A Mango Shaped Space Summary

Wendy Mass

A Mango Shaped Space

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A Mango Shaped Space Summary

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A Mango-Shaped Space (2003), a young adult novel by American author Wendy Mass, is the story of Mia Winchell, a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with synesthesia. Her senses are jumbled — words and sounds often have color for her, among other effects. This affects how she functions in school, interacts with friends, and relates to her parents and teachers. Exploring themes of alienation, disability, accessibility, and the way teenagers deal with change and death, A Mango-Shaped Space is Mass’s most critically acclaimed book, a commercial hit, and successful in the awards circuit. It won the 2004 American Library Association Schneider Family Book Award, along with multiple state book awards. It also received a VOYA Top Shelf selection in 2003. An audiobook narrated by Danielle Ferland has been released as well, and A Mango-Shaped Space is often included in assigned reading lists for the middle school age group.

As A Mango-Shaped Space begins, Mia Winchell is in the third grade when she first starts to realize that she is not like anyone else. Her symptoms cause her to be ridiculed by her classmates. She decides to hide her condition from everyone, including her parents and her best friend, Jenna. She does well in school, except for in math. The numbers cause distracting colors that keep her from doing complex math. When she enters eighth grade, the same thing happens in Spanish class, as the colors in Spanish words are different from English ones. When she is no longer able to keep up in Spanish and Math, she tells her parents. Although they are skeptical at first, they send her to a psychologist, who then refers her to a neurologist named Jerry Weiss. Jerry explains synesthesia to her and tells her that she is not alone. She meets a group of other people with the condition, learns how to manage it, and gets a math tutor who teaches her how to process numbers more effectively.

Mia’s best friend, Jenna, always believed that she and Mia were completely open with each other. They have been close ever since Jenna’s mother died, and Mia was there for her. When Mia starts to miss school for doctor’s appointments, Jenna starts to get suspicious. Mia realizes it is wrong to make Jenna worry about her, so she decides to tell her everything. While Mia assumes Jenna will be sympathetic, Jenna is actually furious that Mia kept an important secret from her for all these years. In her anger and betrayal, she tells some of the other kids at school about Mia’s secret. It gets spread around, and soon everyone is asking Mia questions, including asking her to tell them the colors of their name. Although Mia was worried that the teasing would be worse, she is still distracted and alienated, and it makes her symptoms more difficult to handle. Mia takes comfort in her cat, Mango, who has a weird raspy breath that gives off a color that reminds her of mangoes. Mia found Mango on the day of her grandfather’s funeral. She and her grandfather were very close, and the kitten was near his grave, so Mia believes Mango has a part of her grandfather’s soul.

One morning, Mia discovers that Mango went outside in the freezing cold. He gets sick and dies before they can take him to the veterinarian. Mia is devastated, feeling as though she has lost her grandfather all over again and feeling responsible for Mango’s death. Mia tries to talk to Adam, a friend from a synesthesia website, but he turns out to be insensitive and uncaring. However, a classmate named Roger comes up to her to express his condolences. He also confesses that he is colorblind. Mia is surprised to find that after Mango’s death, the colors start to disappear. She wonders what her life will be like, how she will learn without them. She is also afraid because she does not really know how to function without them. Jerry assures her that they will likely return, telling her ways to make that happen. She decides that they will return when the time is right. She meets another young boy who has synesthesia and helps him and his mother see that there are ways to handle it, especially with the boy getting a head start in adjusting that she did not have. A few weeks later, Mia hears that the neighbor’s cat had kittens. She goes over and sees one that looks a lot like Mango. When she pets it, it makes a sound that is the color of mustard. She decides to adopt it, naming the new kitten Mustard.

Wendy Mass is an American author of young adult novels and children’s books. She is best known for the award-winning A Mango-Shaped Space but has also written nineteen works of fiction, nine nonfiction books, and the script for an episode of the TV series Monk. Her 2006 novel Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, about a pair of preteens trying to solve the mystery of an odd box with four locks, was adapted into an independent film written and adapted by Tamar Halpern in 2012.