I was probably twelve when I first read A Wrinkle In Time. It was magical. I loved it instantly, and with an unproblematic awareness that I really didn’t understand it. I knew there were things to be understood, and I knew that I didn’t understand them, but lucky for me I really didn’t feel the need to. The story was enchanting enough.
Perhaps that’s why I associate A Wrinkle In Time with an uncomplicated kind of innocence. And also why I was so surprised to learn that it came in at number 22 on the ALA’s list of most challenged books between 1990 and 2000. More than surprised: dumbfounded. Disbelieving. And basically… confused. After all, we’re talking about people in the last decade finding a children’s book from the nineteen-sixties offensive enough to request that it is removed from libraries. No way, right? Yes way.
Interestingly, unlike the challenges of YA books based on supposedly age-inappropriate material, A Wrinkle In Time has been challenged for undermining Christian values and beliefs. In the interests of figuring out just what that means, I reread it this weekend. What I found did surprise me. I remembered the book as pure sci-fi, but after my rereading I would actually classify it as having strong Christian influences. The three ladies who take our heroine Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and her friend Calvin on their journey through space - Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which - are mystical beings who, in addition to having once been stars, also have wings like angels. Perhaps they are angels - but if they are, angels aren't what we think they are. There’s a sense that science is never the whole story, but it is part of it. The same goes for Christianity. I can only conclude that it’s this that has caused offence to those who would see this book removed from library shelves. To me, this is as puzzling as the book itself was to my twelve year old self. Books are about opening your mind to new ideas, right? If you don't believe that, why have any books? Why have libraries?
Did I enjoy this book as much this time? In all honesty, no. It took me fifty pages to get into the rhythm of the writing, and the storyline didn’t blow my mind like it did the first time round. However, it did remind me of the magic of reading outside my comfort zone. There are so many YA titles these days that grab me from page one, sweep me away for hours at a time, and yet don’t challenge me at all - and it took a reread of a classic to remind me that sometimes I need to make more of an effort as a reader. It also reminded me of the first time I encountered new ideas I take for granted nowadays, like dystopia and hyperspace. Ideas I really wouldn't want to be without.
Verdict: This book needs to be in libraries, so that other people can have that mind-blowing first read too.