Better Late Than Never: Reading A Wrinkle in Time in 2018

A Wrinkle in Time (1962)
Written by: Madeleine L’Engle
Genre: Science Fantasy/Young Adult
Pages: 228 (Paperback)
Publisher: Macmillan

Why I Chose This: I missed out on this classic while growing up, so my 2018 Resolution Project was to read the book before the movie is released in March. Success!

The premise:

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

A Wrinkle in Time is the winner of the 1963 Newbery Medal.

No spoilers below!


One of the fascinating things about reading “The Greats” in a genre, especially those published decades ago, is seeing the origins of common tropes as they breath life into the pages of a book. The quest narrative of A Wrinkle in Time featuring the teenage girl full of angst because she’s pretty and smart but no one realizes it, the precocious younger brother, and the SpecialTM boy next door weren’t yet tropes at the time L’Engle wrote this tale, and it’s a shame my younger self missed out on discovering this adventure without the baggage of age, experience and a whole lot of other books under my belt.

Dragonlance books looked a lot more friendly to this nerdy 11-year-old.

Reading this novel now, at 34, and loving every bit of the planet-hopping science-fantasy of this book makes me wonder why I missed this book during my middle school years. Searching for a copy to buy to complete my 2018 Resolution Project instantly reminded me. The book on the library shelves back then was the creepy copy with the terrifying flying centaur, which fit right in with the other science-fiction artwork commonly featured on novels at the time. Having now experienced Mrs Whatsit in her alien form through the book itself, rather than judging the cover, it turns out she wasn’t so terrifying after all.

In fact, the descriptive imagery of this novel, of alien worlds and beings and a fantastical method of travel, holds up extraordinarily well in this age of fancy CGI movies and immersive video games. For me, the only aspect of this novel that didn’t hold up is Meg’s personality. Her teenage angst becomes lost in her melodrama and shrillness, and her superiority gets old fast. I’m excited to read later books in this series, but I hope that her immediate initial responses to future amazing experiences don’t continue to boil down to “different = scary” and “how humans do things = the best way.”

The version of the text that I read included an introductory essay that put some elements of the plot into context for the modern reader, which I was glad for. However, this book does not get lost in time. The lack of individuality on Camazotz as a representation of fear of communism continues to be relevant in the current ongoing battle against authoritarianism, over 50 years after the book’s initial publication.

In conclusion: I was already excited for the film adaptation to be released in a few weeks (see above RE: my love of planet-hopping science fantasy), but now I can’t wait to see the story I just read brought to life. I have faith in the changes director Ava DuVernay might make to update the story and increase its relevance in this more modern age. Hopefully other young readers will be inspired to check out the book now, rather than coming to this delightful world 20+ years late.

Featured image source: NewEvolution

9 Comments

  • Lane Robins January 23, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    Now I want to reread this. You reminded me how amazing the opening is. Not only a mysterious stranger but one who drops life changing comments as a “by the way”.

    Reply
    • J.L. Gribble January 26, 2018 at 1:03 pm

      That line on the back hooked me. I wish I could have that scene from the Mom’s point of view!

      Reply
  • Shara White January 23, 2018 at 8:29 pm

    I also haven’t read this, unless I read a snippet in a grade school reading book (which doesn’t count). When I was first starting my study of the genre, there were a lot of classics I tried to read, but this was never on my radar, and I’m not sure why. Maybe I’ll give it a shot!

    Reply
  • Ron Edison January 24, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    Everyone raves about this book but I’ve tried three times since the early ’90s and have never been able to get past page 20 or so. Maybe the movie will do it for me.

    Reply
  • Merrin January 26, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    One of my top books. I love the whole series.

    Reply
    • J.L. Gribble January 26, 2018 at 1:04 pm

      I already have A Wind in the Door on my shelf, to read after I see the movie! I might have talked myself into expanding my resolution… 😉

      Reply
      • Shara White January 27, 2018 at 8:36 am

        Expanding your resolution? I’ll take it!

        Reply
      • Merrin February 1, 2018 at 3:05 pm

        That makes me very happy for you 🙂

        Reply
  • nancyotoole January 28, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    I read this book when I was 10 and really enjoyed it, then reread it in my early 20s and appreciated it on a whole new level. Now that I’ve reached my early 30s, I suspect it’s time for another visit. Nice job getting this in before the movie!

    Reply

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