For the few years after Wonder came out, I would check every so often to see if RJ Palacio had written something new. But besides the companion novels (Auggie & Me and 365 Days of Wonder), there didn’t really seem to be anything. I wasn’t too surprised because I’ve seen this kind of “one hit wonder syndrome” for authors (yes, I just made that up, no, the factor that the word “wonder” appears in it was not purposeful but I’ll take credit for it anyway) happen to other authors whose books become as popular as Palacio’s debut was. The likes of JK Rowling and Suzanne Collins have written other books beyond those in the universe of their bestsellers, but often years after the fact, and they are generally only read by those who specifically look for these books because of who wrote them. This is by no means true for every bestselling author. Many continue to publish successful books every few years or so. But it does happen for some and RJ Palacio seems to be one of them.
This book did not seem to receive the publicity or recognition that might be expected for the return of an author whose original work gained so much prominence, considering that I hadn’t heard of it at all before seeing it in my school’s library with a helpful post-it note (Thank your librarians, they’re wonderful people). This could partially be because I don’t pay as much attention to middle grade releases as I used to, but I feel like I would have at least heard of it if it was truly being publicized. Even with the post it note, the generic horse cover didn’t exactly the book any favors in my mind, even though I doubted that would be the direction RJ Palacio would go in.
When I finally did pick this up, I was right about it not simply being another horse story. In fact, for a book titled “Pony,” the horse barely featured into this book at all. I was excited about the horse’s appearance being different than the average horse, but this is hardly mentioned and does not seem to be something that bothers the general public, including the original owner of the house. Aside from this point, the only real focus on Pony was when he came back for Silas in the beginning of the book, and that he was offhandedly implied to have magical powers.
Of course, the story was well written, and I liked that there was an element of magical realism to it, which isn’t that common in middle grade books (fantasy in general is common, but this wasn’t that). The idea of ghosts being people who still have some tie to the earth is not the most original, but I also thought that this was done well. The message of forgiveness for past wrongs also interesting, and draw a contrast from the theme that any crimes committed by “good” characters were committed for a reason, and instead indicates that it is possible for people to do something wrong for selfish reasons, but then to grow from that.
Overall, I did enjoy this book enough to give it three stars, but I just don’t think it exactly measures up to the author’s debut. Then again, it was a hard act to follow!