Monday, October 1, 2012

A Mango-Shaped Space

Mia Winchell has lived her entire life seeing sounds, numbers, and letters in bright colors. It isn't her strong imagination or a sign that she is losing her mind--Mia has synesthesia [although she doesn't know it]. Mia first realized that she was different from everyone else in third grade. Afraid of being labeled a freak, she keeps her gift a secret from everyone including her family and closest friends. Years later, Mia is in middle school and is still struggling to understand why she is different.

I'd never heard of synesthesia until I read this book. It isn't something that I think most people really hear about. But synethesia is a "neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway" (Wikipedia). In A Mango-Shaped Space, Mia can see sounds and each number/letter has a color associated with it--so when she reads, she sees the color associated with the letter not the black ink that it was typed in.

It sounds fascinating, right? And it is. But as interesting as it is to hear about synesthesia, there are parts of the book that feel a bit like reading a pamphlet about the neurological condition rather than a novel about a girl. Mass finds it difficult to avoid throwing in so many facts that it can often get in the way of Mia's story. A Mango-Shaped Space is written for a younger audience--late elementary school to early junior high--and it isn't a book that I think most adults would enjoy reading it on their own. The language and story are almost too simple. I may have enjoyed this book ten years ago but right now I found it slow and contrived.

A Mango-Shaped Space is a book that many young readers will love. I can only imagine how helpful it will be for children and the parent's of children with synesthesia--to help them know they are not alone. And for that reason alone I tried to fall in love with it but I couldn't seem to connect with the story or the characters. If you are interested in synesthesia, this book would be an excellent place to start. But understand that this is a children's book and it may not be able to entertain an adult for long.

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