Friday, February 01, 2008

Book Review: Wrinkle in Time

This is for the January Book a Month Challenge. It's not up 'til February 1 but trust me, the thought was long begun and worked on in January.

A Wrinkle in Time
Madeline L'Engle

For some reason, I never got around to reading A Wrinkle in Time when I was a child. Chances are good--this is because Sibling-the-Elder had read and enjoyed it. Second child syndrome and not wanting to be Sibling-the-Elder and all that. Yet then when one becomes a children's librarian, it's kind of assumed one has charged through all of the great children's literature. So, when they announced it was a theme of Time--I knew I had to finally pick up this one.

Summary: A bright young girl with a savant but socially nonfunctional little sibling are struggling with their "normal" world. Their mother, a brilliant and beautiful scientist, is working on experiments and their father has been missing for over a year. Twins, normal in most respects, are briefly introduced. Three weird women appear and take the girl (Meg) and sibling (Charles Wallace) as well as a popular but awkward boy (Calvin) and jump them across space. They go up against a great evil, rescue the father from an evil "IT" and go home. Meg learns that love is the most important thing?

I have to say--it was probably 3/4 of the way through the book before I stopped calling it I T and remembered that IT Depts weren't part of L'Engle's plan.

I didn't like the book. (Pause for some horrified gasps) I recognize that it was among the first of it's kind as a fantasy book for children. I think the idea of tessing is an interesting concept. Beyond that--the book was mostly annoying to me.

Meg seemed an inconsistent age. In the opening scene I took her to be 10-11 by the tone. But she's a high school student and the teenage angst she displays at school seems right around 15-16 to me. Then we find out that Calvin at 14 is two grades ahead of her. So she's 12? Then at other points she seems to be back to behaving like a 10 year old (the Aunt Beast scene). She's supposed to be really smart--but then she's supposed to be an idiot. Her little brother knows she's smart, but he treats her like a child.

Charles Wallace is supposed to be 5. Right. I know some very very bright five year olds. I recognize that extreme brilliance, especially when demonstrated at a young age can allow for many thing. CW struck me as 8 and wasn't a character I could identify with. I understand now why Sibling-the-Elder spoke a preference for Meg over CW. Calvin seemed to be a complete oddball. He's "popular" but "awkward" and 14 and known for his basketball skills. He keeps talking about feeling right but it all rings funny.

Now that I've torn apart the characters--the story didn't make much sense either. It was unclear why IT had it's world or what the point of that was. Was IT causing the evil cloud shadowing the earth? Didn't seem to be. What was the point of tessing to a random planet and having the whole Aunt Beast scene? Why, when Tess has been given much the same hypnosis tests as her brother does she have such a hard time with the initial hypnosis test? How is it that their mother isn't a more active character? Why is there no resolution at the end of the book? What does it matter if Calvin comes from a large family with a mother who isn't pulled together? Why the need for physical descriptions of the three Mrs. W's and why the constant morphing? And the holier than thou proclamation of Meg when she suddenly is completely ready to rescue CW after screaming not a quarter page earlier that she can't possibly go--turned my stomach.

Honestly--a lot of it didn't feel fully thought out. The Incredibly-Patient-Mother argued that this leaves more to the imagination but instead, I felt like I got an incomplete story. I just barely could identify with Meg and then it wasn't even her own behavior, rather what her mother said about her. Meg's father had shown her math tricks as a child and then in public school she was frustrated when they made her go the long way around. I've been in that situation, I've been that child that understands without needing to show my work. I'm not sure you're supposed to identify with CW.

So those are my confused thoughts. I'm sure it will be duly noted and written down somewhere that I'm a bad children's librarian because I didn't like this book. Right next to the fact that I don't like Rowling's works. Would you believe I really do enjoy fantasy?

(Updated High Score: 379)

1 comment:

leslee said...

I've been tyring to read WIT, but have had much difficulty with many of the same points you made. I hoped, too, that it is all due to the fact that it was one of the earlier children's fantasy books. Then I realized that indeed it wasn't.

It was a book I was encouraged to read as a child. I wish now that I had. Maybe I would've enjoyed it more then. I could see where it would be a little hard to keep up with for even a bright child, though.