Summary: Wink by Rob Harrell
When Ross is diagnosed with a rare lacrimal gland cancer (in his eye), it’s like a new trial for his seventh-grade existence. Add to that the fact that his mom died from cancer years before, he’s going blind in one eye, his best friend is moving away soon, and mean kids at school are making terrible memes about his illness, and you have a dumpster fire of a year waiting to happen. Or is it?
As a self-proclaimed hater of sad books, you can understand why I was nervous about reading a book about a protagonist with cancer. But I was pleasantly surprised. As heavy as everything that Ross deals with sounds, this book is more hopeful than anything else.
We follow Ross through radiotherapy and the painful, sad side effects of cancer medications, but also through learning to play the guitar, an unlikely friendship with a school bully, and a closer relationship with his dad. I loved how accessible this book makes Ross’s cancer and his treatments. I’m confident that even sixth graders will grasp most of it and feel real empathy for Ross.
One of my favorite things about this story is the inclusion of illustrations and graphic panels depicting BatPig, Ross’s alter-ego. It’s so rare to find a book for older middle schoolers that has pictures, albeit in black and white. I especially loved the audiobook version, which has fun intermissions featuring Will’s comic alter-ego BatPig (with a different narrator, background jingles, and everything).
Finally, I would be remiss to skip the fact that this book is truly funny — like full-on laughing by myself at Ross’s musings. It’s such a fantastic balance for a story about tough experiences like the ones Ross has to go through. I also thoroughly enjoyed reading the guitar-playing scenes, and everything feels so realistic and true to life.
Overall: Wink by Rob Harrell
Wink by Rob Harrell is a brilliant, funny, and thoughtful middle grade book about navigating a cancer diagnosis in 7th grade. With a memorable male protagonist, richly drawn side characters, and an engaging storytelling format, I would recommend this book to 6th graders and up looking for funny books with male protagonists. It’s also a great one to hand to kids coping with cancer or chronic illnesses.
“Wink is a book by Rob Harrell that I think you should read. This book is about a boy named Ross Malloy who is diagnosed with cancer. He has a big tumor above his left eye. He has a lot of treatments and surgeries that help, but he still has problems…from friend problems to cancer problems. I think you should read this book because it is funny and crazy even though it’s about a serious topic. Wink is a book for you!”— Madison R., age 10
Here are some specifics to know about the content.
- Language: None (but the protagonist mentions the first letter of some curse words — the rest are censored)
- Alcohol/substance abuse: None
- Cyberbullying: A classmate makes unkind memes of Ross
- Ethnic: None; all characters cued white
- Sexual orientation: None
Recommended for ages: 10+
Good for kids who like:
- Books about kids with chronic illnesses
- Middle grade stories centering a disabled character
- Books about music-loving kids
- Middle grade books with male protagonists
- Funny middle grade books
|Publisher details||Dial Books|
|Publication date:||March 31, 2020|
|Cover artists | Designer:||Rob Harrell | Jason Henry|
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