Review Blog

Mar 25 2020

Wink by Rob Harrell

cover image

HarperCollins Publishers, 2020. ISBN: 9781460758878.
(Ages 12-15). Highly recommended. Normal is something all middle-school students crave, to avoid bullies and fit into school life. But for Ross Maloy this is proving very difficult when the results of his cancer treatment mean an eye in a permanent wink, using a particularly gooey eye ointment in it, no hair and having to wear a hat everywhere to protect his eyes.
His best friend Abby enjoys standing out with crazy coloured hair and shockingly eccentric clothes and tries to get him to enjoy his newfound fame as the "cancer kid". But Ross tries to keep his life as normal as possible as the cancer treatment starts to take its toll. Ross is finding himself angry; angry at the kids making hurtful memes about him, angry at his other best friend Isaac abandoning him during his illness, angry that he can't seem to impress the girl of his dreams at school.
Finally, when the added knowledge that Abby will be moving away, he loses it completely with everybody. His decision to channel this anger into learning to play the guitar changes everything for him.
Throughout the story the author includes Batpig comic strips written by Ross and they certainly add humour and interest for this age group. Batpig seems to be able to overcome many of the things Ross is struggling with and readers will gain an extra facet to Ross's situation through them.
The characters in this story are noteworthy as they are well drawn by the author and develop throughout the book, some quite unexpectedly towards the end. Most are classic school characters such as Jimmy, the school bully who still terrorizes Ross even through his cancer ordeal. Linda, the well-meaning step-mum; did I mention Ross's mum died of cancer too? Sarah the beautiful girl who is the object of his desires but hides a nasty side that is revealed at the end. Frank, the cancer clinic technician who awakens Ross's love of music.
A powerful, heart-wrenching story drawn from the authors own life experience of having survived a rare eye cancer. Themes: Cancer, Eye diseases, Courage, Friendship, Middle-schooling.
Gabrielle Anderson

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