My wife and I both read this after reading R. J. Palacio’s Wonder, which neither of us were etremely fond of.

We felt that Palacio was a good storyteller, but had a kitchy sort of story to tell. She didn’t have any firsthand experience with disfigurement or disability, as far as we could tell, and seemed to base her entire story>novel>sequel>franchise off of a little disfigured girl she saw once.

Firegirl was written better than Wonder. Tony Abbott has a better sense of what a 7th grade boy has going through his head, so the protagonist is more realistic. More importantly, Abbott doesn’t try to “save the day” at the end. Tom, the protagonist, meets Jessica, the burned girl, and doesn’t really like her. But he doesn’t really dislike her either. She’s just another person in his class. Tom ends up in that difficult spot that most of us end up in at some point or another where his friends—or the people he thought were his friends, thinks were his friends… doesn’t know if they should still be friends—start to make fun of Jessica. Tom has to make the difficult choice between his friends and being a good person.

Sometimes Tom makes the right choice, and sometimes Tom makes the wrong choice, and that really is the beauty of Firegirl. The story is real, and it’s probably happened to most of us, or it will at some point.

Where Wonder taught us to worship victims and cheer for them whether they accomplish anything or not, Firegirl teaches that we should treat everyone like decent human beings, or we’ll regret it eventually.

5 stars. Will read again. I recommend this to anyone who liked Wonder. I recommend this to middle-school teachers and anyone with a 7th-grade boy.

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