A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

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  • Title: A Wrinkle in Time
  • Author: Madeleine L’Engle
  • Genre: Children’s literature, classic literature
  • Pages: 256
  • Format: Paperback
    Other:
    GoodReads, Amazon
  • Grade: C (3/5 stars)

Blurb: 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 sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.”

A Wrinkle in Time is a childhood classic, one that many people seem to love. And as a child, I did love it which is one of the reasons I decided to revisit it as an adult. That and I remembered very little of it, probably because I was so young when I first read it. I expected to love it again, to see why it’s one of those books that still sits on our shelves despite it being published so long ago.

The novel itself opens with one of the most famous opening lines in literary history: “It was a dark and stormy night.” This line is so well-known that it is now a cliché; if a modern writer decided to begin his or her chapter in this way, I’d roll my eyes. Hell, I might even put it down. But for a children’s tale such as this, it works and only adds to the fairytale-ish feel of the novel. In terms of narration, it’s clear to see why A Wrinkle in Time is such a beloved novel.

It’s also incredibly imaginative which is perfect for a child. As a child, I thought it to be whimsical. But as an adult, I see it isn’t just that. It’s about family, love, and growing up. And it’s also quite scary, thanks to IT and the whole darkness thing.

 But unlike many, I found that I forced myself to read each page. It wasn’t necessarily the plot that I found boring. The first chapter was engaging, as was the second half. It was there that the plot was interesting and left me fascinated to find out exactly what would happen to Meg, Charlies, and Calvin.

The main reason I struggled with staying interested was because I felt like the characters were flat and unrealistic. Out of all of them, Meg was the only one who seemed to have any ounce of personality, and even then she felt more like an archetype than person. But my biggest issue was the fact that none of the characters acted their age. Yes, I understood Charles. But Meg and Calvin? I kept forgetting that they were supposed to be teenagers,  not eight-year-olds.

A lot of this had to do with the dialogue. I know that how it was written was characteristic of its time, but to me it’s only a reminder of how much children’s and young adult literature has improved over the past decade. I couldn’t imagine half of what anyone said, including the adults, coming out of any person’s mouth.

And then there were the Christian themes of the text. None of it really fit in with the story. Biblical allusions, Christian teachings, all of it felt so forced and unnatural. And it took away from the magic of the story. For me, it was an unnecessary interruption.

Overall, I understand why A Wrinkle in Time is a classic. I understand why people love it, and I understand why I loved it as a child. It’s imaginative with an interesting plot and world. But flat and unrealistic characterization took it from a “I can’t put this down” to a “You can stop reading if you read one more chapter” book, and ultimately I have to wonder if this is a book best left to childhood.

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