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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.
About the Author
NICOLE MELLEBY, a born-and-bred Jersey girl, is the author of the highly praised novels How to Become a Planet, In the Role of Brie Hutchens… and Hurricane Season. She lives with her partner and their cat, whose need for attention oddly aligns with Nicole’s writing schedule.
One of The Nerd Daily's “Anticipated Queer Book Releases You Can’t Miss in 2021”
One of Lambda Literary's “May’s Most Anticipated LGBTQ Literature”
“As always, Melleby naturally integrates her queer protagonist’s discovery of her sexuality into a larger story. The love of space that Pluto shares with her mother (whose own stress level is honestly portrayed) informs her way of thinking about herself and the world; Pluto’s interest in the history of the Challenger disaster is just one reason this introspective novel might appeal to fans of Erin Entrada Kelly’s We Dream of Space.”
—The Horn Book Magazine
“Nicole Melleby, author of "In the Role of Brie Hutchins," offers a sensitive, pitch-perfect portrayal of a girl battling depression and anxiety disorder the summer before 8th grade in this excellent novel for middle-grade readers. … This is an important and ultimately hopeful book.”
—The Buffalo News
“An outstanding book.”
—The City Book Review, Kid’s Book Buzz
“Sprinkled with astronomy-related metaphors related to a planet’s properties, this acutely observed, authentically told tale by Melleby (In the Role of Brie Hutchens...) thoughtfully portrays Pluto’s relationship with her worried single mother, the girl’s urgent desire to 'be fixed,' and her intense—and at times overpowering—depressive episodes. Compassionate secondary characters and a strong sense of place further buoy the narrative.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A raw yet honest portrayal of a young person’s experience with depression, this is a must-read for both middle grade readers and the teachers, counselors, parents, and other adults who interact daily with youth undergoing similar experiences.”
—School Library Journal, starred review
“Lambda Literary Awards finalist Melleby tackles the gravitational force of the youth mental health crisis . . . Readers will find insight and compassion around setting realistic goals and navigating results that may not match initial expectations . . . A realistic, hopeful account of personal recovery and discovery.”
“Pluto's struggles to manage her depression are all very true to life, and Melleby handles the subject with respect and empathy. She extends that empathetic tone to the people in Pluto's orbit, who want to help but don't always know how, especially when their well-meaning attempts have unintended consequences. A character-driven novel with a hopeful tone that will resonate with many tweens.”
“The visceral details of the struggle to get out of bed, shower, and greet the day offer insight into the sheer weight of Pluto’s depression, and the frustrated efforts of family and friends to help, help, and keep helping are also compassionately portrayed.”
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“Nuanced and honest to a fault, How to Become a Planet is an inspiring and educative story about how mental illness affects children and how peer and family acceptance can go a long way in fighting the isolation self-stigma often engenders.”
—The Nerd Daily
“Both empowering and comforting, How to Become a Planet will break your heart and infuse it with hope all at once. A beautiful, essential read.”
—Ashley Herring Blake, author of the Stonewall Honor book, Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World
“How do you solve a problem, when it feels like the problem is you? Sensitive, authentic, and expertly crafted, How to Become a Planet rockets readers on a young girl's wavering journey toward self-acceptance and recovery. Pluto's story pummels the heart, leaving it aching and tender—yet, like its hero, stronger as well.”
—Lisa Jenn Bigelow, author of the Lambda Literary Award book, Hazel's Theory of Evolution
“Melleby takes a sensitive and nuanced approach to portraying mental illness in How to Become a Planet. I loved getting pulled into the orbit of Pluto's life as she navigates diagnoses of depression and anxiety, changing relationships with her mom and classmates, and her first crush over the course of one summer. An accessible, inclusive, and beautifully hopeful story.”
—A.J. Sass, author of Ana on the Edge