In an intriguing first novel, Mass introduces a 13-year-old heroine with an unusual perspective. Mia Winchell is a synesthete; her visual and hearing senses are connected so that numbers, letters, words, sounds and even some people's auras appear to her as colors. The letter "a," for instance, is the shade of a "faded sunflower," screeching chalk "makes red jagged lines in the air," and Mia's beloved cat, Mango, is surrounded by an orange cloud. Mia's unique view proves to be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, she enjoys having heightened senses ("If I couldn't use my colors, the world would seem so bland-like vanilla ice cream without the gummy bears on top," she says). On the other hand, sometimes it's hard for her being reminded that she is different, like when her brother, Zack, calls her "the Missing Link." Although the story line, at times, seems cluttered with underdeveloped subplots about Mia's friendships, potential romances and conflicts at school, the novel's premise is interesting enough to keep pages turning. The author successfully brings abstract ideas down to earth. Her well-defined characterizations, natural-sounding dialogue, and concrete imagery allow readers to feel Mia's emotions and see through her eyes a kaleidoscopic world, which is at once confusing and beautiful. Ages 10-13. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Mia was humiliated in third grade when her whole class ridiculed her for presenting a math problem using colored chalk because it made sense to her to write each number in its own color. When the teacher sent her to the principal's office and even her parents failed to understand, she decided never to mention the incident or her unique ability again. Now in eighth grade, Mia is having trouble in math and Spanish and is forced to tell her parents. Not only does Mia see each number and letter in its own particular color, but sounds produce colors and shapes in front of her. Her cat is even named Mango because his meow produces mango-colored puffs. Mia's parents take her to a string of doctors until they find a neurologist who explains that Mia has a harmless condition called synesthesia. "It means 'senses coming together.' Imagine that the wires in your brain are crossed... your visual and hearing senses are linked." After meeting other synesthetes and armed with new understanding, Mia moves from hiding her colors in shame to accepting them as a gift. Mia is devastated when Mango dies, believing that she was so busy worrying about her condition that she neglected to notice his strange behavior. Eventually her parents are able to reassure her, and readers with similar concerns could find great comfort in these passages. Despite her special condition, Mia's narrative shows her to be a typical teen with best friend troubles, sibling rivalries, and potential boyfriends. Although this book is probably not one that teens will pick up without coaxing, they will enjoy this unique look at a fascinating condition. It is highly recommended for the middle school crowd. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P M J (Betterthan most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2003, Little Brown, 219p,
Mia, age 13, has a secret she has guarded closely. She is concerned that others will regard her as a freak if she admits that sounds, numbers, and letters have color for her. When her beloved car Mango meows and purrs, for example, she sees puffs of yellow-orange color in the air. This ability makes it hard for Mia to do math and foreign languages, however, and now that she is in middle school that's a problem. She finally admits to her parents what's been going on, and they take her first to a family doctor and then to a sympathetic neurologist. The neurologist explains that she has synesthesia—a harmless condition in which her visual and hearing senses are linked. He gives her the address of a Web site so that she can contact others with synesthesia and invites her to a conference where she meets others with the same condition, including a boy who gives Mia her first kiss. Her best friend is furious that Mia has never told her about her condition, but in the end, despite the trauma of Mango's death, Mia comes to understand what an important part of her life her synesthesia is. The information on this rare condition is fascinating, but as my 15-year-old daughter points out, the plot of this novel isn't half as interesting. Mia's ups and downs with friends, boys, and family are fairly ordinary. Still, for those interested in psychology and the workings of the brain, this novel will hold their attention. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2003, Little, Brown, 220p.,
Mia Winchell is a synesthetes-her brain's electrical wiring causes words and sounds to be accompanied by a visual display of colors. She describes laughter as "a pale blue cloud that drizzles down." The word friend is "turquoise with the glow of glossy red." Mia, now 13 years old, has been keeping her condition a secret since she first discovered it in the third grade. When Mia finally confides in her parents, they take her to a series of doctors, and she is properly diagnosed. Once the teen learns that she's not crazy and her problem is synesthesia, she embraces her uniqueness. But she also abandons her normal relationships to spend time with fellow synesthetes. Finally, the death of her beloved cat, Mango, reconciles Mia to her family and friends. Wendy Mass's novel (Little, Brown, 2003) captures the emotional roller-coaster ride of a teenager born with synesthesia in much the same way as Mark Haddon captured the complicated world of autism in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Doubleday 2003). Mass weaves an intriguing and compelling story filled with believable dialogue and characters. Mia's parents are almost too perfect, but her siblings' and friends' personalities and voices ring true. Narrator Danielle Ferland moves from character to character effortlessly, but without much deviation in voice inflections for the secondary players. In voicing Mia, she does a remarkable job of expressing the whirlwind of complicated teenage emotions. A must for all collections.
Cheryl PreisendorferCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.