cover image Wink


Rob Harrell. Dial, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-984-81514-9

Ross wants badly to be a normal seventh grader, but it’s not easy when everyone at school knows he has eye cancer. Besides enduring radiation treatments and their nasty side effects, he’s contending with personal questions, concerned looks, and cheerful wishes from his schoolmates. His best friend, Abby, makes him feel “like something in the world is normal,” but their other friend, Isaac, has all but vanished. When Ross’s radiation tech, Frank, turns him on to music and teaches him to play guitar, he finds an outlet for his anger and frustration and comes to see a new side to a school bully, a drum player, whose cousin lives with Frank. Harrell (the Life of Zarf series), himself a cancer survivor, offers a frank account of cancer’s effects while keeping the subject matter accessible for middle grade readers. Ross never takes himself too seriously, and amusing black-and-white comics trace his unsavory experiences, capture the ironies of his predicament, and underline his creativity and sense of humor. Told in the first person, this lively novel showcases the author’s understanding of middle school angst amid the protagonist’s experience with a serious illness. Ages 9–12. [em](Mar.) [/em]