Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor
I was 12 when I read A Wrinkle in Time for the first time—about the same age as Wrinkle’s awkward adolescent protagonist, Meg Murray. The book instantly became one of my favorites, one that I have re-read many times through the years.
You see, once upon a time, I was Meg Murray.
When I was an early adolescent, I was awkward and unpopular and angry at the world, and my disposition only became worse when my father died when I was 13. I had replaced my childhood glasses with contact lenses—mostly because my eyes were deteriorating so rapidly that the optometrist used them to stabilize my eyesight. I didn’t have braces like Meg, but I did have a gap in-between my two front teeth that made me incredibly self-conscious. I also spent those years moving from school to school, unable to settle anywhere long enough to make friends. It was not a good time in my life.
But Meg Murray was a girl I could relate to. She didn’t have friends. She didn’t always get along with her family. And, in a family of extraordinary people, she feels less than ordinary.
I think one of the reasons this book has endured the way it has is because Meg is such a relatable character—not just for me, but for awkward teenage girls everywhere: bordering between childhood and adulthood, not quite sure of herself, self-loathing and self-deprecating. It’s something many of us can get.
Then there’s the story: on a dark and stormy night, a mysterious woman named Mrs Whatsit comes into the Murray household and announces that there is a such thing as a tesseract. What the hell is a tesseract? I didn’t know as a kid. I’m still not exactly sure. Something that allowed you to “fold” the layers of space and time, as I recall. This was a book that didn’t talk down to kids. If you didn’t get all the scientific theories or literary allusions, that was okay. You sort of figure it out as you go along.
A lot has been made of author Madeline L’Engle’s Christianity and how it influenced the book. It seems very obvious in retrospect, but as an adolescent raised in a rather secular household, it wasn’t apparent to me. (For that matter, I also missed the even-more-obvious metaphors in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.) But to me, the themes explored in A Wrinkle in Time are more humanist than particular to any one religion. Love conquers hate. Individualism trumps conformity. Those messages should resonate no matter who you are, or where you come from.
And, for me, A Wrinkle in Time is one of those books that has resonated for years. To this day, it remains one of the most important and influential books I’ve ever read. Once upon a time I was an awkward teenager with a chip on my shoulder and no friends. Meg Murray was just like me, and Meg Murray saved the day. If Meg could do it, so could I.
I’m not a teenager anymore, but very few books and characters since have spoken to me the way A Wrinkle in Time and Meg Murray have. Fifty years after its publication, A Wrinkle in Time still feels fresh, contemporary…and relevant. I just hope the awkward adolescents of 2012 are getting just as much from it as I once did.