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A Mango-Shaped Space

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Mia Winchell appears to be a typical kid, but she's keeping a big secret—sounds, numbers, and words have color for her. No one knows, and Mia wants to keep it that way. But when trouble at school finally forces Mia to reveal her secret, she must learn to accept herself and embrace her ability, called synesthesia, a mingling of the senses.

221 pages, Paperback

First published October 19, 2005

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About the author

Wendy Mass

70 books3,434 followers
Wendy Mass is the author of thirty novels for young people, including A Mango-Shaped Space, which was awarded the Schneider Family Book Award, Leap Day, the Twice Upon a Time fairy tale series, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall, the Willow Falls, Space Taxi and Candymakers series. Wendy wrote the storyline for an episode of the television show Monk, entitled "Mr. Monk Goes to the Theatre," which aired during the show's second season. She tells people her hobbies are hiking and photography, but really they're collecting candy bar wrappers and searching for buried treasure with her metal detector. Wendy lives with her family in New Jersey.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,148 reviews
Profile Image for bluesequin.
44 reviews31 followers
July 25, 2019
Having strong synesthesia myself, I was not very pleased with the way it is portrayed in this book. I understand that Mass does not have synesthesia herself and that this lack of experience clearly makes it difficult for her to portray the condition accurately. Nonetheless, throughout the novel, she either makes synesthesia seem like a harrowing handicap or divine euphoria. Honestly, it's neither. I think Mass made it seem greater than what it actually is. I've never encountered a synesthete who felt this way about their synesthesia. It's just like a cool little thing we have, something that deepens our affinity for art, but it's not this colossal issue in our lives.

Mass's descriptions of synesthesia felt unnatural to me; synesthesia is such a natural part of a synesthete's life that it's not something you notice. You just see it, and they're often not solid either. A lot of times, it's so vague, and I just barely grasp it; and a lot of times, when I even try to describe it, it goes away. I understand that the condition is difficult to convey in the written word, but I think Mass could have slipped in those descriptions more discreetly (and made them better).

Also, the main character was slightly annoying. Or maybe it was just because I didn't like the way she handled the "issue" of synesthesia. Synesthesia is not that much of a handicap. I swear to you -- it's not. And yet, Mass exaggerated it here and made it the subject of her whole book. Really, synesthesia is much like psychedelic effects of drugs, but it's natural, involuntary, and usually not so dizzying.
Profile Image for Spider the Doof Warrior.
433 reviews238 followers
November 1, 2016
First of all, synesthesia is not a disability. You wish you had it. Since it's my username and something I have, I have personal experience on the subject.
My sort of synethesia equals seeing colours in music based on the key, smelling music, tasting it. Feeling the texture of it on my skin. Songs can have a temperature or a time of day like as song can be in the key of D or something and feel like a night sort of song or in the key of D minor and be grey like an overcast day.
I can also taste words, associate people and concepts with scents that don't exist.
Mia, the girl in this book has a sort of synesthesia I don't have; associating words and letters with colours, or seeing shapes and colours in the air. She's freaked out by it. I don't remember being freaked out by my synesthesia other than wondering why pianos don't have red keys.
She felt like she couldn't tell anyone about the way she saw the world and when she did, it was treated a bit like an illness.
But, soon she learned that it's not an illness, but a fantastic gift that is just AWESOME.

I wonder if I should try acupuncture for a better synesthesia experience?
Also, it was frustrating that the cat was called Mango because it kept making me picture an orange cat.

Update 10/31/16

I still like this book. Still haven't tried acupuncture. I still think it's treated a bit like an illness than something that spices up your life though. I've never lost my synesthesia due to trauma. Not even when I lost Bernie, my rabbit or my grandmothers. Does that happen to other people?
Profile Image for Megan.
418 reviews386 followers
February 25, 2012
With the rise in popularity of YA novels, I think that somehow we have all forgotten what it is like to actually be a teenager. Even the better (and some of my favorite) YA's feature a girl who is clever, has great self-esteem, and knows who she is. One of the many excellent aspects of A Mango-Shaped Space is that 13 (or is it 14?) year old Mia is not only a cool protagonist, she is also a bit childlike. Granted, she is younger than the typical YA heroine, but she has a bit of naivety and immaturity that is missing from so many YA novels. It was refreshing to find it here.

A Mango-Shaped Space is the story of Mia as she enters the eighth grade and confronts her synesthesia, a condition in which her senses are mingled. For Mia, each letter, number and word has a color associated with it. Even noises and physical sensations evoke a specific color or shape for her. For years she kept this a secret from others, but she has finally decided to share her condition with the world.

But this isn't just a book about synesthesia. It is also a well written coming of age story. Mia has the predictable fights with her BFF (Oh, I had forgotten how some girls are so emotional and sensitive at that age!) She starts to notice boys. And not the super-suave and impossibly cool boys found in so many YA's. These boys are definitely not sophisticated playa's. They are dorky, awkward teenage boys. Not at all swoon worthy, but painfully reminiscent of that weird hormonal puppy love we all experienced before developing actual relationships. As the middle child, Mia has a not-too-annoying little brother, and a bitchy older sister. There are fairly involved parents and the star of the story, a cat named Mango. (Okay, Mia is the star of the story. But Mango does play a large role in the book

A Mango-Shaped Space is a book I can’t praise enough. It is a fantastic middle grade read, but I whole heartedly recommend it for all adult lovers of YA as well. My only critique of it is that it has an old fashioned feel to it. In fact, if not for the mention of computers and internet this book could have just as easily been written in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. A lot of the narrative and the tone of the story somehow reminded me of the YA books I read when I was in middle school. It’s not just the mention of kids running an actual lemonade stand (with drinks made from real lemons),feety pajamas, braided friendship bracelets, or the small town feel of the novel. It’s something about the tone of the novel which makes it seem older than it is. But in a way, that is so refreshing. Again, YA is often about strong heroines, issues, true-lurve, or some wacky paranormal mystery. But this is simply a sweet, well written story about growing up.
Profile Image for Meg.
10 reviews
December 9, 2010
I read "A Mango Shaped Space" in sixth grade.

