And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on April 27, 2010 (first published in 1949)
Genres: young adult, historical fiction, romance
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Madeline L’Engle is a talented writer, you guys. I enjoyed A Wrinkle in Time so, so much; it’s a clever, inventive story about uniqueness and differences and how it’s okay to stand out, because being different doesn’t mean you’re incapable of being loved.
L’Engle once said,
You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.
And that’s what she did; A Wrinkle in Time is a novel that can be read and appreciated by all ages.
That being said, when I heard she’d written a young adult novel, I was excited, and checked it out from the library hoping for a sweet story about friendship set at a boarding school in post-WWII Switzerland. But what I got was not what I expected.
From the beginning, I worried that this novel would not be able to engage me; I wasn’t as invested as I wanted to be, and Pip came across as whiny to me. But I kept reading, hoping this would change over the course of the book, and that I would warm up to her. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
This novel is boring, not necessarily because nothing happens, but more because it was difficult for me to connect with the characters. Pip’s struggles and fears are all valid and realistic for her predicament, but they all felt surface-level; we never really see more than a timid, pouty girl who whines about how pathetic and incapable she is. She eventually learns to appreciate her school and other people more instead of pouting all the time, but it felt a little hollow because she still seemed very, very young for her age, and that prevented me from connecting with her.
Also, the romance didn’t feel very genuine. I get that some things were unacceptable to write in the late 1940s/early 1950s, but there wasn’t a lot of build-up, and both Pip and Paul seemed way too young for it to be realistic. It’s a small component of the book, but I think it would have been better for the two of them to just stay good friends.
There are other components of the book that had the potential to be interesting—Flip’s relationship with Mme Perceval, Mme Perceval’s relationship with Flip’s father, Flip learning to ski, Paul coming to terms with his past—but they aren’t given enough page to feel genuine; instead, all these aspects feel a little forced.
Overall, this was a disappointment: rather boring, unremarkable, and forgettable. (I actually had to look up the names of every character except Flip, which should tell you how memorable this book was.) L’Engle can do better.