Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Wrinkle In Time - Madeleine L'Engle

    1962; 203 pages.  New Author? : Yes.  Laurels : Newbery Medal (1963); Sequoyah Book Award (1965); Lewis Carroll Shelf Award (1964); #23 on the ALA’s “Most Frequently Challenged Books” for 1990-1999 .  Genre : Science Fiction; YA.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    It’s been a year since Meg Murry’s father disappeared.  Supposedly, he was on a secret government project, but people are whispering it was for another woman.  Now Meg struggles in school, worries that she’s ugly, and gets in trouble defending her precocious-but-weird little brother, Charles Wallace.  Her mother carries on with her scientific work, but Meg’s beginning to wonder if she’ll ever see Father again.

    Ah, but things are about to change.  Calvin O’Keefe doesn’t think she’s ugly, and he’s on the high school football team.  A strange lady – Mrs. Whatsit – has moved into the nearby haunted house, and Charles Wallace says she’s a great friend.  And one night, when  Calvin, Charles, and Meg find themselves drawn to the haunted house, they are both surprised and excited when Mrs. Whatsit announces that they will all be going out to rescue Mr. Murry.  Immediately.

What’s To Like...
    A Wrinkle In Time is a YA novel – bordering on Juvenile – yet introduces Quantum Physics concepts to the reader.  It features a high school girl as its protagonist, which was almost unheard of for sci-fi in those days.  It promotes science in general, and chemistry in particular : in order to stop the UE from hypnotizing her, Meg recites the Periodic Table.  How kewl is that?!

    There’s no sex or cussing, and only a hint of puppy-dog romance developing.  The fate of the world hangs in the balance, yet no one gets killed.  Madeleine L’Engle takes you – and the kids – to several fascinating worlds with equally fascinating creatures.

    There is a happy ending, but there’s also a strong message delivered about the danger of conformity.  The pacing is crisp (a must for a YA book), there are riddles to solve, and some thought-provoking scenes, such as when Meg tries to explain “seeing” to sentient creatures that have no eyes.  Last but not least, there is both time-hopping and dimension-hopping.

Kewlest New Word...
    Swivet (n.) : A panic or extreme discomposure.  Well, tesseract is probably the kewlest new word, but it’s a made-up one, at least in the sense that it’s used here.

    When they got back to the house Mrs. Murry was still in the lab.  She was watching a pale blue fluid move slowly through a tube from a beaker to a retort.  Over a Bunsen burner bubbled a big, earthenware dish of stew.  “Don’t tell Sandy and Dennys I’m cooking out here,” she said.  “they’re always suspicious that a few chemicals may get in with the meat, but I had an experiment I wanted to stay with.”   (pg. 36 )

    “What do you want?” she asked.  “It isn’t paper time yet; we’ve had milk time; we’ve had this month’s Puller Prush Person; and I’ve given my Decency Donations regularly.  All my papers are in order.”
    “I think your little boy dropped his ball,” Charles Wallace said, holding it out.
    The woman pushed the ball away.  “Oh, no!  The children in our section never drop balls!  We haven’t had an Aberration for three years.”  (pg. 101)

“There is such a thing as a tesseract.”  (pg. 20)
        I decided to read A Wrinkle In Time because I was curious how a multiple-award-winning YA book could also end up high on the Banned Books list.  ANAICT, it stems from one short passage where the kids are naming the “great fighters against the darkness” in history, and Jesus is listed as just one of a number of enlightened people who did that (pg. 85).  Heavens to Betsy.

    There are some witches who turn out to not be witches, and a crystal ball that is more like a remote camera than a fortune-telling device.  Compared to Harry Potter, this is very tame stuff.  And good luck on getting HP banned.

    Adults may find the storyline to be too simplistic, particularly the “method” used to overcome the darkness.  But we are not the target audience.  When you keep that in mind, AWIT is a light, delightful read, and a book that really isn’t just another cookie-cutter 1960’s sci-fi story.

    8 Stars.  Highly recommended as a book for kids, but sufficiently entertaining for adults as well.  Add another star if you happen to be YA and are interested in science.

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