the world is in turmoil over a) the way August looks and b) the way everybody else reacts to how he looks, Summer never wavers. She’s always there for him.
vi. Little Lion Man // Mumford & Sons
but it was not your fault but mine
and it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
didn’t I, my dear?
didn’t I, my dear?
I’ll admit it: I really, really wanted to hate Jack during the whole Bleeding Scream thing on Halloween. But I just couldn’t do it, especially after he found out and the sheer horror as he realised how much he hurt August. That scene is what I was thinking of when I chose this song, but now that I’m writing this I think it also ties into all of the characters in their lowest moments: August after the Halloween scene, Via when she’s questioning whether she’s a good sister, Miranda at camp, lying to her friends about her life at home. Weep, little lion man, you’re not as brave as you were at the start.
vii. Darling I Do // Landon Pigg & Lucy Schwartz
golden leaves looked brown to me
the world had less colour without you
shapes in the sky looked plain to my eye
the world had less colour without you
I know plenty of people with eyes closed
they don’t see you like I do, darling I do
But eventually Jack and Auggie do make up, and it just made me so happy to see how relieved Jack was to be friends with him again. It’s one of those things where he didn’t really understand what he was missing until he had it back – August and Jack weren’t quite complete without each other as friends. And I’m so incredibly amazed at how Jack held his ground even when everybody at school turned against him for sticking with August.
viii. Give Up The Ghost // Rosi Golan & Johnny McDaid
it’s all worth the fight when it’s you, dear
we’re hitting our heads on the walls here
we don’t have to hold on so tightly
Besides the fact that this is a ridiculously beautiful song on its own, I think it encompasses the whole book so well. It’s about learning the right time to fight for what you want – and more than that, for what you deserve – but it’s also about learning when it’s okay to let go a little and just breathe. Bonus points because one of the lyrics also paraphrases Mr. Browne’s December precept: it’s fortune that favours the brave ones.
ix. Yellow // Coldplay
your skin, oh yeah your skin and bones
turn into something beautiful
and you know, you know I love you so
you know I love you so
I cried SO HARD when Daisy died, oh my gosh. I have a feeling Auggie would sing something like this to her, because she’s been with him since the beginning. She was the one person who always thought he was beautiful, and I think he saw her the same way (and yes, I am the type of person who includes a song for a dog. Don’t say a word). But this is also for the relationship between August and his mom, because I’m so in awe of how she walked the fine line between protecting him and teaching him to protect himself.
x. Wonder // Natalie Merchant
oh, I believe
fate smiled and destiny
laughed as she came to my cradle
know this child will be able
laughed as my body she lifted
know this child will be gifted
with love, with patience and with faith
she’ll make her way
Of course, for Auggie, who truly is a wonder.
Suggestions for future bookish playlists? Check out my Goodreads shelves and leave a comment below!