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A MANGO-SHAPED SPACE by Wendy Mass

A MANGO-SHAPED SPACE

By Wendy Mass

Age Range: 9 - 13

Pub Date: April 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-316-52388-7
Publisher: Little, Brown

A young teen whose world is filled with colors and shapes that no one else sees copes with the universal and competing drives to be unique and to be utterly and totally normal. Thirteen-year-old Mia is a synesthete: her brain connects her visual and auditory systems so that when she hears, or thinks about, sounds and words, they carry with them associated colors and shapes that fill the air about her. This is a boon in many ways—she excels in history because she can remember dates by their colors—and a curse. Ever since she realized her difference, she has concealed her ability, until algebra defeats her: “Normally an x is a shiny maroon color, like a ripe cherry. But here an x has to stand for an unknown number. But I can’t make myself assign the x any other color than maroon, and there are no maroon-colored numbers. . . . I’m lost in shades of gray and want to scream in frustration.” When Mia learns that she is not alone, she begins to explore the lore and community of synesthesia, a process that disrupts her relationships with her family, friends, and even herself. In her fiction debut for children, Mass has created a memorable protagonist whose colors enhance but do not define her dreamily artistic character. The present-tense narration lends immediacy and impact to Mia’s color perceptions: “Each high-pitched meow sends Sunkist-orange coils dancing in front of me. . . . ” The narrative, however, is rather overfull of details—a crazily built house, highly idiosyncratic family members, two boy interests, a beloved sick cat—which tend to compete for the reader’s attention in much the same way as Mia’s colors. This flaw (not unusual with first novels) aside, here is a quietly unusual and promising offering. (Fiction. 9-13)