And yet, there is one. It is A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L'Engle. I haven't collected all of the books L'Engle has written. I'm not, nor have I ever been, obsessed with L'Engle as a person. It did not scar me, and I have never visited her childhood home. I don't want to move to her town. But A Wrinkle In Time was my constant companion from 4th grade to around 8th grade. I carried it every day in my backpack, I pulled it out during lunch, during class, during recess. Its very presence was comforting.
For a while, I had A Wrinkle In Time completely memorized. I loved it that much. Being the completely oblivious atheist I was (and am), I somehow failed to pick up on all the many religious themes contained within the book. All I knew was that Meg Murray, with her temper and her smarts and her worries she wasn't beautiful enough or smart enough, felt so incredibly real. She came alive, leapt off the page and went to save her brother from the evil of a brain with no heart through love alone. She wasn't me; she didn't have my interests or my particular worries. But she was someone I could relate to. I loved Meg Murray. I absolutely adored Charles Wallace. I liked Calvin. And I was mesmerized by the ideas about space and travel, about our world potentially becoming a Dark Planet, a planet shadowed but fighting in the name of and for the sake of Goodness. A Wrinkle In Time filled me with a sense of hope. I still, from time to time, go back to it. It doesn't bring me the exact same feeling of wonderment anymore, but it I can still see exactly why I loved it so much. I can't explain exactly how it changed me; I don't have a before and after picture waiting to be developed. It obviously didn't convert me to Christianity or anything as world-altering as that. But out of all the books I read and loved, it is the one I don't think I would give up.
And I wouldn't give it up because I can't imagine me without it. I can't imagine what I would be like if I didn't have Meg Murray and her powerful temper and incredible love in my life. I don't know what I would be missing if I didn't know about a tesseract. I may have become a great mathematician if I didn't get into that argument in 6th grade about a square being a two-dimensional object like Mrs. Whatsit said and not, as my math teacher was insisting, a one-dimensional one.
A Wrinkle In Time is the book that changed my life.