Study Guide

A Mango-Shaped Space Versions of Reality

By Wendy Mass

Versions of Reality

Chapter 1

Each letter of the alphabet has a rhyme about a little kid meeting some bizarre end. I like the poster because it is in black and white to everyone else, but inside my head, it's in color. (1.2)

Right away, Mia fills us in on her little secret: She sees colors. We're not talking just in a pack of crayons either. Everywhere she goes, Mia can see colors in music, letters, numbers, you name it. The way she tells it, her version of reality is very different from what everyone else around her sees.

No matter how hard I try, I can never keep up in math class, and trying to learn Spanish will be even worse. The problem is clear to me. It has to do with my colors. The word friend is turquoise with a glow of glossy red, but the word amigo is yellow with spots of brown, like an old banana. I just can't get my brain to connect the two words. (1.67)

Just like Mia's synesthesia helps her paint or remember stuff really well, it also hurts her sometimes. She has an extra tough time in math. Why? The colors don't match up correctly when she's multiplying, and it drives her crazy. We might just see a four, but she sees shapes and colors zooming past her in the air.

My sight is filled with blurry purple triangles and waves of green and floating black dots and balls of all sizes and shades of colors, spinning, swooping, swirling in front of me and across the room and in my mind's eye. (1.48)

Without these descriptions, we'd have a tough time understanding what Mia goes through. Luckily, she gives us a bunch of them throughout the book. We can tell that the shapes excite her, but they also overwhelm her when they come at her all at once, like when someone sets off all of her alarms.

Chapter 3

The worst thing about her speech is that her voice is so high-pitched and squeaky that rust-colored spirals rain down behind her. (3.53)

Describing her teacher, Mrs. Morris, Mia is sure to note how annoying her voice is to someone with synesthesia. Before long, we're thinking about stuff in a whole new light from Mia's descriptions.

Chapter 4
Mia Winchell

"I used to think everyone saw these colors; then in third grade I figured out it was just me." (4.27)

When she's describing her abilities to her parents, Mia is sure to recall what happened back in third grade. That was a traumatic time for her, and it also helped her realize that she sees a version of reality that other people aren't aware of. It's not to say she's wrong; just different.

Chapter 7

People's colors seem to be unique to them. The geometric shapes are much more similar. Not that they appear at the same sounds, but the general shapes that synesthetes see don't differ too much. For people who have colored alphabets, there are wide color variations, although many people seem to associate light colors with vowels. (7.3)

Jerry explains to Mia and her family that synesthetes don't always sees the same color, which explains why Mia and Billy think her name is different. It also highlights that numbers and letters aren't automatically correlated with particular colors. It's all about perception.

Chapter 11

I THINK WHAT YOU SAW WERE PEOPLE'S PHEROMONES IN ACTION. THERE MUST BE SOME SYNESTHETIC CONNECTION. BEFORE YOU ASK WHAT A PHEROMONE IS, I'LL GIVE YOU THE DEFINITION FROM THE INTERNET: "A CHEMICAL SUBSTANCE INVISIBLE TO THE EYE THAT ALL ANIMALS AND HUMANS EMIT." (11.64)

After Mia sees colors following her acupuncture appointment, Adam does some research and figures out that she actually sees people's pheromones. It's a trippy experience, especially since Mia learns stuff about how people really feel by watching their deeper emotions come to life.

Chapter 12

There's no noise; all the multicolored balls, zigzags, and spirals are coming from inside me. I slowly open my eyes, and things are a little calmer now. The glow around Faith is ten times as vibrant as it was the first time, and the last vestige of guilt caused by lying to my parents leaves me. I'm sure they wouldn't deny me this experience if they knew about it. (12.1)

Even though Mia lies to her parents about acupuncture, it's totally worth it to her. In fact, she thinks they'd even applaud her if they knew what she saw. Her colors are enhanced and magnified after her appointment, reminding us that the colors she sees normally are just part of reality for her.

Chapter 14

From some dark corner of my brain I realize I can't see the colored shapes that would normally accompany the sound. All I see are gray blobs that look like used chewing gum. (14.5)

After Mango dies, Mia is distraught—she feels empty and perceives the world in black and white. It's a huge switch for her, one that ultimately makes her grateful for her synesthesia. What she sees might not be like what everyone else does, but it's more exciting and interesting than other people's realities.

Chapter 15

"I suddenly remembered her telling me that she loved music so much because she could see the colors in the air all around her." "Are you serious?" I ask in disbelief. "I thought she was just being imaginative. I didn't know she meant it literally." (15.104)

Mia's mom recalls Mia dancing around with her grandma when she was a toddler and both of them talking about seeing the colors. It's interesting that her mom thought they were talking figuratively (not literally) because it shows us how she perceives the world.

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