Geek Lit Classic: Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time

I like to make sure I read a book before a movie comes out whenever possible.  As such, I made it a point to read the sci-fi kids book A Wrinkle in Time.  I’d never read it before, and the new movie looks like it takes at least some liberties with the text.  How did I like the book?

Um, not a whole lot.

To be fair, there are a lot of books for younger readers that older readers can also enjoy.  I just felt that A Wrinkle in Time was not one of them.  For me, the book had two problems, and they came from the worst possible places.

For starters, there’s the protagonist Meg Murry.  As protagonists go, she comes across as weak.  I don’t necessarily expect a heroine from 1962 to go all Katniss Everdeen all over the place, but Meg is consistently surrounded by people who figure things out before she does.  She also seems to need rescuing more than once.  True, she does save the day in the end, but not until what looks like the last ten or so pages does she find the strength needed to do…whatever it is she does.  In her case, I did understand what she did, but I couldn’t say the same for other people doing…whatever it is they do.

And that leads to the second issue, her five year old brother Charles Wallace, who speaks and acts like no five year old I have ever encountered, and that no one seems to mind that he seems to be more of a know-it-all old man than anything else.  If nothing else, he’s five and allowed to use the stove and possibly sharp knives to slice tomatoes as he does in the first chapter.  We’re told he’s special.  How special?  I don’t know.  Possibly telepathic.

Now, L’Engle wrote this book with a at-times not-so-subtle Christian subtext.  There’s a great evil in the universe that only brave fighters have held at bay, and the first fighter the children of the book name when the star-women who may or may not be angels tell them about this whole thing is Jesus, and they are correct.  Faith and love are the things that can save the day…I think.  We’re told the three kids at the center of this whole thing–Meg, Charles Wallace, and a boy who instantly becomes Meg’s boyfriend Calvin–have special weapons to fight the evil things in the book, but we aren’t exactly told what those things are in many cases., and even the children themselves are often uncertain what they are supposed to do since no one really gives them anything like instructions.

I’m sure this book is fine for a younger reader, but I question things too much to have really enjoyed it. Six and a half out of ten weird old ladies who offer pointers that don’t seem very valuable right away if ever.

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