Quick! List all your favorite sci-fi authors–ready? Okay, I’ll go first: Octavia E. Butler, Sheri S. Tepper, Kurt Vonnegut, Ursula K. Le Guin, and… Madeline L’Engle.
Wait a minute, you might be thinking. On the most recent of my many, lingering visits to the General Books department, I noticed you’ve got Vonnegut shelved in the Fiction section, Tepper, Butler and Le Guin safely stowed away in Sci-Fi, but L’Engle is firmly ensconced in YA Fiction. What gives?
Good question! Much genre literature (sci-fi, mystery, fantasy, romance, etc.) can vary in its definition, depending on who decides which authors make the final cut. Young adult fiction, for example, is a constantly evolving section; the cut-off between YA and teen is more or less permeable (though prevailing trends seem to have called teen for the vampire romances at the moment).
Madeline L’Engle, a prolific author who passed away in 2007, is best known as a writer for young people, but her genre-spanning works can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. We’re currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first publication of one of her best-known books, A Wrinkle in Time. This book, the first in her Time Quintet, introduces the Murry family, featuring smart, awkward, brave Meg Murry and her psychically gifted younger brother Charles Wallace. Though the story takes the structure of a children’s adventure, for me it’s the unusual sci-fi details that really set it apart, and which have made it such an enduring classic. I can’t hear the word ‘tesseract’ without thinking of an ant crawling across a piece of string. This book has it all–aliens! telepathy! time and space travel! And even better, it has the foundation of excellent character development to keep the reader coming back for the whole series.
So for any science fiction fans out there who never take the time to check out our young adult titles… Fifty years later, you’re still not too late! (You might have Mrs. Whatsit to thank for that.)