Study Guide

A Mango-Shaped Space Family

By Wendy Mass

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Chapter 1

She changes her hair color the way normal people change their underwear. We used to be a lot closer, before she went to high school and dropped me like a piping-hot bag of microwave popcorn. (1.6)

Beth has a new hair color every week—literally. Mia tells us that her sister changes it so much that it's hard to keep the color straight. Her description of her older sis isn't exactly the most flattering, but she still looks up to her in some ways. She wants Beth to hang out with her and like her, that's why it's a bummer that Beth doesn't want to anymore.

Jenna Davis

"There's a lot of weirdness in your family," Jenna says, picking at a scab on her elbow. She doesn't even know about my own personal brand of weirdness. (1.24)

Ouch. Jenna has no trouble telling Mia how it is. Mia knows her family is a little wacky (that's putting it mildly), but she loves them to pieces anyway. Their strangeness helps her fit in. In her family of misfits, Mia feels right at home seeing colors dancing around on the wall.

Chapter 2

They are my dad's parents, but my mother was very close to them. Her own parents are still alive in Florida, but we don't see them because they won't fly. I think there's more to the story, something to do with "marrying beneath one's station." (2.16)

While Mia doesn't know the whole story about her mom's parents, she can tell that there's no love lost between them. She fills us in on the fact that they were closest to her dad's parents, Mia's the grandparents who both die before the book starts.

Chapter 10
Jenna Davis

"Sundays are supposed to be family time, you being considered family of course. She shouldn't come over on a Sunday morning. She's the rude one if you ask me." (10.36)

Jenna gets annoyed when her dad invites his girlfriend over on a Sunday since that's family time. Ever since her mom died, Sundays are sacred to her and they shouldn't be messed with. While she's ticked at her dad, Jenna shows us how families can bond together through their traditions, especially when someone dies.

Chapter 11

My new powers lasted until I went to sleep, and that was really late because I was up watching my family's clouds interact with one another. I could tell that when my mother agreed to host my dad's poker game at the house, she didn't really want to. But I could also tell how grateful Dad was. (11.1)

After acupuncture, Mia can tell where people are just by the colors floating through the house. Pretty cool, right? Even though Mia would never say it like this, her family really cares about and loves each other.

Chapter 12

As soon as I get into the house I'm bombarded with the colors of my family. Just by the patches in the air I can tell who has recently been in which rooms. (12.9)

We like to think we can tell a lot about our families, even without synesthesia, but for Mia, her sense of her family is enhanced big time since she can actually see their pheromones interact. Whoa.

Chapter 15

"How can you think of replacing Mango already?"

"It's Mango's son. Or daughter. It's not just any cat." (15.256-257)

Zack thinks it's super important to take in Mango's son because he's already a part of their family. This shows that Zach cares about family and thinks they should look out for each other, even when a family member is covered in fur.

The paw prints lead right off the top of the canvas and, I imagine, straight up to heaven. I don't think I need to offer him there myself anymore; I think Grandpa did it for me. Maybe Mango was Grandpa's parting gift to me, and now they're in heaven together with Grams. I really, truly want to believe that. (15.79)

Perhaps Mia wants to believe this because it's warm and fuzzy; it makes her feel comforted. Mia wants her grandparents and cat to be together in the afterlife because it's always better to be with family. They say all dogs go to heaven, so we're sure that extends to cats, too.

Roger Carson

"We had Oscar since before I was born. He was like a brother to me. I know that sounds stupid." (15.48)

Roger tells Mia about his dog as if he's part of the family. When Mia hears about his pet, she realizes that what she's going through is normal. Everyone who has ever had a dog or cat that died knows that—pets become a huge part of the family, so it's a big deal when they go.

Mia Winchell

"I don't really feel up to going," I tell her.

"We're all going," my mother says firmly. "It will be good for us to do something as a family again." (15.227-228)

When her mom suggests going to the neighbors' house for a party, Mia tries to get out of it—she's not feeling very festive. It turns out that she doesn't have a choice, though, since it's a family thing. We can tell her mom throws that around to guilt Mia into going, but also to show her that it's essential for families to spend time together, especially when grieving.

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