I was going to focus this post on A WRINKLE IN TIME, a book I must have read about a million and two times when I was a youngster. But then I remembered that the last time I read it, I was slightly disappointed. That happens to us adult MG and YA readers. Books that set us on fire in youth leave us cold as adults. I still think WRINKLE is a good book, but there are some things about it that troubled me as an adult reader.
The most obvious, and expected if you know me, is the whole Christian overtone. I was still a Christian when I first read this book, and even still when I met L’Engle at a book signing in Toronto in the mid 80s (MANY WATERS was the release, one with even more unpalatable Christian overtones), but reading it now as a rational humanist atheist some of the messages are a bit too overt. Ironically I think the Christianity in the Narnia books is less forced.
I also have a problem, believe it or not, with Meg. I know she’s held up as this great MG heroine, but I found her a bit whiny and stupid. It was Charles and Calvin who really gave the oomph to the plot. Meg felt a bit reactive. Sure, she ended up saving Charles through the power of love alone. Maybe that wasn’t a trope in those days, but it seems that it is now. Heroes get to save the world through honor and courage, heroines save an anti-hero through love (I’m looking at you, Bella Swan. Don’t pretend you can’t see me looking at you).
Anyway, even as an adult I feel completely differently about A SWIFTLY TILTING PLANET, the last book in the trilogy. I picked up this book one night at about 10pm and stayed up all night to read it (I was about 14 or 15 at the time). This was the first time I had pulled an all nighter to read a book, a bad/good habit I have yet to break (Now I’m looking at YOU, Katniss. Yes I am.) Charles Wallace is the hero of this one, with an adult (and pregnant) Meg as his advisor. The spirituality in this one feels more ancient, Celtic or Indigenous and therefore, to me anyway, more palatable. But also more organic.
A SWIFTLY TILTING PLANET is what a time travel book should be: tightly woven, mysterious and dramatic, with the ultimate end of the world stakes. It’s a product of it’s time. Published in 1978 when nuclear holocaust was a very real and very frightening possibility, it still feels fresh today.
The second book in the trilogy, A WIND IN THE DOOR, is slightly weird and reflects L’Engle’s fascination with molecular biology. I’m not crazy about it but I definitely recommend reading the trilogy in order.
Here’s the vitals:
A WRINKLE IN TIME – 50,000 – READING LEVEL 4.7
A WIND IN THE DOOR 48,500 – READING LEVEL 5.0
A SWIFTLY TILTING PLANET – 64,000 – READING LEVEL 5.2
All the books have lowish reading levels and word counts, but the esoteric nature of their content might be a challenge for younger, less sophisticated readers. Nevertheless, despite its flaws, I think the trilogy is well worth it. I know it’s a “quintet” now, but I’m just going to ignore that.
For this week’s I can’t Wait to Read I’m going with THE UNWANTEDS, by Lisa McMann. One of my gifted students describes this book as “exactly like The Hunger Games except completely different.” So, really, how can I say no?
Here’s the blurb: Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their deaths
Thirteen-year-old Alex tries his hardest to be stoic when his fate is announced as Unwanted, even while leaving behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted. Upon arrival at the destination where he expected to be eliminated, however, Alex discovers a stunning secret–behind the mirage of the “death farm” there is instead a place called Artime.
In Artime, each child is taught to cultivate their creative abilities and learn how to use them magically, weaving spells through paintbrushes and musical instruments. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it’s a wondrous transformation.
But it’s a rare, unique occurence for twins to be separated between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron’s bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artime that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.
Other Marvelous Middle Grade Mondayers can be found here:
- Joanne Fritz @ My Brain on Books
- Ben Langhinrchs @ My Comfy Chair
- Sherrie Petersen @ Write About Now
- Brooke Favero @ Somewhere in the Middle
- Myrna Foster @ Night Writer
- Ally Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy
- Barbara Watson @ Novel and Nouveau
- Deb Marshall @ Just Deb!
- Anita Laydon Miller’s Middle Grade Blog
- Michael G-G @ Middle Grade Mafioso
- Natalie Aguirre @ Literary Rambles
- Ms. Yingling @ Ms. Yingling Reads
- Jennifer Rumberger
- Pam Torres @ So I’m Fifty
- Mary @ Writer’s Butt Does Not Apply to Me
- The Accidental Novelist