Study Guide

A Mango-Shaped Space

By Wendy Mass

A Mango-Shaped Space Introduction

What color is Monday? How does the word handbag taste? What personality does the number three have?

No, don't worry—we haven't lost our minds (and there's no need to lick your mom's purse). We're talking about synesthesia, a big word for a condition where two different perceptions are grouped together. So instead of just hearing music, you might be able to feel, taste, or see it, too. And for synesthetes (people with synesthesia), a taste might trigger a swirl of shapes and colors, or a number might come across as snotty or shy.

Mia Winchell, the heroine of Wendy Mass's 2003 novel, A Mango-Shaped Space, has synesthesia. Specifically, she has colored hearing, which means she sees figures and colors whenever she hears a sound. Sound kind of overwhelming? It definitely can be. This book is all about Mia coming to understand her condition, and her struggle to figure out how to deal with it on a day-to-day basis. In the end, she finds it comes with some serious perks—even if it does make solving math problems nearly impossible.

Nominated for a slew of awards, including New York Public Library's Best Books for the Teen Age and the Great Lakes Book Award (source), A Mango-Shaped Space is about searching for your place in a world full of vibrant colors and sounds. So whether you see pink when you eat chocolate or not, get ready for a colorful read.

What is A Mango-Shaped Space About and Why Should I Care?

We're betting that most of you out there don't have synesthesia. After all, it doesn't affect a whole lot of people—so if you do have it, you're pretty special. As for those of you who never even heard of synesthesia before now, don't worry. You'll still have plenty to relate to when it comes to Mia's story.

Don't believe us? Consider this. Have you ever…

  • Kept a secret from your family and friends because you're worried what they might say if they found out? 
  • Acted a certain way just to fit in, even though it isn't who you really are?
  • Laughed at people's jokes when you don't get the punch line?
  • Pretended to know how to solve a math problem or diagram a sentence in class when you actually had no clue? 
  • Felt like you don't belong, or like everyone else is normal but you?

Let's check our scorecards. If you've answered "yes" to any of these questions (it's okay, your secret's safe with us), then you will get exactly what Mia's dealing with. For most of us, figuring out who we are and where we belong is at the heart of being a teenager. And as a teen, Mia is grappling with these million dollar questions herself, too. So sure, you might not see colors when music plays, but we're betting you do know what it's like to wonder if you're normal or not. And Mia does, too.

Oh, and for the record? We answered "yes" to every single one of those questions up there, and we turned out just fine. Sort of.

A Mango-Shaped Space Resources

Websites

Give us Mass
Author Wendy Mass's home page, complete with all the details about her work.

Neuroscience for kids
Check out more stats and fun facts about synesthesia.

Articles and Interviews

A Mass-Shaped Space
Look at what the author's office looks like and find out what inspires her.

What's It Like Being An Author?
Listen Wendy Mass tell it like it is.

Video

Taste the Rainbow
If you want to learn more about synesthesia, check out this mini TED talk explaining it.

Fan-Made Trailer
Leave it to the fans to sum up the book perfectly with this trailer.

Book Festival
Author Wendy Mass talks about her work.

Audio

Listen for the Colors
An audiobook of A Mango-Shaped Space.

Images

Now In Technicolor
It's only fitting that the cover of the book be vibrant and filled with colors, right? Right.

Tasting Sounds
Check out this artististic rendition of synesthesia.

Color Wheel
This synesthete's view of the months sounds an awful lot like Mia's.