A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass

“Was everyone playing a trick on me? Of course numbers had colors.  Were they also going to tell me that letters and sounds didn’t have colors? That the letter a wasn’t yellow like a faded sunflower and screeching chalk didn’t make red jagged lines in the air?”

Mia sees the world differently than most people.  She has a rare condition called synesthesia, which is a disorder that involves the brain’s processing of sensory information.  For Mia, letters, words, numbers, and some sounds have their own colors.  For example, her name is candy-apple red with a touch of avocado green.  However, after the episode in the quote, where she realizes that her other classmates don’t see the colors that she does, she keeps her condition a secret, even from her parents.

Aside from her condition, Mia lives the life of an ordinary thirteen-year-old.  She loves her cat, Mango, and spends a lot of time squabbling with her siblings.  She forgets homework assignments and disagrees with her friends.  She worries about fitting in.  Through all of this, she deals with algebra problems that don’t make sense and bad Spanish grades.  It’s pretty typical stuff, just with extra colors.  I especially enjoyed her experiences with acupuncture (it really intensified her synesthesia) and her developing relationship with Roger.

Spoiler alert:  Mango dies near the end of the novel, and a lot of space is devoted to how she processes grief.   Because of her extreme sadness, she temporarily loses her synesthesia.  I was more emotional than I thought I’d be when I read that part, and anyone who has ever lost a pet will understand.

This is a calm story about a girl with an interesting condition.  It’s nothing earth-shattering, but it’s very pleasant.  Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.wendymass.com/

Mass, Wendy.  A Mango-Shaped Space. New York: Little, Brown & Co, 2003. 224 pp. Grades 5-8.

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