Why don’t you write anything fun? You know, like about an alternate universe or time travel or something?”
That’s my twelve-year-old daughter, an obsessive reader who plows through four or five books a week, disappointed that her novelist mom hasn’t invented a tweenage dystopia like the ones she devours daily. For her, like for so many readers her age, reading means plunging into the supernatural, fantasy, science fiction, some wild imagined world where new rules apply. I watched endless alternate universes with daring heroines pile up on my daughter’s nightstand, baffled by how different her tastes were from mine at her age—until I finally understood one very obvious answer to her question. My daughter’s fascination with nonrealistic literature began a few years ago with one of my own childhood favorites: Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, first published in 1962. And that was where the wrinkle between my daughter’s time and mine began.
A Wrinkle in Time is about a girl who traverses five dimensions to rescue her physicist father, who’s being held hostage in another solar system by (wait for it) an evil intergalactic brain. En route, she crosses a two-dimensional world, stops in an Elysian field filled with centaur-pegasi, and recuperates on a planet populated by blind healing beasts. In the sequel, A Wind in the Door, she saves her little brother from terminal illness by traveling into his cells, likely making this to be the world’s only novel set primarily inside a mitochondrion. It’s awesome, if you’re ten years old and into that kind of thing.
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