I didn’t read A Wrinkle in Time for the first time until a few years ago. Part of this is probably because, although I know now that it’s a Newbery winner and is considered a classic, it was kind of a nonentity to me as a kid. Unlike series like the Oz books, the Narnia books, The Lord of the Rings series, or even the Dragonriders of Pern novels (which I probably read way too young, haaa), neither A Wrinkle in Time nor its sequels were ever placed in my orbit. I don’t even know if this series has a fandom. Do people have nostalgic feelings about reading this book as a kid? It’s a mystery to me. I do know, however, that they’re making a movie adaptation, and the fantastic Ava DuVernay has been tapped to direct, so I figured that now was a good time to revisit this bite-sized book and see what the big deal was.
While A Wrinkle in Time originally debuted in 1962, my tiny, battered, fifty-cents-at-the-library-book-sale mass market copy appears to have been reprinted in 1976, and features, among other things, a dedication in the front cover “To Richard, Much Love, Uncle Dennis and Aunt Judy, 1994” and one of those tear-out order-more pages one sees in older genre mass markets in the back. And at fewer than 200 pages, it was the work of an afternoon to reread it. A Wrinkle in Time is the story of Margaret “Meg” Murry, a middle-schooler who’s constantly getting into trouble at school. Although she’s very intelligent, she’s always at odds with her teachers, and the town looks askance at her family because her father has disappeared and her youngest brother Charles Wallace is, well, different. When a mysterious trio of women sweep into her life and suggest that they know what happened to her father, Meg, Charles Wallace, and their new friend Calvin find themselves spirited away into outer space to save Mr. Murry and defeat the evil that’s captured him.
While I like the characters and the concept, the plot of the book is really spacey. Like, not in that it’s set in space, though it is, but in that the story bounces from concept to concept constantly without ever really delving too deeply into what’s going on. The focus is far more on the emotional development of the characters than it is on clearly explaining what they’re doing and how. I’m especially wondering if this will be a handicap when adapting the novel for film.
Meg is an awesome protagonist to me because her primary characteristics are her faults. She’s got so much anger, and she wears her heart on her sleeve. She loves the people she’s close to so fully that anyone who hurts them or speaks ill of them is immediately her enemy, and she’s not afraid to fight someone physically, and this gets her constantly in trouble at school. However, these faults turn into positives when she’s thrown into an alien survival situation, and she’s not without her skills as well. She’s good at math and science—she can do square roots in her head and recites the periodic table of the elements in order of atomic weight when she’s trying to deflect a psychic attack. The sad truth is that these traits, both the positive and the negative, are still notable and rare in modern female protagonists, but that makes it all the more impressive that this fifty year old book did it and did it well.
Looking back, I find it interesting that I like Meg so much as a character, when I don’t have nearly anything in common with her besides also being the eldest sister of four siblings. My siblings have always been able to defend themselves – I was the small, shy, nerdy one – so I never really had to worry about defending them to the world at large. Whereas Meg’s problem is reacting with anger too quickly, I have always struggled with showing my anger, even when the situation called for it. (Not to mention I have absolutely no head for math or science.) Maybe I like Meg because of our differences. I hope that they find someone who can do this part justice when they cast the movie.
Now, I do know that there are four other books in this series, but I’ve never read them. I don’t know what happens with Charles Wallace and his special abilities. I do know, however, that I’m eager to read him as a neurodivergent character rather than as someone with the more-typical-in-sci-fi psychic abilities. While it may not have been Madeleine L’Engle’s intention, I’d rather have that kind of representation than yet another psychic kid. It’s this more than anything else that has me curious to read the other books to find out what happens.
All in all, if you haven’t read A Wrinkle in Time, I’d say it’s worth reading just so you can come back here and mull over exactly how weird a movie adaptation is going to be. If you have read it before and are part of the mysterious fandom I know nothing about, you should also give me a shoutout so I can learn a thing. Either way, this is a diverting and fascinating book that’s worth more than one read to unpack everything the complicated story is trying to say.