By Samantha Allan
Reading has the unique ability to open our minds to different perspectives. Many books are available to give us a brief glimpse of different cultures, personas and situations we may not have seen otherwise.
While I always have a long list of book recommendations, recently I reread Wendy Mass’s “A Mango Shaped Space.” This young adult book is a great example of seeing a completely different perspective. The story introduces readers to the life of a young girl struggling with a new-found identity.
“A Mango Shaped Space” tells the story of thirteen-year-old Mia. She is a special character because she suffers from synesthesia, a neurological disorder that makes her see colors with certain words. While there are many different types of this disorder, Mia might hear the word apple and a streak of green might follow it. Names, objects, places and people all register as a different color to her. As Mia works through her daily struggles, readers are given a chance to feel what it is like to see from such a colorful viewpoint.
Mass writes the book in such a way where you can really feel the struggles of the disorder Mia faces each day. Early in the story, Mia hides her perception from everyone in school. As a pretty quiet character, she believes everyone sees colors like she does and simply does not talk about them. However, her reality is soon shifted when an outburst in class reveals there is something different about her. She becomes ashamed of her condition and does her best to feel as normal as possible. With an introduction like this, Mass makes it clear she is writing through the eyes of a teen girl just trying to fit in.
As Mia tries to hide her disorder, subjects like Spanish become more difficult. It would be very hard to see words like cat as green in one language and orange in another. School becomes a difficult place for her as no one else in her town understands her perspective. After the outburst that had everyone label her as different, Mia does her best to disappear in the crowd.
Relationships between characters is an important dynamic in the text. Mia’s relationships with family and friends evolves as she learns to accept herself. Each relationship, especially with her cat Mango, incorporates a lot of heartfelt emotion and realistic obstacles. After finding out she is so different from her loved ones, Mia struggles to reconnect with everyone. Fellow synesthetic become her only source of communication for a time and Mass does a great job highlighting how important identity is to the text.
If you’re looking for a unique story, Wendy Mass’s “A Mango Shaped Space” is a great choice. Without Mass’s book, I may never have known how hard life can be for a person with synesthesia. Mia sees the world in a literal array of different colors and Mass shares a story allowing us to see it too.