G. Bianco, 2019
Middle grade novel explains astronomy and mental health wonderfully for younger audiences
From the author of In the Role of Brie Hutchins… and Hurricane Season comes a middle-grade book about mental health and figuring out a new normal amidst a scary diagnosis. Set to be released on May 25th, Nicole Melleby’s How to Become a Planet shows how one girl grapples with her depression and anxiety while also trying to go back to the person she was before.
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.
This book offers such wonderful insight into mental health and what it’s like to live with depression and anxiety. As a reader, it’s easy to become really drawn into Pluto’s story and how her emotions change throughout this tumultuous time in her life.
This book is such a fabulous middle-grade read! The setting of summer in New Jersey makes you want to walk along the boardwalk with Pluto and her friends and taste a slice of Timoney’s pizza! However, the fun feeling of summer doesn’t detract from Pluto’s story and how she handles her diagnosis. Melleby tackles tough issues like depression, anxiety, sexuality, and self-identity while also making it palatable for a younger audience.
While this book is geared towards younger readers, fans of YA contemporaries will also really enjoy Pluto’s story and may even relate to the feeling of being on the cusp of teenhood. I highly recommend this book for a quick read and insight into what it’s like dealing with being different.
*I received an ARC from Algonquin Young Reader in exchange for my honest opinion.
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