Review of Wink, by Rob Harrell


by Rob Harrell

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020. 315 pages.
Review written July 5, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#4 Children’s Fiction

Wink is about a middle school kid named Ross who’s dealing with cancer in his eye. And believe it or not, the author makes that funny.

Ross has a rare type of cancer that matches the kind the author himself dealt with. He has a series of treatments that means he has to wear hats and gooey ointment and of course start losing his hair. And that starts happening when he’s holding the cafeteria tray of the girl he has a crush on.

There’s definitely a very serious side to this book, but Ross does find ways to cope with the help of friends old and new, with cartoons, and then with music, as he learns to play the guitar and finds an unlikely person to make music with.

I’ve got a little four-year-old niece with leukemia who just lost her hair. She’s going to be okay, but after reading this book, I found myself extremely glad that she’s not in school yet. Let alone in middle school. Ross’s humiliations and difficulties are so relatable in this book, because going through middle school is hard enough, but dealing with cancer treatments, too, gives you all kinds of sympathy – which makes you relate to another problem he has of being completely tired of everyone’s sympathy and attention.

Ross’s mother died of cancer years before this book. (Really? Did the author have to pile on like that? But like I said, Ross has all our sympathy.) He’s got a stepmother who does her best to be loving and supportive. Everyone, in fact, is trying to be helpful and supportive. But sometimes Ross wants to be left alone. And then his best friend has some problems of her own and Ross doesn’t even notice at first.

I didn’t make this book sound as funny as it manages to be. It’s a light-hearted look at a very serious situation. And pulls that off with flair.

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Source: This review is based on a book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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