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And Both Were Young – by Madeleine L’Engle

March 6, 2013

And Both Were YoungI’ve been a big fan of Madeleine L’Engle ever since the first time I read A Wrinkle in Time, but I had never read her earlier, more obscure books, so I figure this was a good place to start. And I loved it. I loved it the way you love books you read in middle school. Maybe it’s just that it was reminiscent of other books I read during that era, but it definitely struck a vein in me, and I’m sure I would have loved it even more if I had read it then.

It’s been a year since Flip’s mother died and she’s being sent to a boarding school in Switzerland while her father travels the world for a project he’s working on. Flip is quiet and awkward and doesn’t know how to fit in with the other girls. She feels lonely and left out and misses her father, but the one bright spot (outside of her art class) is a boy she meets named Paul. Relationships with boys are forbidden, so she meets with him in secret and their friendship grows, but there is something dark in Paul’s past, something Flip would like to help him with if only he would tell her what it is.

Flip reminded me so much of myself. One frequently finds quiet, bookish characters in books, but Flip’s particular level of introversion and difficulty conversing with her peers is rare, I think, and it endeared her to me instantly. There is a scene early on in which she is desperate for some time to herself, just to be alone, and I could feel that need with surprising intensity. Soon after that Flip has a mealtime conversation with a group of girls which mirrored so many conversations I’ve had in my life (Approximately: “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you say anything. Why don’t you talk more?” “Can you speak? Say something.” “I don’t have anything to say.” “How can you not have anything to say? I always have something to say.” etc.). As much as I liked and was invested in Flip’s relationship with Paul, it was these scenes that really made me fall in love with this book. Much like Flip herself, it’s a quiet and unassuming sort of book, but also lovely.

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