There are so many conditions, gifts and simple states of being in the world that when you are introduced to one that is completely unfamiliar to you, it’s both amazing and not. You sort of already expect there to be many more types of people in the world than you already know about—but when you discover something new, you’re still kind of in awe, right?
In the case of A Mango-Shaped Space, the condition is known as synesthesia. People with synesthesia often associate certain senses with numbers, sounds, letters and other things. The lead character in the book, Mia, sees colors and shapes for letters, numbers, and sounds, for example. Others might smell a certain scent when they hear some words, or they might experience a taste in their mouths.
People with synesthesia can experience challenges with many things in life—such as math skills, which were difficult for young Mia in the book due to their various colors—but the condition can also result in a more vivid life experience altogether. Though some medications can help “mask” symptoms—and symptoms can sometimes dilute or disappear during severe stress or trauma to return again later—most people with synesthesia say they would rather have it than not.
The book itself is very straight-forward and accessible to tweens and teens; I think most kids over eight could enjoy and understand the book. Indeed, I wonder if part of the reason why it was written was to provide something for young children who have this condition to have something to relate to and know they are not alone. I can’t imagine what it would be like to experience life in a completely different way from others and for people to call you crazy or not believe you when, in fact, what you are experiencing affects many more people—and is documented for proof.
I really enjoyed Mia’s story and would recommend such a book to any children’s book club or reading program. There’s no violence—though there are a couple of mature subject matters, such as youth kissing, death and pet death; I don’t think these warrant the big bad parental bans anywhere, but I guess you never know!—and I think the material is both poignant and appropriate, as well as moving and interesting. Kids will enjoy the book as they learn more about people around the world, family, and friendship.