Friday, December 26, 2014
An Acceptable Time (a book review post)
Let me tell you how you don't respond. You don't tell the boy where your daughter is and give him directions to get there without consulting your parents or your daughter. You do not NOT check to see if your daughter even knows this boy. You do not assume the boy is telling the truth that he met her when she was on a school trip to Greece as she was passing through Athens on the way to her actual destination. And, actually, we don't even know if the boy, Zachary Gray, told Polly's parents any of that. All we know is that he showed up at her grandparents' house without any kind of verification or warning that he was coming after being sent ahead by Polly's parents.
Now, imagine for just a moment that you have a teenage granddaughter who is staying with you. A boy shows up at your house who says he was sent there by your daughter and that he knows your granddaughter and would like to see her. Do you tell him where in the woods she is likely to end up from the walk she is on and send him out to wait for her? Do you not call your daughter to verify this boy's story? Of course, if you were to call your daughter (although you would find that, yes, she did send him there) you would find she has no idea from Adam who he is.
I have an almost teenage daughter and this whole scenario in An Acceptable Time deeply disturbed me. That no one bothered to verify with Polly that she knew this boy was completely insane. I don't know; maybe there are people out there who are that naive (other than L'Engle, I mean), but I've never known any of them. It was not a circumstance I could accept as even being remotely realistic, so the book plunged off the Cliff of Belief and Acceptance almost before the first chapter even got going. Then, it got bashed around on the rocks down below as I made my way through the book, before finally drowning and sinking to bottom of the Sea of Disbelief.
So Polly has this time slippage event where she's out on a walk and ends up a few thousand years in the past. She's only there for a few pages in the book before she ends up back in her own time. She tells her grandparents about it which results in more than half of the book dealing with conversations over food about how they don't believe that it happened. This might be okay except that her grandfather has been to other planets and experienced time travel. There is no rational, acceptable reason for her grandparents to spend so long clinging to the belief that she imagined it and that if they just pretend nothing happened then nothing else will happen. And they spend 200 pages doing that. The same conversation over and over about how they don't believe it.
Still, that's not even the most annoying thing about the book. Evidently, for all of L'Engle's "science" in this series, she was one of those people who believe that the Earth is only 5000 years old. Polly (supposedly) has gone 3000 years into the past, and she keeps noticing how young the mountains look. How tall and jagged and un-eroded, because in her own time those mountains have been worn down (by just the wind and rain, mind you) into hills. Maybe L'Engle missed that part of geology where you learn that that kind of erosion takes hundreds of millions of years... well, to actually get down to the point where a mountain has been eroded from a mountain to something that is just a hill would probably take billions of years at least. And L'Engle mentions the ice age and talks a lot about glacial rocks, but it's really unclear when this age she talks about is supposed to have happened.
Basically, L'Engle mixes in just enough science talk to fool kids into believe her books know something about science but, at best, her mumbo jumbo is pseudoscience and, at worst, it's all a part of her "all you need is love" philosophy, which, again, is what saves the day at the end of this book. Not anything the protagonist does because, mostly, what she does is hangs out waiting to be sacrificed and hoping someone will save her. In fact, the only action Polly takes to get herself out of the mess she is in, she undoes. On purpose! And, then, goes back to waiting to be rescued.
And I haven't even talked about the part when the young man she's infatuated with says right in front of her that he intends to sacrifice her so that the Mother will send rain and, instead of being freaked out and trying to get away from him, she starts trying to convince herself that he would really never do that. I'm sorry, but that's messed up and a horrible message to send to young girls.
My final analysis is that this series is, well, horrible. I would never recommend them to anyone and am sorry that I ever did. I'm glad that I re-read Wrinkle and went on to read the rest just so that I will no longer recommend anything by L'Engle to any of my students. And, while I can understand a liking for Wrinkle, I honestly don't understand how anyone can like Many Waters or An Acceptable Time. I can barely make allowances for A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet and that's only because she uses the same characters as from Wrinkle and there's a flying horse.