A Wrinkle in Time- Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time bantam cover

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle was April’s pick for Book Hoarders Anonymous, an online book group hosted by Alison of The Cheap Reader.

This book is such a classic.  I read it once as a kid and remember loving it, although science fiction was never really my thing. A Wrinkle in Time follows Meg, her frighteningly smart kid brother, Charles Wallace, and genius basketball star Calvin as they travel through space and time with the guidance of three “witches” on a journey to return Meg’s father back home.

  • I love Meg.  She is uncomfortable in her own skin and has a very hard time at school, but she is clearly quite intelligent and fiercely protective of those she loves.  She is also flawed, but in the end she comes to realize that these flaws are not always such terrible detriments.  Plus she is a girl who is good at math.  I love a character who defies stereotypes!
  • I also love Charles Wallace.  The kid is creepy smart and has some sort of mind-reading abilities.  But he is a fun character as such a self-assured, sickeningly smart five-year old.
  • There is remarkable beauty in the some of the worlds that L’Engle creates, but there is also pure evil in them, too.  And then, there is the ambiguity of Earth.  It is kind of a fun ride to see the imaginative worlds Meg, Charles, and Calvin get to visit.
  • There are some great themes in this book– the power of love and the coming of age, particularly grappling with the knowledge that your parents are not infallible.
  • There is one scene in this book that has stuck in my memory for years.  The kids land in Camazotz, the town/planet where their father is trapped and the first thing they notice is a bunch of small kids in front of the houses bouncing balls simultaneously.  I had forgotten what book this scene was from, but I always think of it when I read about strict conformist societies.
  • This book is often remarked upon because there are some pretty complicated (but disguised as friendly and easy to understand!) science concepts in here.  It’s like candy-coated physics or something because I sort of understood time travel there for a minute.

All in all, this is a fun, short, beautiful book.  If you’ve never given it a try and like science fiction, I’d highly recommend you read it or share it with your middle schoolers.  It is a classic kid’s book for a reason!

Partials- Dan Wells

Kira lives in a post-apocalyptic East Meadow, Long Island society where what remains of the human race is at risk of extinction because no baby born lives longer than 3 days due to the fatal RM virus.  Eleven years ago, humanity was almost wiped out by war with the Partials, a group of genetically-engineered soldiers, and by the RM virus, which was engineered by the Partials.  When Kira’s adopted sister gets pregnant,Kira goes on a mission to save her sister’s baby hoping to find a cure for RM in the body of a Partial, the humans’ sworn enemies.

I’m going to write this in bullet points because sitting down to write paragraphs just wasn’t working out.  It happens sometimes.

  • This book had me from the first page.  The dedication to “the rule breakers, the troublemakers, and the revolutionaries” put me in the mood for some action and rebellion.
  • The society seemed fairly real to me and it was interesting to think of a post-apocalyptic world that isn’t so distant from our own.  There were a lot of practical considerations that the author actually addressed (where people live, get their clothes, the types of jobs they have).  It was nice to see a well-developed world.
  • The government in East Meadow is focused on two equally creepy goals: controlling the society through whatever means necessary and producing healthy babies through a misguided law called the Hope Act.
  • The Hope Act forces back-to-back pregnancies onto girls as young as 16 all in the hopes that the more babies produced, the better the odds that one will survive.  It poses some interesting questions about the government’s rights in concerns to female bodies and reproductive rights.
  • Also, it seemed really odd to me that women didn’t have more power than they did in this society, given that they were the ones with the power to save humanity from extinction.  I suppose that they’d have been more powerful if the babies actually lived.
  • The science-y parts of the book were awesome.  I was totally excited to read about the virus and Kira’s studies of how it worked.  I imagine it might get too technical for some people.  It is technical in the sense that it is a lot of detail, not in the sense that it is tough to understand.
  • The studies that Kira does of a living Partial named Samm were interesting, too.  It raised some ethical questions in the human subjects testing area.  Do Partials deserve the same treatment as humans even though they aren’t human but they look the same and have intelligence?
  • The struggles between the government and the people are generational in nature and Kira, at times, really encapsulates teenage idealism.  “It felt like the same old attitude she got at the hospital—from every adult, really, a stubborn, brutal insistence on dealing with yesterday’s problems instead of today’s.”

Overall, this was a good read and I would recommend this to those of you who like sci-fi, action, and rebellion.  Also, this would appeal to those who are interested in questions of reproductive rights and ethics of human subject testing.  Word to the wise, though, there will be a sequel or two.