Let me tell you, this book drastically changed my life.

This book isn't about mangos, it's about a young girl named Mia, who associates numbers, letters, sounds, days of the week, and months with colors. This isn't a disease, it isn't a disorder, it's simply a condition, or as I usually refer to it, a gift, or a blessing. It's called Synesthesia (sin-es-tee-ja).

I read this book, and contemplated Mia. It sure sounded awfully familiar...

When I was in preschool, I used to recite to anyone I met, "Pink and red are my favorite colors". This being that my name - Meg - is a deep blood-red to me (Pink being every preschool girl's favorite color. It has nothing to do with my name). My full name, Meagan, is blood-red and brown.

So, actually realizing that these associations weren't normal, I dove into research, finding that my gift is actually very, very rare. So rare, in fact, that my parents didn't and still don't believe me.

Synesthesia is a neurological blessing. There are probably about 100 different types, and Synesthetes most commonly have more than one type. For me, I associate colors, numbers, days of the week, and months with colors.

Key word being "ASSOCIATE" here, guys. I do not look at a paper full of black print and see one million different colors. It's hard to explain beyond the fact that it's just an association. Having that aside, I can tell a person the colors of their name. Like "Silvina" is blue and orange. My friend who goes by "Eka" has a beautifully colored name - light green and dark brown.. so natural!

In this novel, Mia doesn't know it's abnormal either. She keeps remembering back to 3rd grade, when she stalls on a math problem by writing then numbers in their proper colors, and the whole class laughs and ridicules her in that insensitive 8-year-old way. When she speaks up to her parents, after some convincing they agree to take her to find out just what is going on when she sees a beautiful rainbow of colors when Mozart is playing, to put a name to it - Synesthesia.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,083 reviews17.3k followers
October 4, 2017
It's been eight years since I've read this this, and the message of this book still might be one of the most moral repugnant I've ever seen. What's saddest is that A Mango Shaped Space could be a great book, were it not for the terrible moral of the story.

So. A Mango Shaped Space is about a girl who begins a journey to learn who she is and accept her own synesthesia. Along the way, she makes friends at conventions for people with synesthesia. She even learns that acupuncture feels really good for people with synesthesia (which is really cool and something I didn't know).

This is where everything about this book goes wrong. Along the way, she starts to abandon her family. Her new friends turn out to be false. All of these things are portrayed as direct results of her synesthesia. It's even weirder when you consider that she starts talking to her family less because they didn't accept her synesthesia, even though it was their choice to not accept her synesthesia, not hers.

The message that comes out, intentionally or not, indicates that learning who you are is a bad thing. The narrative punishes the main character for 1) being different, 2) liking the things that make her different, and 3) wanting to know who she is. That's a really messed-up narrative. That was the message I took from this book is sixth grade or so. And that wasn't a good message for me to internalize, or for any kid to internalize.

The author also does not have synesthesia herself, and there are several other reviews on this page talking about how that negatively affected the book. Wendy Maas overexaggerates the issues that come along with synesthesia, making it seem like a blessing that makes the protagonist better than everyone else. Not only does this book have a fucked-up narrative around our differences, A Mango-Shaped Space doesn't even portray that difference correctly.

So. I can't recommend this book, no matter how much I enjoy the writing style or the characters. I just can't. This is a really messed-up narrative and I can't believe anyone has the nerve to sell this to kids.
3 reviews2 followers
February 19, 2014
Synesthesia is not at all how Mass portrays it in the book. Since you are born with it, you don't remember a timer when "Dave" did not taste like turnips. You don't get scared of it, and its not really something that interferes with your social life. Sure, the occasional "whats the color of my name?" tactic or the "what color is chicken?", but never that someone stops being your friend. When you figure out that other people don't see what you see, you just end up wondering why the heck Tuesday isn't lime green (or at least in my case).

Oh, and by the way, synesthesia is NOT a disability! You barely think about it, and its not something that will harm you. I know its pretty rare, but its not like you end up falling in shock and see figures swarm around the room when Chopin plays. Its just something you see in your head or very vaguely in real life (I see blue smoke at the sound of loud drilling, it doesn't mean I'm blind!). Your life doesn't get deeply affected by Synesthesia, like it does if you are, for example, deaf.

So over all, very dissapointed in this book and at Wendy Mass for inacuratly portraying Synesthesia.

(Although I have to give credit to Mass, Synesthesia is a hard thing to describe, even when someone who actually has it has a difficult time describing their experiences.)
Profile Image for Christy.
3,758 reviews32k followers
January 13, 2022
2.5 stars

I thought the concept of this book was so neat. I’ve never read a book about someone with synesthesia and I found that aspect fascinating. The actual story and characters were just meh for me and

Audio book source: Hoopla
Story Rating: 2.5 stars
Narrator: Danielle Ferland
Narration Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Contemporary/Middle Grade
Length: 6h 41m
Profile Image for LyraFirefly.
78 reviews23 followers
March 25, 2021
This book has to be one of my all-time favorite contemporary books. I don't read too many of these types of books, but this surprised me.

