A Mango-Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass, is a title that I have consistently recommended to students but, as of December 2013, had never read myself. I knew that it was realistic fiction about a girl who saw letters and numbers in color (synesthesia), that the novel made many people cry, and that there was a cat named Mango (three guesses as to why everyone cries; hint: my theory about books with dogs on the cover).
After recommending it so many times and consistently getting positive feedback from the readers, I decided it was time to actually read it myself. I loved it.
At the start of the novel, Mia reflects on a traumatizing third grade experience when she tried to explain the proper colors for each number to her math class. Ridiculed by her teacher and classmates when they did not follow along, Mia was forced to keep her visions a secret. But when she starts algebra, the combination of numbers and letters makes her secret too much to bear. Mia learns that her condition has a name, synesthesia, and dives into a world of information. Mia must balance her new appreciation of her colorful life with her classwork, friends, family, and her cat Mango, whom she believes contains a piece of her grandfather's soul, a man who had always understood her in more ways than she could have known.
I really welcome stories that offer new perspectives. You can never really see what another person sees, especially in Mia's case. What I enjoyed most about this novel was the emphasis on trust. Mia experiences so much disbelief from others: her teachers, classmates, parents, even her best friend, that it's heartwarming to see her remain so trusting as she works to educate both herself and others about her condition. It's also important for the child and young adult readers to experience the distrust and teasing that Mia encounters in her quest for the truth.
I think the only aspect of the novel that bothered me was the fact that she never got caught for falsely going to acupuncture to heighten her synesthesia. If you've read it, did that bother you?