Rob Harrell understands pre-teens. He understands their…interesting behaviour and weird choices. He grasps their language and emotions. So, it comes
as no surprise that when writing “Wink”, he was able to take this knowledge and create real characters with very real problems. Not only does he understand the mind of a pre-teen, but he also suffered through a lot of what the main character suffers through. Rob Harrell just gets it.
Ross Maloy, a 7th-grader, has eye cancer. “Wink” is the story of how he survives middle-school with massive, adult-sized problems. I would label “Wink” as an overcoming story. Ross starts out as an anonymous kid with cancer and turns into a confident, take-a-look-at-me-now middle-schooler with cancer. Harrell helps all readers to better understand how cancer affects the mind and body, especially when that cancer is in the body of a child.
Kid-readers will have no problem understanding the slang, humour, idioms, and similes. They will love the little comic panels that Harrell has placed throughout his novel, and they will feel invested in Ross’s middle-school journey.
Recommended Age Group?
Harrell uses very real language in “Wink” and much of that language is often considered inappropriate in a school and home setting. The language that Harrell uses is mild, but in my opinion, kids hear enough of this language in school and on TV, that I wouldn’t want them subjected to more in a novel form.
I cannot give “Wink” a recommended age group as it is. The age range on the back of the book states 9-12. I would not feel comfortable reading this novel word-for-word to this age group. However, if I felt that this book’s themes (grief, love, living with cancer, friendship, and bullying) outweighed the mild language, I would still read this novel to my 7th or 8th graders using my editor brain. As I read, I would be taking out the words that I wouldn’t want them to hear. However, what I might consider to be mild language could be entirely different than what you would label as mild language.
If you are considering this book for your class, my best suggestion would be to read it beforehand. You will then be able to make up your own mind about which age group best suits this novel.
If you were to read this book word-for-word, I would not be able to recommend it as a classroom approved book (for the age 9-12 range). However, if you were reading “Wink” as a read-aloud and editing a few words along the way, I would be less hesitant to disapprove of it. This is definitely a book you would want to vet before choosing it as an option for your students/kids.
We have created a novel study for those of you who decide that this book’s themes and plot outweigh the mild language choices. I still very much enjoyed the story, and I can definitely understand more of what a young child might go through if he/she had to survive middle school with the diagnosis of cancer.