“I open my eyes and stare at the page. I see the black letters. But I also see the pinks and greens and purples and yellows. I can’t say I’m surprised.”

I admire Wendy Mass's work and this one has especially opened my eyes to things I wouldn't know existed. She writes about so many interesting topics, such as synesthesia in this book.

“All those people in their black-and-white worlds - they have no idea what they're missing”

I love how the author expands on many things, not just how synesthesia affects her, even if everything is tied to it. Unlike some other books I've read, Mia's emotions are human, and goes through the same things anyone else does.

“Without the color, I don't know how to proceed. I'm lost in shades of gray.”

I admire how smoothly the plot goes. I am emphasizing that point when Mia admits and opens up to her family about her case, and I love how the family is written as so supportive. The fact that Mia gets to talk to other people with the same case and different types of the same case opens up to all over, making her realize that it wasn't just her that had it, which made her feel more included and comfortable.

Overall, I loved this book, and I recommend it to everyone, whether they like to read contemporary or not.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,863 reviews351 followers
March 2, 2018
Here's what I like about A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass: The plot is extremely interesting and really, for lack of a better word, new. Mass talks about a condition that most people have never even heard of and she just runs with it.

Here's what I don't like: Mass is at pains throughout the novel to make sure everyone knows her narrator is young. I also have mixed feelings about it winning an award (the Kaplan award I believe) for artistically representing life with a disability.

Here's some information so you can actually understand what I'm going on about: Okay, so the book follows thirteen-year-old Mia. Mia has synesthesia, a neurological condition that allows her to see letters and numbers in color. As the blurb on the back of the book states, Mia named her cat Mango because that is the color of his breathing. That is, you will agree, pretty cool. The action of the story starts when Mia realizes she can no longer keep her condition a secret from her friends and family because it's starting to interfere with her schoolwork. So Mia starts going to doctors and she finally meets people just like her.

So, on one level, this story is about dealing with synesthesia. But it also has a lot more going on. Mia's grandfather has recently died and, as readers will learn, Mango's place in the story is intricately tied to that of Mia's grandfather. At the end of the day, more than being about dealing with a disability (I'm not even sure I like calling synesthesia a disability) A Mango-Shaped Space is about accepting who you are and coping with the harder parts of life.

I read this book back-to-back with Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian so comparisons are inevitable. What I found really interesting is that Alexie's narrator is only a year older than Mia, but the story is clearly appropriate for teens--I'd never give it to a ten year old for instance. Mass' novel, on the other hand, could just as easily be cataloged as a Children's book rather than Young Adult (left to my own devices I think I would do just that). Why? Well, like I said, Mass makes sure we know how young Mia is. Revelations like Mia never previously sitting with a boy at lunch or attending a boy-girl party abound in the narrative--sometimes unnecessarily.

At the same time, the material is just less heavy. The tone is lighter and the characters are a little less developed so that their hurts never quite hit home. I'm not sure if this is a bad thing though--it just makes it clear, while reading, that the book could be appropriate for a younger audience.

I'd definitely give this book a look though. The prose is easy to digest and the story is really interesting. And, surprisingly, the story features a lot of characters who are just as interesting to meet as Mia (with her synesthesia)--Mia's little brother Zach is a particular favorite for this reviewer.

You can find this review and more on my blog Miss Print
Profile Image for meher !.
77 reviews
November 18, 2020
🎀 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙢𝙚𝙨𝙨𝙖𝙜𝙚 𝙞𝙨 𝙩𝙤 𝙘𝙡𝙖𝙧𝙞𝙛𝙮 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙞 𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙙 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙖 𝙡𝙤𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙞𝙢𝙚 𝙖𝙜𝙤/𝙬𝙝𝙚𝙣 𝙞 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙮 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙜, 𝙗𝙪𝙩 𝙞 𝙖𝙢 𝙧𝙚𝙫𝙞𝙚𝙬𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙞𝙩 𝙣𝙤𝙬
a book directed at kids has a relationship between a minor and an adult.
a book. directed at impressionable kids. normalizes minor-adult romance.
what do you think the kids who are reading this book might do?
at that age, seeing even one action in media can influence a kid. how many times have you tried jumping off a high platform as a child because you saw someone in a movie do it?
it's the same logic.
if an adult makes an advance to them, a child might accept it after reading this and using the example that in the book it was shown as acceptable
just because the 12-year-old main character liked the adult back, it was deemed as "normal."
adults should not be making romantic advances to minors!! This is not something to be accepted. i don't care if the child likes them back.the child does not know better, but the adult does. it's an imbalance in power and is disgusting.
The worst part is that it is never condemned by anyone in the book.
i'm scared to see this author raise children if she thinks this is okay to write in a book directed for 9-10 year olds.
29 reviews
June 10, 2008
A Mango-Shaped Space (2003) is a novel by Wendy Mass. This brilliant book is about Mia, a thirteen year old girl living with synesthesia. Her synesthesia causes her problems in school, with friends, and just having her parents understand her. For example, Mia first experiences ridicule at the hands of her third-grade classmates when she is called to the front of the room to do a math problem. She uses coloured chalk to make the numbers fit into the synthesiasiatic form in which she sees them. Her teacher tells her to stop stalling by making up silly stories. Mia is left confused and alone, because she thoght everyone saw this way. After that, Mia tells nobody about her colors.

