Monday, March 28, 2016

Review: A Wrinkle In Time – Madeleine L’Engle


A Wrinkle In Time – Madeleine L’Engle


It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

"Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract." 
Meg's father had been experimenting with the tesseract—a fifth dimension of time travel—when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?


Review: This is a hard review to write because A Wrinkle in Time is a children’s book, but my adult brain keeps getting in the way.

I vaguely remember a teacher reading this book to my class when I was very young. It must not have had a huge impact on me because all I remembered about it were the three annoying witches who abandon some children on a dystopian planet. I guess child-me wasn’t impressed with this story.

Here’s a real summary: Meg’s father is a scientist who disappeared years ago while studying time travel. The family has not given up hope that he will come home. One day, three mysterious women turn up in Meg’s neighborhood and tell the family that the “tesseract”—the scientific phenomenon that Meg’s father had been studying—is real. Meg’s father is trapped on a distant planet. It’s up to Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and her friend Calvin to save him. This book was first published in 1962.

There is so much in this novel that I either missed as a child or forgot. I think this book is read in schools because it covers a wide range of subjects: science, math, language, history, philosophy, and religion. The child characters are extremely intelligent and not ashamed of their intelligence. They are most definitely nerds. Meg is an average-looking girl who loves math and has some anger problems. Charles Wallace uses big words and easily understands complicated concepts, but he’s arrogant. I think it’s helpful for real children to see fictional children who have a variety of strengths and weaknesses.

This book is a fun space-travel adventure story, but after I finished it, I started to feel irritated. It took me a while to figure out why. I think it’s because everything in this book is oversimplified.

I’m aware that this story is a product of the Cold War, and many people consider it a Christian book that conforms to a Christian worldview, but I have issues with labels like “Good” and “Evil.” I don’t think the universe is that simple. In the book, there is a villain called IT. IT has turned a planet full of people into cartoonish communist robots. The only explanation that’s given for IT’s behavior is “IT’s evil.” That bothers me. Even children’s books should have complex villains with believable motives. I have no idea what’s motivating IT to create communist robots.

The villain isn’t the only thing that bothers me about this novel. The educational aspects of the book are so heavy-handed that I think many children would be turned off by them. They disrupt the plot and start to feel like a school lecture. The story also doesn’t have much internal logic. It never explains why an adult can’t save Meg’s father or why the witch/angel/alien ladies can’t give Meg and her friends more help. Finally, I’m not sure what purpose Calvin serves in the story. All he does is hold Meg’s hand whenever she gets hysterical. I often forgot that he was even in the book.

So, obviously this isn’t my favorite children’s novel, but I’m going to read the next one in the series. I think the next book was published about 10 years after this one, so I’m interested to see if it’s different. 





12 comments:

  1. I read this book in the fourth grade and remember really enjoying it! I can definitely see how reading a children's book as an adult could make it more difficult to enjoy it, but I've been wanting to do a re-read too. I haven't gotten around to it yet, but hopefully soon. I would be really interested to see how many things I missed as a kid too! I never realized it covered so many topics either!

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

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    1. I was completely surprised at how much educational stuff is in there. I didn’t remember most of it.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  2. I've had this one on my backlist for a long time now. On the one hand, I feel like it's a book I should have read when I was younger - but going to a French school, you don't get the same classics unfortunately (and if you do, their translated works which often spells disaster) I dislike the fact that IT is evil and there's no further explanation to it too. Like you, I feel like even with children's books, there should be more details there. Hopefully, you'll have better luck with the sequel!

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    1. Yeah, I dislike oversimplified topics in children’s books. Kids are smart. They can handle complexity.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  3. I have never read this series even though it's in my home library :s
    Though it seems I may have missed the time for reading it and also enjoying it..

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  4. Not into time-travel, but I think I might actually enjoy this one! Great review :D

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  5. I read this as a kid too. I remember really liking it at the time. I do agree that sometimes our adult brains try to overthink kid's books. I am glad that you mostly enjoyed it, and am interested in what you think of the next book in the series.

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    1. I tend to overthink all books, but this is especially problematic with children’s books. Sometimes they make my brain explode.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  6. Great review!

    This is a book (and series) I am interested in revisiting soon. I read it of my own volition in 7th grade and remember loving it with my whole heart (must've just found it at the perfect time in my life). Today, the only part I remember is how dimensions are described to explain time travel. I must've thought that was the coolest thing ever at age 12.

    I'm super interested in seeing what I think of it now. :) I'm a big overthinker now, myself, so I expect the issues with a 60's children's book will be far more apparent this next time around.

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  7. I'm considering getting hold of it and readingit to the grandchildren - and I do get more than a bit fed up with pantomime-villain antagonists in children's literature, so I'll read it first and see what I think. Thank you for a considered, intelligent review:)

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