Monday, March 18, 2013

A Mango-Shaped Space, Wendy Mass

Freak. Freeeeeeak. I'll never forget the first time I heard the word, that day at the blackboard.

I find synesthesia such a fascinating condition, and this book is all about synesthesia. Some elements of it were very unrealistic, but it was also really skillfully written. "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." I've read a few other books by Wendy Mass, though not in the past few years. This was her first book, and I really enjoyed it.

The one thing that was unrealistic was that well, simply stated, this book is set in the present, and synesthesia was "discovered" sometime in the twentieth century, I believe. I found it just a tad bit unrealistic that Mia never hopped on the Internet to see if anyone else had a similar condition to her own. And then, when she does end up going to see a therapist, they seem to have no clue about synesthesia until they go to see a more advanced doctor. It may not be a very well-known thing, but I would think that doctors would know about it. And really, it's every artist's dream. I would love to be able to experience it for a day or two. Mia herself loves to paint while listening to music. Also, I think this book won an award for portraying a disability experience, but really, I wouldn't call synesthesia a disability. It seems really cool to me. I don't wish to offend any people who actually have synesthesia and hate it though... 

Still, I loved the cast of characters in this book, and loved the relationship between Mia and her cat, Mango. Here's a little snippet: "Everyone thinks I named my cat Mango because of his orange eyes, but that's not the case. I named him Mango because the sounds of his purrs and his wheezes and his meows are all various shades of yellow-orange..."

Some of Wendy Mass's later books may actually be better written; in this one, she's kind of just stretching her wings. It was still really good; just some things made me a little uneasy. I can imagine that since she doesn't have synesthesia herself, it would be difficult to write about. I was also surprised by how many reviewers hadn't heard of the condition before. Sorry, that sounded really mean. 

Overall, I enjoyed A Mango-Shaped Space, and would recommend giving it a try. I really loved some aspects of the book, including the premise. It didn't end up being a 5 star read for me, but it was still pretty compelling. I loved reading about how different sounds have different colors for Mia.

Incidentally, I know one person with synesthesia, for whom voices also have colors. My voice to her is the color of a caramel apple, caramel on the outside, and green on the inside. 

Read A Mango-Shaped Space:
  • if you like Wendy Mass
  • if you like realistic fiction
  • if you are interested in synesthesia
218 pages.
Very Good! I would recommend this book!

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