When Mia is tweleve her most beloved friend, her grandfather, dies. During her grandfather's funeral, Mia finds a Gray and white kitten with eyes just like her grandfather's. She immediately decides that part of her grandfather's soul is living in that kitten. She takes him home and names him Mango. Not because of his orange eyes, but because his meows and is heavy wheezing are different shades of orange and yellow to her; like a mango in different seasons. The wheezes is actually caused by a dip rip in Mango's lung, which cannot be repaired, but Mango copes with it.

When school trouble in 8th grade causes Mia to tell about her colors. Her mother takes Mia to many different doctors, but only one has a answer. He is a docter who demands they call him Jerry, nothing else. Her tells Mia all about her synesthesia, and gives her loads of information about it. He even gives her a website where Mia can communicate with other synesthetes.

Later on in the story, Mia has her first kiss with a boy named Adam, a boy she met on that website.

Because she is so preoccupied with her condition and life, Mango dies of cold, because he got locked outside and was unable to reach the warmth of his home. After Mango dies, Mia is extremely depressed and her colors disappear.They come back, When she meets up witha young boy named Billy, who shares her condition. Billy helps her realize that she has to move on to help other synesthetes.

However, Mango ended up mating with one of the neighbor's female cats before he died, and she gave birth to some kittens. Mia saw that one of the kittens sounded like the color of Mustard. She knew on the inside Mango would want Mia to have his son, so his spirit could live on.
Profile Image for Kristin.
623 reviews7 followers
Want to read
August 23, 2012
I haven't read this, but the synopses actually put me off of it. As someone with synesthesia, I don't see how anyone could think they need to go to a doctor for it or have problems as a result of it. I've never thought it was anything special or scary, just mildly funny-- when I was growing up, my parents just always told other relatives with amusement, oh what a funny kid, she says "it tastes purple" or "it makes my stomach feel blue" or "the air smells orange." Then, when I grew up, I simply kept these exclamations to myself, as with any other exclamations, or if I really did, whoever I was talking to was, again, amused, and thought I was weird in a fun way. I only found out at age 26 that there was an actual name for it and that it was an actual thing and that people have different combinations of it. It sounds like this book tries to be unique by having a main character with this special kind of brain cross-wiring (which is all it is, as I understand it), but takes it up a notch by attempting to use it as the mechanism for character isolation prevalent in YA stories. I just don't think that sounds believable. Granted, the character has a different brand of it than I do, but I still have a hard time imagining that a person couldn't extricate themselves from it, such that they would have a strong NEED to express it as with colored chalk for numbers. It's in your head, and it's NOT hard to keep it there. I don't go around putting colored body paint on my belly so it looks right, or whatever. Anyway, I'll give this book a gander if I come across it, but I don't think I'll seek it out because of these things.
May 25, 2019
A young girl, Mia, tries to hide from everyone the fact that sounds, letters, and numbers have color for her. When her condition is revealed due to a problem at school, Mia feels like all the kids think she’s some kind of freak.
A good book about a rare human condition that was interesting to learn about.
Profile Image for cor.
247 reviews55 followers
July 3, 2022
i read this when i was younger and it was my favorite book
Profile Image for Amy | Foxy Blogs.
1,372 reviews963 followers
January 12, 2022

Mia has a secret that she's scared to share because she hasn't met anyone else who can also experience the world like she does. She has synesthesia which is a mingling of the senses. For her sounds, numbers and words have color. A classmate's name will have a color or in math class the numbers have color.

The concept of this book is fascinating. Not every person who experiences synesthesia has the same mingling of the senses (there are at least 73 different types of synesthesia). The color Mia sees for the number 4 might not be the same color someone else sees for the same number. Some people taste words, others hear in color, while others see sounds, etc.

Some famous people who have this phenomenon are: Kayna West (see sounds), Pharrell Williams (sees each musical note in color), Billie Eilish (has multiple senses that mingle).

Audiobook source: Hoopla
Narrator: Danielle Ferland
Length: 6H 41M
Profile Image for Elspeth.
836 reviews130 followers
April 4, 2013
You can also read mine, and MLE's reviews on our blog.

This would have been a four star book if it wasn’t for the degradation at the end into a swirling mass of teen angst.
Yeah, I am not so much into teen angst.

The author did a great job in getting you into Mia’s head, on how scared and frustrated she was with her synesthesia. It made you think, on how the torments of the other children in her third grade math class effected her. On how she kept her synesthesia a secret until she had to tell her parents under the fear of failing two of her classes.
I really enjoyed how odd each of her family members were, on how they each popped off the pages with their own personalities. I really loved her little brother, who was obsessed with superstitions.
I also really enjoyed the descriptions on how her synesthesia effected her, on how it made certain things easier or harder. How she had a good eye for color in her art, on how she remembered names and numbers by the color she saw them as. I found all this extremely interesting, so I was really disappointed in how it just went to crap in an angst filled avalanche.
So when at fifty percent in when she went boy crazy, her best friend went all drama llama, and I foresaw the future, it just became all too after school special for me.
So the first half of the book was four stars, the second half two for an average of three stars.
Profile Image for katarzyna.
25 reviews3 followers
March 23, 2014
This book is great! I recently recommended it to one of the middle school students I work with and it seemed to going over really well with her.

I'm only a few years shy of being twice Mia the narrator's age, but found her to be awesome. Definitely not perfect and kind of a pain in the butt to other characters at times (terrible school project partner, for one) but such a realistic, hilarious 13-year-old.

The character development was great in general, and I ended up liking pretty much everyone. Although some of the characters would perhaps seem cliche and over-the-top coming from a different author (I'm thinking the weird little brother in particular), somehow Mass kept him charming and fun rather than tritely and annoyingly precocious.

