My busy schedule gives me time to feature two reviews per week with the majority of requests coming from authors, publishers, and publicists. The calendar fills up quick.
I always have a stack of books that I enjoyed but never found an available review slot on ALWAYS in the MIDDLE to feature these gems. They were all recommendations from other MMGM bloggers. This summer I’ll share a few of my favorites from the past twelve months beginning with WINK. Thanks to Rosi Hollinbeck for the recommendation.
Ross Maloy just wants to be a normal seventh grader. He doesn’t want to lose his hair, or wear a weird hat, or deal with the disappearing friends who don’t know what to say to “the cancer kid.” But with his recent diagnosis of a rare eye cancer, blending in is off the table.
Based on Rob Harrell’s real life experience, and packed with comic panels and spot art, this incredibly personal and poignant novel is an unforgettable, heartbreaking, hilarious, and uplifting story of survival and finding the music, magic, and laughter in life’s weirdness.
I’m lying on a steel table, all too aware of the giant ray gun pointed in my direction. It looks like one of those room-sized five-ton laser things supervillains use in movies. The kind they threaten to destroy the planet with.
This begins the emotional, funny, and gut wrenching look into a year Ross would prefer never happened. Or does he? Both old and new friendships are tested and the middle grade voice coming through is one of the strongest and accurate you’ll ever find in MG lit. Throughout the 41 chapters there will be points where you can’t stop reading and others where you will need to step away to take a deep breath.
Ross has a best friend, Abby, who helps be the support he needs as does his dad and step mom. It’s few other kids who make the journey difficult including the bear-like Jimmy (who has a nice character arc) and several others whose reasoning for their hurtful actions eventually becomes clear.
Cancer is not a fun topic to center a book around, but the story goes much further and looks at life in unexpected ways. Truly magical with a dose of music thrown in. Ross paves the way with his thoughts and revelations. It is time well spent to be along for the ride.
Spend a minute with author, Rob Harrell, as he introduces WINK:
FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: WINK by Rob Harrell:
- There’s backstory but it is relayed in a refreshing and never boring style. Scattered throughout the 320 pages you find out more about Ross’s mom, how the cancer was discovered, and many sidelights about classmates. Well done!
- Ross likes to draw and Batpig, the character he created, appears in cartoon panels at the end of several chapters. More insights embedded here how Ross feels about his threatening illness and life in general.
- Some surprising and welcome connections with Jerry, an older gentleman fighting his own cancer and Frank, a rock ‘n roll loving assistant in the treatment center. They both become essential components in the healing process for Ross.
- The scenes where Ross faces the inevitable, whether it be with his diagnosis or facing the often cruel world of Middle School, ramp up the tension in page turning fashion.
- The best book I’ve read with cancer as a backdrop. Highly recommended and it’s in paperback now!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rob Harrell created and drew the internationally syndicated comic strip Big Top, as well as the acclaimed graphic novel Monster on the Hill. He also writes and draws the long-running daily comic strip Adam@Home. He lives with his wife in Austin, Texas.
Comments are welcome below and I’ll be joining in the conversation this week. Also—be sure to visit the other MMGM bloggers.