Friday, March 22, 2013

Graphic Novel: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

My choice for this week is a result of my misguided belief that I could just look at the "Recent Publications" shelf at my local Half Price Books while not intending to buy anything and walk away empty handed. Not only did I buy Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, adapted and illustrated as a graphic novel by Hope Larson, but I walked out with two other books as well, because I have a reading problem. Anyway, I had been wanting to try to read a graphic novel, and since I wasn't interested in getting caught up in a new series, reading a book I read as a kid and never understood, but with illustrations, felt like a great way to get my feet wet.

The Situation: Meg Murray lives with her father, mother, twin brothers, and youngest brother Charles Wallace. She is an average girl with her own problems and insecurities. She feels like she can't do anything right lately, and even recently got into a fight at school. She misses her father, who has been gone so long that everyone outside of the family doesn't believe he is ever coming back, and rumors have started circulating that he ran off with another woman. Her youngest brother, Charles Wallace, is incredibly smart, but also very peculiar. All together they are simply trying to live their lives and hold out hope that father comes home eventually, or that they at least receive word as to what happened to him.

The Problem: Charles Wallace's peculiarities also cause rumors to circulate as most everyone believes he is "special." Well, he certainly is special, but not in the way everyone thinks. He sees things that no one else does, probably more than any little boy should. And his latest discovery sets him, Meg, and a new friend, Calvin, on an adventure to find out what really happened to their father. And while they start off under the protection of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, they are eventually left on their own with very little help, and all of their flaws. And if what captured their father was too strong for him, what hope do they have of making it out alive and taking him with them? Oh, and if they fail, the entire world may be lost as a consequence.

Genre, Themes, History: I remember when I read the actual book many years ago I was thoroughly confused and had no idea what was going on. Now, it all seems so simple that I am tempted to label this as a children's story, and maybe it is. But I am thinking it is commonly considered more along the lines of young adult science fiction. Something else I forgot about was the religious references and undertones that make the occasional appearance. The story is essentially the very common one of good versus evil. There is also an underlying theme of knowing who you are and accepting your faults as well as your virtues, and not trying to be someone else, or like everyone else. Also, Charles Wallace will receive the lesson of what can happen when we rely too much on our own understanding. The book is the first in a series of L'Engle's known as the Time Quintet. I know, I said I didn't want to get caught up in a series, but I think I can get away with not reading the other books since A Wrinkle in Time is known to be able stand up on its own.

My Verdict: I enjoyed my first experience with reading a graphic novel. Probably what caught me off guard the most, even though I should know better, was the fact that despite being close to 400 pages long, I finished it in a little less than two hours. Well duh! It's all pictures...of course it went by fast. But I also was really interested in what was going to happen next and became incredibly concerned with what would happen to Meg, Charles Wallace, and their father. Even though I have forgotten most everything about the original, Larson's adaptation was a great reminder. Any young adult who was as confused by the book as I was would probably greatly appreciate this graphic novel version. And of course, I can't give all of the credit to Larson, since it is L'Engle's story and its endurance that has even lead to there being a graphic novel version over 50 years after the original publication.

Favorite Moment: For some reason, as awful a moment as it is, my favorite part is when Charles Wallace is proven to have leaned too much on his own abilities. He's a great character, and I only hoped for his safety, but at the same time, I had the slight feeling that he thought a little too much of himself.

Favorite Character: I rarely go with the main character for this, but this time I will. Meg is my favorite character probably because she is an average girl who is able to accomplish an incredible feat just by accepting her own limitations and offering the one thing she has.

Recommended Reading: I don't have any other experience with graphic novels, but some of the ideas that Meg and company are fighting against are the central theme to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, with a little bit of George Orwell's 1984 thrown in. Either book would be a great follow-up to L'Engle's story.

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