I’m still a little conflicted about counting this one. For Challenge #16, “Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country,” I went to look at a page that had a lot of lists of banned and challenged books. (I think the lists were from the American Library Association.) As I was looking at the list of year-by-year challenged or banned books (most of them merely challenged, or banned from school libraries, rather than banned entirely), there were a lot of interesting books, to be sure, but most of them either not quite something I felt like reading, or something I had read before.
Then I ran out of annual lists and looked at the Top 100 banned or challenged books from 2000-2009, and A Wrinkle in Time was on the list (admittedly down about 94 or so, I think), which was already on my TBR list because a) I had picked up a copy on a buy 2 get 1 free sale at Barnes and Noble a while back and b) somehow I’ve never read it before.
It’s hard to know what to say, of course. This book is a classic of children’s literature from the 1960s, and it’s important to remember both the age of the book and the age of its intended audience. I don’t have much experience (as an adult) with children’s literature, so while I’m doing my best to keep its status in mind, I’m not 100% clear on what all that implies. For example, the heroine, Meg, spends most of the novel not really doing a lot and depending on others, but is that because it’s from the ’60s, is that because it’s for children, or is it to give her character growth? Probably the third one, maybe the first one, likely not the second, but…yeah, dunno. I like the fact that Meg’s personality doesn’t fit the traditional “feminine” tropes: she’s good at math (though not so good at most other subjects) and short-tempered, even a little prone to violence. But there seemed to be a hint of a romance shoe-horned in that was entirely unconvincing, unnecessary, and even slightly inappropriate. (Not inappropriate due to anyone’s age, mind, just inappropriate to be in the story, because the characters really shouldn’t have been wasting energy thinking about things like that while going through so much else.)
Anyway, the main thing I can think of to say about this book is that it has a huge tone shift about halfway through. It seems to be a normal(ish) story about a girl trying to cope with her life with a father who disappeared years ago, problems at school, and a differently abled younger brother who has the reputation of being an idiot because the other people in their little town don’t understand him. Then, suddenly, things become very different, as three mysterious old women take the children and their new friend Cal to rescue their father. And yet, despite the tone shift, it’s a smooth read and you don’t feel terribly jarred by it.
I kept wondering why it was banned/challenged. I’m assuming it was probably because of some of the things that happened during the rescue — especially to the younger brother, Charles Wallace, who’s about five years old — but…gah, could be anything. Those year-by-year lists gave reasons for most of the bans/challenges, and most of them were pretty ludicrous.
One thing I was especially struck by was the initial description of the place they had to reach to find their father. In places it was reminiscent of some earlier works, but what it mostly reminded me of was the kind of thing you find in much later, purely visual works, like Edward Scissorhands and Eerie, Indiana. And I’m sure a lot of other places that I just don’t know about. (The former is probably the more apt comparison than the latter, since the description was about conformity more than anything else.) So this is a book that’s had a big impact on things that have come after it, and it’s always interesting to see the history of a concept.
Of course, now I’m going to have to read the rest of the series, because it doesn’t come to a very full ending. But being written for young audiences means it won’t take long to read the rest of them, so that’s not a big deal.
I’ll probably have my next of these posts pretty soon, because it’s quite grabbing me.