With the paperback of How to Become a Planet coming out April 19th, I have to share my review of this delightful middle grade novel that made me cry so much and healed my heart. Melleby’s books are some of my absolute favorites when I need a story that will make me spend a couple hours wrapped up in my feelings and getting a cathartic cry.
You’re going to want tissues on hand when reading How to Become a Planet, but in the end the crying feels cathartic.
It’s the summer after seventh grade, and Pluto is struggling to reconcile who she was before and now she’s been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. She missed the last 34 days of school and feels like her friendship with Meredith has fizzled out because they haven’t been texting, and her dad thinks she’d be better if she moved to his place because he has more money and resources to help her with her depression. But she doesn’t want to leave her mom, her shares her love of space and instilled that love in Pluto, so she decides she needs to make a list of goals that, if she completes all of them, she’ll be back to Old Pluto and able to stay with her mom.
I found this book to be extremely relatable and the way the depression was handled was painful yet wonderful. Pluto is at an age (almost thirteen) where it’s hard to explain her emotions, but she knows she’s tired and her body is heavy and sometimes she just wishes to create black hole everything can stop. Which scares her mom, and her mom’s fear sometimes causes her to make Pluto feel worse because she feels like she’s failing at being who she used to be.
A bright spot for Plu is a new friend, Fallon, who didn’t know Pluto before her diagnosis and so doesn’t make comparisons to who or how she used to be. Seeing Pluto’s list gives Fallon the courage to create her own and get Pluto’s help to complete the items on it. Sharing their lists helps their friendship grow and as they grow closer, Plu gets butterflies when she thinks of Fallon, and seeing her tutor Mrs McAuliffe with her wife Sunny makes Plu think of a future like that with Fallon.
This book was an absolutely emotional ride, in the best way. This is a book I’m so glad exists because sometimes it feels like society acts like preteens can’t be depressed until they’re a teenager, and this book gives a name to those feelings and shows healthy coping methods – including therapy and medication. In many ways this book is validating of feelings and experiences for me, and I’m so glad it exists. Nicole Melleby is definitely a must-read author for me now, and I look forward to more stories from her. that hit hard but with so much care.