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Ross Maloy couldn’t have been put against a harder challenge. With middle school being extremely tough to conquer as it is, a rare eye cancer just sharpens the sword. He must remain resilient to defeat the deadly disease. It wouldn’t be a piece of cake, but rather, a tough cookie. Wink by Rob Harrell is an inspiring novel that shows how the light in the darkness may be brighter than one would think.

With no great aspirations, Ross intended to sneak his way past seventh grade slowly. Ross had lost his mom years back to cancer, but he was able to get through that hurdle with his dad and step-mom. To keep a memory of his late mother, Ross, an exceptional artist, uses one of his mom’s old sketchbooks to express himself. With his “non-noteworthy” B grade average and a small friend group, everything was in place until cancer knocked its giant fist on the door. After being diagnosed with one of the rarest eye cancers, Ross had many more problems to face:  from wearing funny hats and dealing with disgusting eye goo to the possibility of losing his sight forever or worse. Due to his unfortunate circumstance and “winking” eye, rather than helping him beat the disease, other kids at his school bully him. Yet, every cloud has a silver lining. Along his treacherous journey, Ross picked up the guitar, an instrument he began using as an outlet for his emotions. Throughout the book, he grows as a character, understanding the world through a new lens. While he has to endure the challenges that cancer brings, he doesn’t have to do it alone. With help from his friends and family, Ross fights with a determination completely unrivaled. “I walked out of there like a boss. I was going to go through a difficult surgery and eight weeks of radiation and lose the sight in one of my eyes…and yet I felt like a million bucks.”

I would recommend this book for children around the ages of 9-13, but this wonderful story can be read by anyone. In my opinion, this novel would be mainly directed towards a middle school audience because of the connections they may be able to make with Ross. 

Wink is a meaningful story that continued to sink deeper within me as I flipped each page. At some points, there was a feeling of resolution until another problem sprouted from beneath the pages, prompting me to read more. Author Rob Harrell did an exceptional job creating this novel, outlining every detail with a layer of happiness, humor, and, sometimes, sadness.

Wink by Rob Harrell. Puffin Books, 2021. Buy the book here and help support Stone Soup in the process!

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