54 pages • 1 hour readWendy Mass
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“Before she died, Jenna’s mom bought us the rope friendship bracelets that we have never taken off. She said that as long as we kept them on, nothing could come between us. I explain this to my own mother every time she begs me to cut off the bracelet, which is now too tight to slip over my hand.”
Jenna and Mia have been best friends since early childhood. Their friendship bracelets serve as a metaphor throughout the story for the state of their friendship. When the story begins, Mia is unashamed of her ratty bracelet; her friendship with Jenna is something about which she cares deeply. She believes that there is nothing that could come between the two of them, yet the tightness indicates the growth that Mia is undergoing and foreshadows the conflicts that will arise.
“I put my hands over my ears and shut my eyes to stop all the colors that are bombarding me. It doesn’t work. 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. If I had been prepared, I would have been able to anticipate the onslaught, but now it is overwhelming and I feel like I’m suffocating.”
Mia’s synesthesia affects many aspects of her life, though at this point in the story she does not know what to call it. She is often overwhelmed by colors and shapes when noises are too loud, and this can make it hard for her to concentrate in school. The narrative reflects this with its bombardment of sensory terms in short succession with piled-up clauses (“spinning, swooping, swirling”). She believes that this problem is unique to her, which makes her feel isolated and misunderstood.
“Everyone thinks I named him Mango because of his orange eyes, but that’s not the case. I named him Mango because the sounds of his purrs and his wheezes and his meows are all various shades of yellow-orange, like a mango in different seasons.”
Mango, the cat, is deeply important to Mia. His name is inspired by Mia’s synesthesia and is a way for her to express her experience of the world without actually telling anyone about it.
By Wendy Mass