I also thought this book covered the relationship between pet and pet-owner so perfectly. Anyone who's ever loved a cat, dog or any other pet would probably be able to relate to the sweet dynamic between Mia and her cat Mango.

The topic of synesthesia was one that I was completely unfamiliar with and I enjoyed learning about the condition. It's really fascinating but rare, so you don't ever really hear much about it. I was so curious that I looked up some info about it online, found out that Pharrell Williams is a synesthete.
Profile Image for Skip.
3,249 reviews393 followers
January 29, 2019
I chose this book because the protagonist, Mia Winchell, has synesthesia: a mingling of sensory perceptions. Letters and numbers have colors associated with them for Mia, and this causes her difficulty in math and Spanish. Her parents don't understand initially, and then think she has a disease or mental disorder, but eventually they find a specialist at the University of Chicago to diagnose her condition and to help, enabling Mia to understand that she is not a freak. The book also deals with grief: family loss.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,361 reviews455 followers
April 28, 2014
I had a hard time with this. First, the first-person narration felt slightly off to me. Nothing big, nothing really jarring, just ever-so-slightly-off in a way I can't put my finger on. Then there was the whole thing about the ages of Mia's parents. I'm guessing they were born in the 1960-1965 range. Why in hell would Mia's mother blame Mia's problem on the father's drug use in the 60s? I know that this is really trivial, but it's an emotionally fraught section of the story, very high impact, even if only a few lines of text, and it completely threw me out. Poor guy is lucky if he remembers watching Scooby Doo in the 60s, and his wife, the science teacher, is going to blame him for this? It felt very weird. Then there was the whole budding sexuality aspect. Mia has this secret that she's kept for years, because once, in third grade, she accidentally revealed it and her class laughed at her. Fair enough. Now she's in middle school, and she's discovering that there is the whole aspect of sensual pleasure that is available to her, and she lies and sneaks around to explore it, because she isn't really ready to discuss it with her family or friends, and she spends a lot of time online, learning more about it, and soaking in the tub, and it is more important than everything else right now. And suddenly, there are two different guys taking up mindspace.....And then, when she totally gives into this new, burgeoning aspect of herself, something horrible happens. It's rather like the plot of a 50s movie starring Natalie Wood. Seriously, I was this close to throwing it away in disgust. BUT then, it all changes again. It becomes more rational and kinder, and Mia isn't being punished although poor Mango is still dead, and the whole thing has become about grieving the loss of a pet. So, the three stars is an average. At the nadir I'd have given it two and a WTF?! as well, but the ending definitely brought it up to at least a four.

Library copy.
Profile Image for Cassidy.
Author 1 book20 followers
October 5, 2014
This book is very special to me. It is about a girl named Mia with a rare neurological condition called synesthesia. People with synesthesia "blend senses". Some common examples include colored hearing, tasting words, colored graphemes, personified graphemes, colored personalities, colored emotions, tasting colors, colored scents, hearing colors, colored units of time... even having unique visual maps of abstract concepts, such as time (for example, September might be three feet above your left shoulder).

The story is charming and the writing is good, but the reason why I love A Mango Shaped Space is that if I hadn't read it, I would have never found out that I myself have synesthesia. In fact, this book is absolutely famous among us synesthetes for doing just that because it's just about literally the only mainstream fiction book that is about synesthesia.

So, I can promise that this is an accurate portrayal of what it is like to have synesthesia. It is perfect for elementary school kids and brings attention to a very obscure and sometimes life-changing subject.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you read this and found yourself thinking, "I also experience music as being colored (or any other sensory pairing like so), but I only see the colors in my head, so I don't have synesthesia," you should know that quite often synesthesia is only experienced internally (associative) and not externally (projectory). Associative synesthesia is just as legitimate and in fact far more common than the type described in this book.
Profile Image for Gerry.
34 reviews11 followers
March 14, 2014
I find adults who read young adult novels to be kinda creepy, like the men I see playing Magic: The Gathering with teens at the comic book shop on Saturdays. Then again, I am buying comic books on a Saturday, so maybe I'm full of it.

But I, a fully grown human adult, did read A Mango-Shaped Space. My daughter recommended it to me after I gave her a copy of Animal Farm. I'll let you decide who got the better deal.

So this young girl named Mia has synesthesia, a condition that causes her to see sounds in the form of colors and shapes. These colors and shapes hang in the air after a sound is made. She named her cat Mango because his purring is mango colored.

Despite the fact that there's this thing called the Internet, everyone in this book--including Mia--acts as if Mia has a contagious disease or is psychotic. Two chapters in I silently screamed "Just Google 'sounds have colors' for chrissake!" Basically, every character's reaction to Mia's "condition" is infuriating. Mia sees colors when the door slams. So? It's a harmless crossed wire. She's terrible at math. So? I'm terrible at math and I can't see a difference between blue and indigo.

One subplot involves Mia's best friend, a girl whose name I've already forgotten. Why Mia is friends with this girl boggles the mind because she's selfish, needy, backstabbing, and overdramatic.

I gave it two stars mainly because the grammar was good.
Profile Image for Tzipora.
207 reviews161 followers
February 9, 2020
4.5 stars

This is a lovely little book about 13 year old Mia Winchell. At first glance she seems to be the most normal one in her quirky family. Her mother is an astronomy geek and her father is continuing adding additions to their eyesore of a home and also pilots his own helicopter. Mia is the middle child between her teenage sister Beth who comes back from summer camp interested in vegetarianism, yoga, and witchcraft and 11 year old brother Zack, an offbeat kid who firmly believes in all kinds of superstitions and has tracked every McDonald’s hamburger he’s eaten in his life. However, it soon becomes apparent that Mia is different too when we meet her cat Mango. She named him this because his wheezes and purrs cause her to see vivid orange puffballs. And that’s not all Mia sees. All her letters have their own colors, each person’s name does as well, and sounds of all kinds cause her to see a variety of colors and shapes, something she uses to her advantage when painting.

