Study Guide

Justin in Wonder

By R.J. Palacio


Hey, Justin—what's your beef with the shift key? Would it hurt you to press it from time to time at the start of a sentence? Just kidding—we aren't actually complaining. Because the thing about Justin's typing style is that it mirrors his demeanor in general—quiet and low-impact on the surface, but with a lot of power bubbling below the surface.

Justin isn't a big character in the story, but he's a rich one. He's smart and sensitive, thoughtful and deep, and from the moment his section of the book begins, he is thinking about other people's feelings—both Via's and August's. Why? Because he's meeting August for the first time, and he knows how much that matters to Via. Check it out:

i like to think i'm able to hide my surprise. i hope i do. surprise is one of those emotions that can be hard to fake, though. whether you're trying to look surprised when you're not or trying to not look surprised when you are. (5.Olivia's Brother.4)

When Via asks if he is shocked, he says no—which isn't exactly true, but he knows how many kids have failed her by being too freaked about Auggie to be her friend so he protects her from that worry with him. The way Justin sees things, it doesn't really matter if he is a little bit "freaked out or scared" since he is strong enough to handle those feelings without making them Via's problem.

We see Justin's protective instincts and clear sense of what's right again when he walks Jack to the bus stop and insists upon waiting with the kid. Justin writes:

then i think how i was that young when i was taking the subway by myself. way too young. i'm going to be an overprotective dad someday, know it. my kids are going to know i care. (5.The Bus Stop.15)

He's right—his kids are going to know he cares. Just like Via knows, and August knows, and now Jack knows too.

After Justin sees Julian and his buddies bullying Jack, he learns that the bullying is all because Jack is friends with Auggie. Justin immediately identifies this behavior as unacceptable. But he doesn't stop there—nope, Justin takes it upon himself to deliver a very clear message to the bullies:

"yo, listen up. don't mess with jack," i say really slowly, gritting my teeth, my voice all clint eastwood tough-guy. "mess with him again and you will be very, very sorry." And then i tap my fiddle case for effect. "got it?" (5.The Bus Stop.44-45)

Jack hasn't asked for help, but Justin can see that he needs it and knows that he's in a position (as a high school kid talking to fifth graders) to provide some. So he does. Because that's how Justin rolls.