- The Good: Imaginative, dark scifi with a little girl lead!
- The Bad: Episodic, religious, whiny protagonist
- The Literary: A character who speaks through literary quotes
Thirteen-year-old Meg Murry doesn’t fit in at school with the other students, and her teachers don’t think she lives up to her genius scientist parents. “On a dark and stormy night”, a mysterious stranger named Mrs. Whatsit arrives at her house talking about a tesseract, the confidential scientific work Meg’s father conducted for the government before he went missing several years ago. Together with her little brother Charles Wallace and new school friend Calvin O’Keefe, Meg is swept away on a mind-bending adventure in the hope of being reunited with her father.
Winner of the 1963 Newbery Medal, A Wrinkle in Time is a smart kids book. I like that the science fiction is sort of based on real science of the time, namely, the kids transport through the galaxy by means of a tesseract, a fifth dimensional phenomenon that allows them to fold or “wrinkle” time. I also like that the relationship between Meg and her parents feel real and that her new tween romance with Calvin is not overly sweet. But what I love most is the imagination. They visit a utopian world with centaurs, a two-dimensional world, a world where an evil darkness has banished free will, and an world in which eyeless tentacled beasts prove both wise and gentle. Since it’s a kid’s book, the descriptions and names are simple, but I can see my younger self loving the set-up while my own mind filled in the details.
The antagonist is the evil darkness mentioned above, which has telepathically taken over Camazotz, imposing a society where everyone conforms, down to the little children who bounce their balls in uniform rhythm and live in cutter-box houses. The darkness, or IT, feels a lot like the Nothing in the Neverending Story, which is to say: terrifying. But it’s obvious in the same way The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is obvious in relation to Christianity. It’s obvious as an adult but not necessarily to children. Speaking of Christianity, this book is openly supportive of said values. The novel has been criticized by both the religious and secular for its references to God.
I also love the charming supernatural guides, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, as well as the lovely Aunt Beast. I can see why these characters were the initial spark around which this story began. But whereas I can see how young Meg as the female protagonist was new and exciting at the time, I personally do not find her particularly relatable. She’s perceived as the dumb kid in a family of geniuses because she’s loud and rash and often whiny, which she too often is on their adventure.
A Wrinkle in Time was a book ahead of its time that was extremely controversial, but its fundamental messages are quite nice. Light must keep darkness at bay. Individuality and free will are the worth fighting for. Love is power.
“Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. – Mrs. Whatsit”