Meet the Austins Summary
by Madeleine L'Engle

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Meet the Austins Summary

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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The Austin family series contains four young adult novels, Meet the Austins, Moon by Night, The Young Unicorns, and A Ring of Endless Light, and two shorter books for younger children, The Twenty - Four Days Before Christmas (1964) and The Anti-Muffins (1981). The series concerns a family of six: two parents, two boys, and two girls. Authentic enough to have faults as well as virtues, the Austin children will immediately attract readers. Some critics have complained the family is too good to be true, with its understanding parents and highly intelligent children, but such criticism takes into account neither the issues that the books address nor the realistic events within them.

Dr. and Mrs. Austin are reasonable and understanding, the children are very likable, and the family is close without being constrictive. But the books handle serious concerns, such as the death of a close friend of the family, the disruption caused by a spoiled orphan they temporarily adopt, the everyday quarrels among the children, the effects of a bike accident, and the fear that results when the youngest child disappears. The later books in the series deal with other important issues the Austin children encounter as they grow up, such as the doubts and tensions caused by being uprooted and moving to a big city, a teen-ager's confusion over the first boys who are attracted to her, the birth of a younger sibling, and the impending death of a grandparent.

Vicky, the second oldest child in the family, narrates Meet the Austins and all the subsequent books in the series except The Young Unicorns. Responsible but impulsive, impatient but sympathetic, intelligent but confused by life's complexities, Vicky experiences typical adolescent problems and feelings. The Austin books focus on Vicky's growing up, emphasizing the importance of family love and trust. They trace Vicky's doubts about God's existence and about the justice of the universe as she experiences injustices, and they show her ultimate affirmation of faith.