A Mango-Shaped Space
Little, Brown and Company, 2003
Mia is a rising eighth-grader who has synesthesia (Wiki-link & Live Science link), a person senses are crossed. As the book opens, Mia is honoring the one-year anniversary of her grandfather’s death, and at her side constantly is her cat Mango. She has yet to fully grieve her grandfather’s death as she believes her Grandpa still lives in Mango. We journey with Mia through just over a year of her life and in that year she learns to cope with the joy of finding out she is not alone in her color-world, the turmoil of schoolwork, boys and best friends, and finally the pain of loss.
Main characters –
· Mia, as a synesthete, she sees shapes of colors whenever she hears sounds and sees colors for letters and numbers. For instance, the color of her name is candy apple red with a hint of light green. She has kept this a secret from everyone since she was in the third grade, including her parents, brother, sister and best friend.
· Grandpa, although he is dead and we don’t actually meet him, his absence plays a major part in Mia’s life.
· Mango, a grey and white cat that as a kitten appeared at her grandfather’s grave the day he was buried. He is named for the mango-color of his breath and purrs.
Secondary characters –
· Jenna , Mia’s best friend and PIC (Partner in Crime), like Mia, she has felt deep grief
· Zack, Mia’s annoying little brother (as all little brother’s are when they are that young)
· Beth, Mia’s annoying older sister (as all older sister’s are always)
· Roger, schoolmate and history project partner, who also has felt the pang of deep loss
· Mom and Dad, Mia’s parents, who do their best to understand their “Wild Child.”
Other characters –
· Billy Henkle, a very young boy whom Mia meets in the grocery store and for the first time realizes she is not alone in her color-wheel world
· Jerry, the neurologist who diagnosis’s Mia
· Adam, an on-line friend and fellow synesthete
It would be impossible for me to review this book without giving away the ending, well-not all of it, but the main turn in the book is right there in the title – “A Mango-Shaped Space.” Mango – as much as it pains me to say, well, he dies. There- it’s out. I’m, sorry, but it happens. Way at the end of the book, but it does. We get clues all along the way, clues that Mia misses and then beats herself up for not seeing them. But way before we get there, we learn to understand what it is like in her world, a world filled with bursts of color and texture. As Mango is slowly dying, Mia is busy growing up. She is coming into her own as a young woman and learning to leave behind the things that prevent her from moving forward. The transition of Mango from life to after-life (yes, there is after-life for cats) Mia finally transitions from grief into life. And like all births, it is a struggle, but her Grandpa and Mango gave her much needed strength to go on.
Rating: 4 paws because I really liked it, I cried when Mango died and I learned something new (about synesthesia).
Wendy Mass is the New York Times bestselling author of fifteen novels for young people (which have been translated into 14 languages and nominated for 74 state book awards), including A Mango-Shaped Space (which was awarded the Schneider Family Book Award by the American Library Association), Leap Day, the Twice Upon a Time fairy tale series, Every Soul a Star, 11 Birthdays, Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, and Finally, The Candymakers , and 13 Gifts. Her latest books are The Last Present, Pi in the Sky, and a new early reader series called Space Taxi. 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. She lives with her family in New Jersey.
Some of her books:
Could this be Mango?
Other books with Mango in the title (the word not the cat!)