Study Guide

A Mango-Shaped Space Identity

By Wendy Mass

Identity

Prologue

Pretty soon, everyone forgot about that day. Everyone but me. I learned to guard my secret well. But now I'm thirteen. Everything is about to change. And there's nothing I can do to stop it. (Pro.19)

Ominous, much? We know that Mia has guarded her secret like the nuclear codes, but we're not so sure she needed to since when she finally tells her parents and Jenna, they all support her. In fact, they're upset she didn't tell them sooner. They love her just the way she is—colors or no colors.

Chapter 2

The laughter of my classmates pops into my head. Freeeek. They made me question the first eight years of my life, and now this little boy is making me question the last five. If he isn't lying, if he really sees my name that way, then everything I thought I knew about myself is wrong. (2.93)

Everything changes when Mia meets Billy at the supermarket. She questions whether there are others like her out there, and wonders what it means if there are. Note how she says "everything" she knows about herself changes, as if being a synesthete is what makes her who she is.

Chapter 6

I have to admit it isn't all bad. Kids who totally ignored me before are clamoring to talk to me now. It would be more rewarding if it didn't have the overtones of a circus sideshow. (6.4)

When everyone finds out Mia's secret, it's no biggie. Well, it is a big surprise, and everyone wants to know the color of their names, but no one mocks her or bullies her or anything. It seems like she's the only one who thinks of herself as a circus freak after all.

Chapter 7

I didn't return Jenna's three phone calls last night; I'm just not ready to share what I've learned about myself yet. I almost feel as if she doesn't deserve to know, after what she did. (7.1)

Check out how Mia describes her synesthesia as "what I've learned about myself." In some ways, she hasn't learned anything at all because she already knew about her colors and knew that she liked them. But still, giving her condition a name and a face helps her process who she is.

I lean back in the chair, amazed. I've learned something about myself after only reading the opening paragraph! Every time I have to read text in colors other than black or white, like in a magazine advertisement or on a book cover, I get a headache because it's the wrong color. I try to avoid it whenever possible. (7.82)

Reading the website that Jerry gave her, Mia is astounded. She's only on there a few minutes before she learns something new about herself. Mind. Blown.

I do want to be able to pass my classes, and it would be nice to be like everyone else. But if I couldn't use my colors, the world would seem so bland—like vanilla ice cream without the gummy bears on top. (7.16)

When Jerry asks her if she wants to get rid of synesthesia, Mia isn't so sure. Maybe it would be good for doing math, but she also loves what synesthesia gives her, too, like painting and memory and stuff. She's spent so long assuming that she was weird that she's never stopped to think about the benefits of being different.

Chapter 9

I told him that maybe, just maybe, my brain actually was more superior than his and that my colors are an advancement in evolution. He said that more likely I'm some kind of a throwback, and now he's been calling me the Missing Link. (9.7)

For anybody who has a little brother, Zack is no stranger. He might be a little different than your kid bro, but he has all the makings of a younger sibling. For one thing, he teases Mia like nobody's business, especially when it comes to her synesthesia. Mia likes to think is makes her sophisticated and special, but Zack's not so sure.

Chapter 10

The needle goes in my other earlobe, and small bubbles, like multicolored marbles, enter from the left and zoom in front of my face until I lose sight of them. I've never seen colored shapes before without sounds triggering them. I can't believe I can do this! The bubbles are now undulating and forming the most incredible streaks of color. (10.145)

Describing her acupuncture experience, Mia sees colors bolder and brighter than she ever has before, and again she thinks about the colors as a big part of who she is. To Mia, it's not just that she's a girl who sees colors; it's that she's a synesthete, plain and simple.

Jenna Davis

"Do you think it's something I could learn?" she asks, moving her pillow so she can sit up. "I remember things really well. I'm sure I can memorize the color of each letter."

"It doesn't work that way," I tell her, trying to keep my voice even. "It's something you're born with." (10.44-45)

Mia puts it bluntly: Synesthesia is something that people either have, or they don't—there's no in between. Jenna can't learn it or stumble into it. It's just a part of who Mia is.

Chapter 14

So now I'm no longer the girl who sees colors, and I'm no longer the girl whose grandfather's soul is in her cat. All I am is the girl who is no longer special in any way. I'm the girl who is empty. Like a deflated helium balloon. I can't believe this is how everyone else feels all the time. (14.42)

After Mango dies, Mia loses a part of herself. Notice how she describes herself here as the "girl who is empty." She feels lost, confused, alone, upset all at once. We can tell that Mango, her grandpa, and her colors help Mia feel like herself, so once those are taken away, she's not sure who she is anymore.

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