I was contacted by the publisher to be part of their Book Tour for How to Become A Planet by Nicole Melleby. I was so excited for this one after reading her previous two books, Hurricane Season and In the Role of Brie Hutchens…
Thank you to Nicole Melleby and Algonquin Young Readers for providing me with an ARC for this review
Nicole Melleby, a born-and-bread Jersey girl, is an award winning children’s author. Her middle grade books have been Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selections, recipient of the Skipping Stones Honor Award, and a 2020 Kirkus Reviews best book of the year. Her debut novel, Hurricane Season, was a Lambda Literary finalist. She lives with her wife and their cat, whose need for attention oddly aligns with Nicole’s writing schedule.
Feel free to follow her on Twitter @NeekoMelleby
About The Book
Title: How to Become a Planet
Author: Nicole Melleby
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Publishing Date: May 25th, 2021
Page Length: 288
Age Range: Middle Grade
For Pluto, summer has always started with a trip to the planetarium. It’s the launch to her favorite season, which also includes visits to the boardwalk arcade, working in her mom’s pizzeria, and her best friend Meredith’s birthday party. But this summer, none of that feels possible.
A month before the end of the school year, Pluto’s frightened mom broke down Pluto’s bedroom door. What came next were doctor’s appointments, a diagnosis of depression, and a big black hole that still sits on Pluto’s chest, making it too hard to do anything.
Pluto can’t explain to her mom why she can’t do the things she used to love. And it isn’t until Pluto’s dad threatens to make her move with him to the city—where he believes his money, in particular, could help—that Pluto becomes desperate enough to do whatever it takes to be the old Pluto again.
She develops a plan and a checklist: If she takes her medication, if she goes to the planetarium with her mom for her birthday, if she successfully finishes her summer school work with her tutor, if she goes to Meredith’s birthday party . . . if she does all the things that “normal” Pluto would do, she can stay with her mom in Jersey. But it takes a new therapist, a new tutor, and a new (and cute) friend with a checklist and plan of her own for Pluto to learn that there is no old and new Pluto. There’s just her.
Rep: depression, anxiety, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), LGBT (Sapphic, Gender Identity-not specified on page)
Content Warning: depression, anxiety, panic attacks
This books was an amazing read, although it is not an easy read. This one is packed full of emotions, just like her others. We follow the main character, Pluto, while she grapples with being diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Melleby writes her middle grade in the higher age range and tackles heavier topics without holding back. I loved the way Melleby approached mental health and LGBTQIA+ rep once again. I found they were accurate representation, at least based on my experience with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. I found that the way Pluto felt throughout the book was exactly how I have felt, making it easy to connect with her. Unlike her other books, Melleby focused more on mental health for the main character instead of questioning of sexuality–although that is still there throughout the book.
I absolutely felt for Pluto, as I said, but I also felt for all the other characters in the book. Her mom is trying her best under the pressure, her best friend is trying to understand, her new friend is relatable and supportive. In fact, the only person I wanted to smack was her dad (I found him unlikeable and selfish).
The plot overall was interesting. While we follow Pluto around, while she works on her checklist–both the ups and downs of it. I found the journey to be realistic, making it perfect for a middle grade reader–whether that’s to see themselves in the story or to understand their friend (who seems themselves in that story). The only thing that held me back from binging this book was the depictions of panic attacks and depression. These were so like my own thoughts and experiences that I would have to stop periodically. I think that’s an amazing feat though–to be able to capture these experiences realistically–so I praise Melleby for that. I loved the inserts of science facts, they really called to the nerdy space kid that I am.
I do wish we got more of Fallon! Fingers crossed that we maybe get a companion novel for them?!?!?!
I highly recommend How to Become a Planet to anyone who has loved Melleby’s other books or Ashley Herring Blake’s writing.