I remember being slightly creeped out by our copy of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle when I was younger, mostly because the cover featured the creepiest centaur and a glowing green head. Seriously weird. On re-reading the book as an adult, I was struck with several thoughts.
Life isn’t easy for Meg, a 13-year-old girl. Not only is her father gone, missing and presumed dead for a year now, but she’s also always defending—often with her fists, sometimes with he words—her genius little brother who’s being bullied. Then there’s subpar school work, a stressed out mother, and some very bizarre neighbors. One stormy night the bizarre neighbors visit and it seems that her “dead” father isn’t really dead, catapulting Meg and her youngest brother on an intergalactic journey where they must face the darkness—both without and within their own souls—in order to bring everybody home again.
This book has so many fascinating aspects, layers of meaning, and universal themes that touch me as a reader. It also has some very thin storytelling that annoy me as a writer (and a reader).
Meg isn’t a particularly compelling character because she’s too simple; there doesn’t seem to be much there. Her little brother, Charles Wallace, is much more interesting because of his massive intelligence. He’s the vehicle through which the author touches upon the dangers of pride. If he was the main character, I might’ve gotten behind the book a little bit more.
Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which have potential as characters; they’re quirky and interesting. But…we never really understand exactly who or what they are. A few interesting tidbits are offered about their pasts, but it’s not nearly enough to make them likable.
The story, while interesting, is too abrupt and jumbled. I often had to reread in order to figure out where the characters were and why they were there. I felt like Meg and Charles were just zipping around the galaxy willy-nilly. How many planets were involved? Way too many.
Other than the whiplash (which isn’t inconsiderable), my other problem was the tesseract itself. I mean, what was it? How did they use it to travel? I understand that this wasn’t the point of the book, but you still need some sort of detail in which to ground yourself as a reader.
My favorite part of the book were the universal themes of good vs. evil, individuality vs. conformity, freedom vs. security, the danger of pride, the power of love, etc. The thing is, there are a lot of themes, maybe too many to cover in one book. In fact, this makes the plot a bit thin, stretched and rushed in some places and jumbled and complicated in others.
There are some lovely quotes, however, that make you think:
“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.”
“Love. That was what she had that IT did not have.”
I’m torn when it comes to this book because the simplicity of the writing and the point of view make the book beautiful and the themes powerful, but the vague plot points and undeveloped characters make it a frustrating read. It’s interesting and somewhat good, but it could have been so much better.