Before reading A Mango-Shaped Space, the last time I read anything about synesthesia was, well, back when I read reviews of A Mango-Shaped Space. It is not a condition that you run across very often in literature.
Or that I run across, anyway. Maybe there's a whole synesthesia genre that I'm unaware of.
Anyway. On to the book:
Mia Winchell is thirteen years old. Her grandfather died about a year ago, and though she is still mourning him, she feels that she hasn't completely lost him -- because at his funeral, she found Mango. Mango the Magnificat, who Mia suspects may be a reincarnation of her grandfather. Not just because of the timing. Because they have the same eyes.
The first time they brought him in, the vet told the Winchells that if Mango lived a month, he'd probably be able to compensate for the rip in the lining of his lung, though he'd always have a wheeze.
Everyone assumes that Mia named him for his orange eyes, but she didn't. She named him for the color of his voice:
I named him Mango because the sounds of his purrs and his wheezes and his meows are all various shades of yellow-orange, like a mango in different seasons.
Which brings us to Mia's secret: She sees colors. Not the way most people see colors, but she sees colors when she hears certain noises, or when she hears music. For Mia, letters and numbers and words have different, very specific, colors -- which can make reading very difficult. And don't even get her started on algebra.
But she learned at an early age not to mention the colors. That other people didn't see them. That her view of the world is very different than most people's view of the world. A chance encounter in the grocery store and her troubles with algebra finally convince her to talk to her parents.
I loved it. Not just because of the synesthesia -- which is fascinating* -- but because of the rest of it. I loved her family (especially her siblings), and I loved her friendship with Jenna.
I loved that the world of the other characters didn't pause due to Mia's diagnosis -- her sister suddenly starts a New Age phase and her best friend is struggling with her feelings about her father's new girlfriend. Mia's synesthesia is central to her personal story, but from the perspective of the other characters, it is peripheral, if that makes any sense. And it really works.
Oh, AND. Some people will not approve of this, but whatever. I loved it that Mia found a way to use her synesthesia to cheat on her algebra tests. And I loved it that she didn't get caught.
Highly recommended for any readers of realistic middle grade novels.
*And holy cow, the scene where Mia is Super Synesthete Enhanced Lady due to the acupuncture and CAN SEE pheromones? Wow. And I looked it up -- that's a real ability of some synesthetes. Wendy Mass did a whole lot of research for this book, so YAY her!