By Author / Illustrator

Rob Harrell


Representation & Inclusion

Age range(s)



Hot Key Books




Paperback / softback




Ross Molloy just wants to be normal. 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, simply blending in is no longer an option. Ross - and his friends and his family - all need to work out how to deal with this devastating challenge that Life has thrown down. Maybe Batpig can come to the rescue?

Based on Rob Harrell's own real life experience of eye cancer, and including amazing comic-strip artwork, this poignant and authentic novel is unforgettable, hilarious and uplifting.



Ross Maloy wants nothing more than to be normal - to hang out with his friends and play computer games. But his world is rocked when he wakes one morning with a massively swollen eye, which turns out to be an incredibly rare form a cancer.

Wink follows Ross's journey from diagnosis through to completion of his radiation therapy, taking in giant lasers, best friends, sight loss, worst friends, scars, fights, cowboy hats, crushes, eye patches, bullying, memes, hair loss, school talent shows, eye gunk, punk music and comic strips (Ross is also a talented artist, and the book is peppered with his illustrations, as well as full page comic strips following the adventures of Batpig).

Ross's story was inspired by the author's own experiences with the same rare cancer (although Harrell was an adult when he went through it), which lends the novel a believability that really comes through in the writing. I loved Ross's relationship with music - I really related to his musical awakening, both from a listening and playing perspective - having music as a channel for Ross to vent his anger really resonated with me.  I also appreciated Ross's relationship with his best friend Abby - there are not enough platonic male/female friendships in upper middle grade/high school fiction.

The book's illustrations (drawn by Harrell in character as Ross) are fun and occasionally a little gross (deep fried eyeball, anyone?) without being gratuitous, and they add a level of much needed (occasionally rather black) humour to the book.

My one issue with the book was the way the narrative jumped back and forward in time - I found myself losing track of where in the story I was. It was not a major issue, but it did take me out of the story a few times.

I can see this appealing to a wide range of students - those who like the humour and illustrated style of the Wimpy Kid books, to those who enjoy emotionally rich stories.

315 pages / Reviewed by Dan Katz, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 11+


All Ross wants is to live a 'normal' life; hang out with his best friends Abby and Isaac; go to school; crush on popular girl Sarah Kennedy and avoid school bully Jimmy. However, a rare form of cancer puts an end to any kind of normal Ross had and, as his life begins to change, so do the perceptions he has of the people around him.

On his harrowing but humorous journey of survival, Ross channels some of his frustrations into his art and discovers music and friendship in the most unlikely of places.  Perfect for fans of authors Onjali Q Rauf and RJ Palacio, the semi-autobiographical Wink is a real lesson in compassion and empathy. It includes a note from the author about his experiences as well as drawings and Batpig comic strips throughout the book, which uplift and enlighten.

Excellent for a class read-aloud, the novel addresses PSHE themes and is an outstanding choice in the lead up to National Empathy Day or similar events. 

315 pages / Reviewed by Rhiannon Cook, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 11+


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