But Mia’s colors are a secret. She didn’t know she was different, that no one else saw things the way she did until a very embarrassing incident in the third grade. No one believed her and her classmates belittled her. So she’s been hiding her colors until a combination of factors leads her to finally confess to her parents what she sees.

Mia has synesthesia, a condition that while rare, has become somewhat popularly known in recent years thanks to reality and tv talk shows. That’s what drew me to the book. I don’t see colors but I feel music and certain voices on my skin, have a bit of the mirror-Touch and personification variety. And I have a very talented and musical friend who has the two types of synesthesia Mia does (and who years ago helped me figure out my own). Mine isn’t as big of a deal or such a huge part of my life though there’s a point in the book where Mia meets other synestetes and they all share a bunch of random other traits and I realized of hey, me too. I wish I saw colors though!

It’s an interesting read. It’s also a book that seems to straddle the line between middle grade and YA and there’s a lot of growing up and a certain awkwardness to being 13, that is very well reflected and felt in this book and I imagine relatable to everyone, synesthesia or not. I really liked Mia’s family. I could relate to her difficulties in seeing doctor after doctor and them either writing her off as crazy or attention seeking (never sought help for my synesthesia because mine is so much less intrusive than Mia’s but could sure relate to the way young women tend to get written off in general). There’s some friend drama, a first kiss, and I cried at the end of the book for some pet related stuff that happens. Poor Mia gets so caught up in finding out she isn’t crazy or alone too that there’s an underlying storyline here, or lesson, about how we all try to juggle and keep as many balls in the air as we can, but must be mindful not to neglect or drop some while caught up in the others.

My copy came from a used bookstore and had been in a school library previously. I think this would be a great one for school or classroom libraries. Synesthesia is ultimately a form of neurodiversity (and has a connection with autism spectrum disorders though Mia is definitely not autistic nor or many with synesthesia. Autistics have been found to be 3x more likely to have synesthesia than the neurotypical population though) and I may be biased, but I’m a big fan of the neurodiversity movement, of the beauty in differences and I don’t know that there are any other fictional depictions of synesthesia out there. But it would be a fantastic inclusion in any diversity focused children or YA library. I think it also makes a nice introduction for adults and the author does a good job of educating about the condition without being overbearing or complex and keeping it as a very readable part of the story.

Edit- I wrote my review before reading others and can see some were unhappy about how they felt synesthesia was represented... um, first off, as someone who is disabled, I read a touch of ableism in a few of those reviews but also I didn’t get the feeling synesthesia was presented as a disability here. In fact that’s why I brought up the neurodiversity movement because I felt it was represented rather positively (maybe apart from some of her younger brother’s comments). I gather most synethestetes have never felt shame over their synesthesia (me either) but it’s explained pretty well within the story why Mia does and why it’s her secret. Because she was belittled for it. And I don’t think that’s so hard to imagine. Kids are notoriously cruel over even the tiniest differences. And this is an older YA/Middle grade book. I feel like most books written for kids and teens were heavy on the “teach a lesson” side and this one reads as a broader story of our differences make us special or something to that nature. And I don’t know. I didn’t see it as being presented like a disability, but gasp, maybe others wouldn’t be so offended or worried about having their conditions or uniqueness viewed as a disability if ableism weren’t so intensely prevalent in society. I kind of... fail to see why that would be so awful to be honest. Anyway, since I didn’t want to reply to 5+ year old reviews just wanted to tack this on here. I’m sure I already offended those same people by calling it neurodiversity too but again, there’s nothing to be offended by. Check your ableism at the door.
Profile Image for Ylenia.
1,046 reviews389 followers
May 17, 2016
★ 2016 AtY Reading Challenge ★: A book with a type of food/drink in the title.

*2.5 stars*

I feel sooooooo bad. I'm sad this book didn't resonate with me more.

Normally 2.5 stars is not a bad rating but to be honest is more of like a 2.25. Maybe even a 2?

The main theme of this book is synesthesia. The form Mia has is the one that causes her to associate colors to numbers, letters (and words, names etc.) and sounds.
There was some info-dumping happening during the book, especially when her "phenomenon" got a name and they started talking with doctors.
Honestly, I feel like the author didn't have a mature approach with Mia's condition. It was either the best thing ever or a total curse. I don't know if it was done with purpose of not but sometimes it felt like a magical realism book.

I had problems with the writing too.
It was basically like: "I did this. This happened. I felt like this! And also this happened. This other thing made me feel like this".
I understand this book was a mix between YA and middle grade but it doesn't mean you HAVE TO write really easy and simple sentences.
Also, most of the characters felt younger than their actual age. And by younger I mean childish.

In the end, I didn't enjoy this that much. Everytime a short book feels like a 3580 pages one it's not a good sign.
I would not recommend it.

