A Mango-Shaped Space

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A Mango-Shaped Space
1st edition copy of A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass.jpg
1st edition copy
Author Wendy Mass
Country United States
Language English
Genre Realistic Fiction
Publisher Little, Brown Young Readers
Publication date
April 16, 2003
Media type Print (Hardcover) & Paperback
Pages 221 pp
ISBN 0-316-52388-7
OCLC 50803170
LC Class PZ7.M42355 Man 2003

A Mango-Shaped Space (2003) is a novel by Wendy Mass. The plot centers around Mia Winchell, a thirteen-year-old girl living with synesthesia. Her synesthesia causes her problems in school, with friends, and winning the understanding of her parents and peers. The book received the American Library Association Schneider Family Book Award in 2004.[1] It has since been nominated for, and received, a number of other awards.[2]


In a prologue, 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 colored chalk to make the numbers fit into the synesthetic form she sees. Her teacher tells her to stop making up silly stories and that numbers have only shape and value and no colors. Mia is left confused and alone, because she thought everyone saw letters and colors the same way. After that, Mia keeps her synesthesia a secret and her classmates forget about the incident.

When Mia is twelve, her beloved grandfather is gravely sick. He later passes from a deadly disease known as phishemiasmosis. On her grandfather's grave, Mia finds a white and grey kitten with eyes the same color as her grandfather's. She believes that part of her grandfather's soul is living in that kitten. She takes him home and names him Mango the Magnificat (Mango for short); not because of his orange eyes, but because his meows and his heavy wheezing are different shades of orange to her, like a mango in different seasons. The wheezes are actually caused by a deep rip in the lining of one of Mango's lungs, which cannot be repaired, but Mango copes with it by taking pills.

One day, when Mia is at the grocery store with her mother, she meets someone who could very well share her condition: a 5-year old boy named Billy Henkle, who sees her name as orange with purple stripes. Mia is shocked, but his mother quickly retorts that he has an overactive imagination.

After failing two math quizzes, she is forced to admit to her parents about her condition. Mia's father sets up an appointment to her pediatrician Dr. Randolph. Her mother takes Mia to Dr. Randolph, who recommends her to a psychotherapist.

After her appointment, Mia tells her best friend Jenna Davis about her colors. Jenna bursts into tears and gets angry at her for not telling her before. Jenna runs away and, out of anger, stops talking to Mia. At her psychotherapist appointment Mia is told that her colors are just her imagination, and she has "middle child syndrome" and made up the colors to get attention. Mia denies it. The psychotherapist suggests that Mia go to a neurologist to see what is wrong with her.

The next day, Mia visits Jenna and apologizes for not telling her before. Jenna also apologizes for being angry. Jenna explains that she was worried about her and tells her that she had an experience when someone she really cared about was sick, referring to her mother, who died of cancer three years before. Jenna tells Mia that when she was still angry with her she told Kimberly-one of their school friends and a gossip-about Mia's colors. Mia becomes well-known at school because of her synesthesia.

When Mia visits the neurologist she finds out what case she has. She has synesthesia, a condition where senses are connected, such as your hearing and sight or smell and touch, though it could be any two. Mia's own forms of synesthesia are grapheme-color synesthesia, which means she sees numbers and letters in color, sound-color synesthesia, meaning each sound has an accompanying shape and color, and finally spatial sequence synesthesia, or seeing numerical sequences with different amounts of depth. Then the neurologist invites Mia to a meeting for synesthetes in a few weeks and gives her the address of a website that allows people with synesthesia to interact with each other. After only one day, another synesthete, a boy named Adam, shows interest in interacting with Mia. Adam is a year older than her. Mia becomes obsessed with her email, constantly seeing if there are any emails from Adam. One night she gets a call from Adam, saying he is going to the synesthesia meeting too. Mia also reads articles on the website. One lady reports that acupuncture brings very brilliant colors. Mia tries this out, thanks to Roger, and she enjoys it, constantly asking Roger when is the next acupuncture appointment. Mia then looks forward to acupuncture and the meeting. During the meeting, Adam appears very gentlemanly, kissing her hand and inviting her outside for a walk. During the "walk", Adam asks if he could kiss her, to which she says yes. She kisses him once, and she almost does again, but then her mom finds her outside with him, and says they need to leave, obviously in an angry tone. Mia thinks about Adam for a while, and wonders if he should be her boyfriend.

Because she is so preoccupied with her condition and life, Mia accidentally leaves Mango outside in the cold. She wakes up early in the morning to find him outside, not breathing. She convinces her dad to fly him to the animal hospital in their helicopter, but it is already too late, and Mango dies. After Mango dies, Mia is traumatized and her colors disappear temporarily. She feels guilty and believes that Mango's death is her fault, although her family constantly tells her that she didn't kill Mango. Her father tells her he knew, almost, that Mango was ready to go when he stopped eating; it was his time. Meanwhile, Adam emails her saying that even though he was sorry about her cat, she still should have come to the second meeting she missed and that "kissing her was fun and that it would be fun to do it again sometime". She realizes that he is a jerk and doesn't care about her, and she wishes she could print out his email and crumple it up. She regretted kissing him and even saying yes when he asked her if she wanted to go for a "walk". The next day at school, Mia realizes a boy named Roger, who has always been nice to her, really likes her and she decides she likes him better than Adam.

Soon, Billy Henkle, the boy that she met at the grocery store who shares her condition, visits and Mia is able to offer him the help that she never received when she was young. She then realizes that she has to move on to be able to help other synesthetes. Her colors return and she finally accepts Mango's fate, believing he is with Grandpa now.

Later, at a Hanukkah party, Mia finds a kitten that looks exactly like Mango, which turns out to be Mango's son. The cat's purrs are mustard yellow according to her synesthesia, which would make her name Mango's son Mustard. Mia doesn't want to replace Mango yet, so she doesn't want Mustard. Mia then has a dream, and that makes her change her mind about Mustard.

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  1. ^ American Library Association (2011). Schneider Family Book Award. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/template.cfm?template=/CFApps/awards_info/award_detail_home.cfm&FilePublishTitle=Award%20DB&uid=A839B3A9DB37CD78&syear=2004&LP=Yes
  2. ^ Mass, W. A Mango-Shaped Space: About the Book. Retrieved from http://wendymass.com/mass-mango.htm