Wink by Rob Harrell – Redeemed Reader

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Wink, a highly praised novel for middle school students, offers a realistic yet exciting look at how to deal with cancer.

Wink by Rob Harrell. Dial, 2020, 314 pages

Reading level: Intermediate at the age of 10-12 years

Recommended for: Age 12-15

Ross Maloy's summer was as usual when he suddenly developed an abnormal swelling over his left eye. It turns out to be a tumor. It turns out to be malicious. It turns out that Ross has to start grade 7 with countless radiation treatments and a variety of serious side effects. This includes permanent squinting, a leaky eye and mandatory wide-brimmed hats to protect his highly sensitive vision. And oh yes, he could go blind. Or even die. All of this is a real downer, but Ross has a keen sense of humor and observation that enables him to tell an exciting story. His cartoon character "Batpig" also enables him to interpret his experiences through occasional comic pages on which his alter ego fights symbolic antagonists. Ross & # 39; Cancer lends a particularly painful twist to the typical drama of middle school, in which best friends become former friends, antagonists become allies and idols plunge into the valley of disillusionment. Ross experiences some very dark moments, but never loses his sense of humor; As soon as the readers are enthusiastic, they stay with him until the final, almost literal breakthrough.

The author Rob Harrell also had eye cancer as a seventh grader, so Ross' studies are absolutely authentic. They teach him that life is a gift to be appreciated, although sometimes, as one character notes, it can be "hell of a lot". There is no way to get rid of hard things, but there is more to life than hard things. For example, there is music: through one of his radiation technicians, Ross learns to play the guitar and exponentially expands his taste in music (heavy metal is the style that best suits his mood). His suffering and determination have no spiritual dimension and therefore no true determination. But readers can appreciate the difficult reality of this particular process and the triumph of getting out of it on the other side.

Overall rating: 3.75 (of 5)

  • Weltanschauung / moral value: 3.5
  • Artistic / literary value: 4


  • There have been a few instances of abuse of the name of God, including an outcry of Jesus' name in extreme shock. Also some mild meanness and the F-word marked by symbols.

More at Redeemed Reader:

  • Your own two feet is the inspiring true story of how to overcome a serious birth defect – see our star rating.
  • The Goodbye Cancer Garden, a picture book about a mother undergoing breast cancer treatment, uses gardening as a metaphor to help her get through the hard times and find new hope in creation. (See also Emily List of 5 picture books that effectively deal with the death of a loved one.)
  • Ross’s story ends positively, but the specter of death sometimes haunts him. Read our reviews of two YA novels dealing with death: "As far as the curse is found.

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