Profile Image for noodle!.
31 reviews
April 13, 2020
*insert happy squeals and crying here*
Oh my god, I love this book.
The emotions are so realistic and the way Mia deals with things are relatable to anyone who has dealt with change.
Profile Image for Mori.
73 reviews5 followers
January 8, 2022
เรื่องนี้จะเล่าถึงอาการที่ตัวเอกที่ชื่อมีอา ซึ่งน้องมีอาการที่เรียกว่า Synesthesia เป็นสภาวะการรับรู้ของสมองที่สามารถรับรู้ประสาทสัมผัส 2 อย่างในเวลาเดียวกันโดยอัตโนมัติ หากกระตุ้นประสาทสัมผัสหนึ่ง อีกประสาทสัมผัสหนึ่งจะถูกกระตุ้นไปด้วย เช่น การมองเห็นสีต่าง ๆ ขณะฟังเพลง การมองเห็นรูปร่างลักษณะกลมหรือเหลี่ยมขณะรับรสอาหาร เป็นต้น

โดยของน้องมีอาจะเป็นอาการที่เห็นทุกอย่างมีสี รวมถึงสีที่ได้ยินก็จะมีสีและรูปทรงด้วย

ตัวหนังสือจะเล่าว่าตอนแรกช่วงวัยเด็ก เค้าเคยโดนเพื่อนๆล้อว่ายายเพี้ยน เลยไม่ได้เล่าให้คนอื่นฟังว่าตัวเองมองเห็นไม่เหมือนคนอื่นยังงัย จนกระทั่งวันนึงเค้ารู้สึกไม่ไหวแล้ว เค้าไม่สามารถเรียนเลขให้เข้าใจได้ (แต่มีอาทำได้ดีกับพวกวิชา ศิลปะ, ประสัติศาสตร์) เค้าเลยได้เริ่มบอกกับแม่ว่าเค้าเห็นไม่เหมือนคนอื่น

หลังจากนั้นเหมือนทำให้มีอาเปิดโลก (รวมถึงเราด้วย ที่ก็เพิ่งรู้ว่าอาการนี้มันมีอยู่จริงๆ)

ตัวเรื่องโดยรวมสนุกดี มันทำให้เรารับรู้ว่ามีคนเป็นอาการนี้จริงๆ หนังสือบรรยายให้เราแทบบจะเข้าใจแบบเห็นภาพเลยว่า ที่คนเล่านั้นเห็น ต่างจากที่เราเห็นยังงัย

แถมตบท้ายเรื่องราวบีบหัวใจ จนเราอ่านไปก็น้ำตาซึมตามไป

สุดท้ายแล้วอะไรคือสิ่งที่เรียกว่าปกติ ในเมื่อเราไม่เคยรู้เลยว่า ภาพที่เราเห็นอยู่ตอนนี้ จะเป็นแบบเดียวกับที่คนอื่นเห็นหรือเปล่า
Profile Image for snowplum.
161 reviews27 followers
January 7, 2015
I enjoyed reading this book, yet I would hesitate to say that it is such a great book that anyone or everyone should rush to read it. My favorite parts of it were reading about the various manifestations of synesthesia, which I suppose I could have read about somewhere else; but there is something to be said for a character in a book who is treating acupuncture with all the traditional behaviors of a junkie -- sneaking out, lying, spending all her money on it -- all because it amps up her synesthetic responses to the point where she's seeing trippy colors everywhere and even having visual responses to pheromones. For those descriptions alone, I considered this book worthwhile.

But I think there are some problems with characters and plot points that would keep many older readers from thinking this is a story that works profoundly for all ages. Generally, most of these issues can be reduced to glossing over serious events, or characters having emotional responses to things that are either too extreme or resolved too easily.

For example, a major potential romance is terminated completely based on the guy's sort of clueless response to Mia's missing a gathering when her cat dies. And therein lies the point: Adam is not a bad guy. He's a teenage male who has never lost a pet he loves, so he doesn't know how Mia feels, and he's traveled halfway across the country hoping to see her, so I would say he's understandably disappointed when she doesn't show. He isn't mad, mean, or hateful about it. Just disappointed and clueless. But Mia writes him off forever because he's selfish. Honey, if you write off boys your whole life when they're basically nice but sort of clueless about your feelings... you're gonna end up a spinster.

I'm also not a huge fan of how Mia's friendship with her best friend Jenna plays out at various crucial points. Jenna isn't presented as an otherwise irrational girl, yet she gets furiously mad at Mia twice in the course of the book, and then gets over it quickly without any sense that these events have been resolved in such a way as to strengthen the friendship. Maybe it's just me, but I feel like when a relationship comes so close to being damaged by a problem or misunderstanding, there should be a resolution that leads to real improvement, not just a return to the status quo. I also think it's poor characterization on Mia's part that she forgives Jenna's outbursts and betrayals without seeming to have any doubt over whether she should, but she won't even consider "forgiving" Adam's unintentional cluelessness.

So, these are the things that would keep me from enthusiastically recommending the book to most of my adult friends, and I would also hesitate to give it to a middle grade reader as an exemplary portrayal of friendship or dating when you're that age. I would present it as a pretty interesting book about a girl with synesthesia that has some really cool parts about the condition alongside some less thrilling stuff about family and friends.

(Note [if there is anyone who doesn't understand and was about to get all uppity with me about self esteem]: I'm not saying you should always accept it if a guy doesn't understand you or care about your feelings. I'm just saying you should give him a couple of chances as you're getting to know each other by telling him what you're feeling and how his reactions make you feel. See if he really just needed a little wake up call about sensitivity and perspective.)

