Despite being the 1963 Newbery Medal Winner and a best-selling classic, A Wrinkle in Time had a rough road to publication. Author Madeleine L'Engle received rejection after rejection from publishers who couldn't figure out who would want to read this odd mix of science, fantasy, and religion. Finally, after two years of trying, L'Engle found a publisher willing to take a risk on her book – a risk that paid off.
Why did those early publishers have such a hard time seeing the book's appeal? L'Engle herself has offered various reasons in her autobiography A Circle of Quiet and other statements: 1) that it was too weird, too unlike anything else being published; 2) that its complex content was too hard for kids, but its child protagonists wouldn't appeal to adults (oh, pre-Harry-Potter world, how innocent you were); 3) that its scientific, philosophical, and religious underpinnings were inappropriate for children; 4) and that it was (pull out your fainting couch) a science-fiction-ish book with a female protagonist, and everyone knows only men can be sci-fi heroes. Some of these objections resurfaced after publication – according to the American Library Association's Banned Books website, Wrinkle was one of the top 25 most-attacked books of the 1990s.
And yet, despite all these objections, the book has remained popular, never going out of print since it was first published. L'Engle followed it up with a series of sequels detailing the further adventures of the Murry family and their friends, many of which have also been successful. Perhaps the oddness of the book, the way it isn't limited by established children fantasy literature formulas, is part of its lasting appeal. A Wrinkle in Time is indeed a challenging book for readers young and old, but who doesn't love a good challenge?
It's a rare person who has never looked at her peers who seem to fit in effortlessly, who have the right clothes, the right families, the right gadgets, the right talents, and thought: "If only I were like them, I would be happy." It's a basic human need – the desire to belong, to feel part of a community, to identify with a social group.
By this logic, the people on A Wrinkle in Time's Camazotz, a planet where everyone is exactly the same, should be perfectly happy. After all, they're part of the largest in-crowd around, where everyone has the same clothes, the same habits, the same activities, even down to the same flowers in their matching yards. With no one better off than anyone else, there's no envy, no cliquish in-fighting, just one big happy family where everyone fits in because everyone is exactly the same.
And yet...those Camazotzians aren't performing synchronized dances of joy in the streets, nor are they singing out songs of bliss in perfect harmony. It turns out that being a walking Gap ad isn't the recipe for utter contentment. Why not? Well, for one thing, it's kind of boring. And then there's the threat of being violently forced to conform for anyone who puts a foot wrong. A Wrinkle in Time's villain, IT, is the biggest bully in the universe, targeting the weak and either making them submit or destroying them.
At the same time, the protests from Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace that they like being different are also not quite convincing. Perhaps the trick is to perform a balancing act: to recognize that the lure of group belonging has a strong pull, but to try not to let that stop a you from striking out in your own direction, whatever that may be. What do you think?