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A Mango-Shaped Space (2005)

A Mango-Shaped Space (2005)
Author
Rating
4.21 of 5 Votes: 5
ISBN
0316058254 (ISBN13: 9780316058254)
languge
English
genre
publisher
little, brown and company
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A Mango-Shaped Space (2005)
A Mango-Shaped Space (2005)

About book: 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.

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.
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Reviews
Laura
I bought a stack of books at Borders yesterday, and I bought a book that I have wanted for quite a bit. I’m even thinking about using this as our next book club book (after A Great and Terrible Beauty).A Mango Shaped Space tells the tale of Mia Winchell (what an awesome name!) , a secret synesthete. Mia sees colors when she hears sounds, and letters, numbers, and names all have names for her. Except she hasn’t told anyone.Mia is terrified of the reaction of her fellow students if they ever learned that she saw differently. Her parents don’t know, and neither does her best friend Jenna. She has kept her ability silent since second grade.What will happen when everyone finds out? Will Mia be humiliated? Put into special classes? Avoided by her family?A Mango Shaped Space is a great book for so many reasons. One, the writing is amazing. Read this sentence, how real is it? We used to be a lot closer, before she went to high school and dropped me like a piping-hot bag of microwave popcorn.I loved how Mass creates an environment for Mia that feels so real. She has to balance the weight of her Grandfather’s death, synesthesia, her crazy family, and Mango. Oh my gosh. How I love the character of Mango. Mia finds a cat after her grandfather’s funeral, and she becomes very close to him. I think Mass does a great job putting a pet in a book but not over doing the connection.I’d really really like to recommend this book to everyone. I procrastinated in buying this for almost a year, and I regret it. I hate those times where you pick up a book, look at it, and decide not to buy it. After a bit you buy it, and wished you did long ago.Oh, this book won the Schneider Family Award, which is for artistic expression of the disability experience. I’d love to pick up a few other Schneider Family Award winning books, since this book was so good.
Zoe
This book is amazing! I enjoyed it so much! This is the first Wendy Mass book I've read, and I'm definitely going to be reading more of her stories! By the first page, I was hooked and couldn't stop thinking about the book until it was finished it! Not only was the story sweet, uplifting and incredibly endearing, but I actually learned something. :-) The main character, 13-year-old Mia, is a synesthete, meaning that when she hears, or thinks about, sounds and words, they carry with them associated colors and shapes that fill the air about her. It's fascinating!Wendy's writing is smooth and effortless with loads of humor. Her characterization is well crafted, right down to the smallest of players. And when you least expect it, she peppers in some grief. (Tear alert!) Without hesitation, I would recommend this book to any young reader, and I believe they would immediately bond with Wendy's tale.
katarzyna
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.
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