I'm also not sure why this book is presented (in everything from the title to the afterward notes about helpful websites and books) as being largely or even predominantly about the death of a pet. Mia's beloved cat dies very near the end of the book, and that is the catalyst for some dramatic interactions and feelings -- but at least 85% of the book takes place before Mango's death and is not about the cat at all. I'm not saying this is a bad thing; I'm merely saying that if you want or need to find a book about helping a child deal with grief over the loss of a pet, this is probably not as spot-on-target as you've been led to believe. This is a book about a girl with synesthesia, secondarily about family and friendships, and only then about the loss of a pet.
Profile Image for Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all).
1,950 reviews181 followers
January 8, 2015
A fast read for an adult, I pretty much finished it in a sitting. I wouldn't give it to any sensitive kids under about the age the main character is...eleven or twelve, because it could be upsetting. The book deals with a lot of loss and sorrow. (Are there any upbeat middleschool books out there anymore?) Before the action even starts you have one person who has lost her mother to disease and the MC's beloved grandfather has died too. And that's before you meet her odd family: her strangely superstitious younger brother who keeps records of all the Big Macs he ever ate on a wall chart with dates and times; her older sister who starts out as the "normal" one and suddenly morphs into a vegetarian neopagan (or whatever), and her oddly absent mother, who apparently is a SAHM and yet is blissfully unaware of what her kids get up to, and is emotionally cold.

Secrets abound in this family, and when Mia's synasthesia surfaces, Mom's first reaction is denial ("you're making it up!"), the second is accusation (she turns to her husband and says, "This is all your fault!") and the third is treating it like a "disease"--rush off and get it "cured" because there's something "wrong" with Mia. (Yeah--and yet her strange little brother is "normal", right?) Dad works only a few days a week, but when the charputzka hits the family fan, he's always out of reach--up a ladder, up in his helicopter, or somewhere outside, away from it all. Even the family cat spends its time creeping around in crawlspaces and hiding from everyone. This is dysfunctional with a hey-nonny-no, and I found the ramshackle house that Gramps and Dad built at the same time (not "together," no one in this family seems to be able to collaborate on anything) but in totally different directions, with no evident blueprints (or indeed planning permits) to be a metaphor for this strange family.

Did I like the book? Not a bunch. The title caught my eye because there are synasthesiasts in my own family and I have a mild form of it myself, though nowhere near as extreme as Mia's or the people she meets. (Sound has shape, if you want to know, but I don't see the shapes; rather, I percieve them as if they were inside my skin.) But the people and relationships were a bit more fraught than I care for. Crap, nobody's ever happy in that house. She can't even get along with her "best" friend. I had enough of that growing up, I don't care to read about it at such length. If you like dysfunctional families, you'll enjoy it.
Profile Image for Alex Black.
623 reviews46 followers
November 1, 2019
I've read this book so many times and I absolutely adore it. It's a wonderful middle grade contemporary about a young girl with synesthesia. I will say right off the bat, I've heard this is not good representation of synesthesia. I don't know for sure since I have no experience with it, but that seems to be the general consensus. It doesn't negate enjoyment of the book for me, but it's definitely important to acknowledge that.

I almost gave this book four stars, but with how hard I cry for the final section, I can't justify less than five. It hits me so hard emotionally and this is why I generally avoid books that heavily feature animals. I was very grateful for my cat cuddling me. There aren't many books that make me cry this hard, especially considering how many times I've read this book.

But onto the negatives. The writing itself is a little too simplistic for my tastes. This might also have to do with the fact that the last two books I read were a classic and a literary fiction, so it was a bit of an adjustment to shift back into middle grade. I didn't mind it too much, but it was something I noticed a lot more as an adult than I did reading this book at 13. Can't really hold that against the book, though, since it's aimed at a younger audience.

I also think it's paced too quickly. The book covers a period of a few months, but it feels like it takes place in just a couple weeks. Everything is so sped up and happens in a rush. I wish it was slowed down a little, maybe even if some aspects were cut. It felt like there wasn't quite enough time dedicated to everything.

And as an adult, the bit where the 13 year old goes to an acupuncturist without her parents' knowledge/permission makes me incredibly uncomfortable. I don't think it's handled in a bad way, just man, it's so irresponsible of all the adults involved. Mia knows she's breaking the rules, but she should have been stopped. That even made me uncomfortable as a kid. I don't think I would have known how to fill out doctor's forms by myself at that age.

But all that being said, this book is lovely. The emotions hit me so hard and when I cry (sob) for the last 60 pages, it doesn't really matter if I have some minor critiques of the writing style. It's the kind of cry I really appreciate sometimes. This book touches my heart. If you enjoy heartwarming middle grade contemporaries, I can't recommend it enough (with the caveat about the synesthesia rep). It's one I've reread every couple of years since I was a kid and will probably continue to do so.
Profile Image for Sarah.
21 reviews
October 10, 2011
'Growth can only truly be achieved through loss' (- A Mango Shaped-Space, by Wendy Mass) I love this quote because it demonstrates The pain and suffering that comes from loss but also the growth. In this book Mia discovers a huge loss that wounds her but also makes her 10x stronger. I feel like this was a great lesson for Wendy to put into her book. In a way i see it as 'when one door closes another door opens'. This is one of the many lessons I learned from this book. "Numbers don't have colors, they simply have a shape and a numerical value, that's all" (- A Mango Shaped-Space, by Wendy Mass) This was a comment Mia's teacher at the age 8 said. It made me feel bad, And maybe even a little bit regretful because her teacher simply was being rude, And i can't even imagine the pain I would feel. But this comment helped Mia grow in so many ways she became an indented person and truthfully honest and I admire that.

I would recommend this book to all people who love Really touching realistic books. I watched a fantasy girl grow up and become strong but at the same time i watched myself become a better human being and a better friend. This book has taught me so much and i am very happy i read it.
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