Wendy Mass Biography (1967-)
Wendy Mass is an award-winning author of young-adult fiction and nonfiction. Mass, a former book editor who co-created Writes of Passage, a literary journal for teens, earned the Schneider Family Book Award from the American Library Association for her 2003 novel A Mango-shaped Space. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed novel Leap Day, published in 2004.
After graduating from Tufts University with a degree in English, Mass moved to Los Angeles, California, to work in the entertainment industry. She later attended graduate school, where she made the decision to write for children and young adults. Moving back east, wher she began her career in publishing, Mass was soon afforded the opportunity to write nonfiction. Her first works, Stonehenge, Teen Drug Abuse, and Women's Rights, appeared in 1998. Mass has also written and edited a number of books about authors, including Great Authors of Children's Literature and Ray Bradbury: Master of Science Fiction and Fantasy. In Ray Bradbury, Mass "presents a well-organized biography of the writer," according to Booklist critic Carolyn Phelan.
In A Mango-shaped Space Mass introduces a protagonist who sees the world in an unusual way. Thirteen-year-old Mia Winchell discovers that she has a rare neurological condition called synesthesia. As Mass told Beverly Rowe of MyShelf.com, "To put it simply, synesthesia is a condition that some people have where the different senses—touch, taste, hearing, vision, and smell—get mixed up instead of remaining separate. The most common variety is called lexical synesthesia, which is where letters and numbers each have individual colors. For instance, someone with this condition might say that the letter 'A' has a sunflower yellow tint with a crumbly feel to it. The number 'two' might be the color of wet cement." In Mia's case, synesthesia allows her to see sounds, letters, and numbers in color, but she keeps her abilities a secret, fearing that her family and classmates will view her as a freak. Mia's struggles with math and Spanish, a consequence of her condition, eventually prove too much for her, and she must seek help from her parents and a sympathetic doctor.
A Mango-shaped Space was well received by critics. A Publishers Weekly contributor remarked that the book's "well-defined characterizations, natural-sounding dialogue, and concrete imagery allow readers to feel Mia's emotions and see through her eyes a kaleidoscopic world." Reviewing Mass's book for School Library Journal, Eva Mitnick stated that "Mia's voice is believable and her description of the vivid world she experiences, filled with slashes, blurs, and streaks of color, is fascinating."Leap Day concerns Josie, a sixteen year old who, having been born on February 29th, is celebrating only her fourth "official" birthday. During this busy day, Josie plans to take her driver's test, audition for the school play, and join her friends on a scavenger hunt. Leap Day employs a dual narrative: Josie's version of events is interspersed with third-person accounts that describe the same incidents from another perspective. According to Michele Winship in Kliatt, "Readers get to see beyond Josie's point of view and find out the motivations and inner thoughts of the people she interacts with throughout her birthday." Horn Book contributor Jennifer M. Brabander called Leap Day a work "that highlights the potentially life-altering results of our most fleeting daily interactions."
Asked by Rowe why she chooses to write for teenagers, Mass explained, "When I was that age, reading was such a huge part of my life. I wouldn't be the same person today if I didn't have those wonderful stories living inside my head. It seems to me that those years, between ten and fourteen, are when kids figure out what kind of person they want to be—both inside and outside, and how they want to live their life." She added, "We can experience things in books that we can never experience in life, but these experiences show us what is possible in our own life."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, April 1, 2003, Debbie Carton, review of A Mango-shaped Space, p. 1390; February 15, 2004, Cindy Welch, review of Leap Day, pp. 1051-1052; November 1, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Ray Bradbury: Master of Science Fiction and Fantasy, p. 474.
Girls' Life, June-July, 2003, Kim Childress, review of A Mango-shaped Space, p. 46.
Horn Book, July-August, 2003, Jennifer M. Brabander, review of A Mango-shaped Space, p. 463; May-June, 2004, Jennifer M. Brabander, review of Leap Day, p. 333.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2003, A Mango-shaped Space, p. 392; January 15, 2004, review of Leap Day, p. 85.
Kliatt, March, 2003, Paula Rohrlick, review of A Mangoshaped Space, p. 14; January, 2004, Michele Winship, review of Leap Day, p. 10; January, 2005, Sally Tibbetts, review of Leap Day (audiobook), p. 46.
Publishers Weekly, April 14, 2003, A Mango-shaped Space, p. 71.
School Library Journal, June, 2000, Timothy Capehart, review of Great Authors of Children's Literature, p. 169; January, 2001, Marilyn Heath, review of Readings on Night, p. 151; March, 2003, Eva Mitnick, review of A Mango-shaped Space, p. 237; March, 2004, Paula J. LaRue, review of Leap Day, pp. 216-217; December, 2004, Kathleen Simonetta, review of Ray Bradbury, p. 164.
MyShelf.com, http://www.myshelf.com/ (May 26, 2005), Beverly Rowe, interview with Mass.
Time for Kids Web site, http://www.timeforkids.com/ (June 25, 2003), Carolyn Zemanian, "Kid Scoops: Wendy Mass, Author."
Wendy Mass Web site, http://www.wendymass.com (February 1, 2005).
Brief BiographiesBiographies: Al Loving Biography - Loved Painting from Early Age to Alice McGill Biography - PersonalWendy Mass (1967-) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights