Review of How to Become a Planet by Nicole Melleby
I love this book. It made me cry a lot because I got Pluto and I got her mom and they both try so hard. I don’t know if the fact that I started reading on a day when every little thing was already making me cry was a good or a bad thing but maybe having an excuse to let those tears come was good, so I’ll go with that.
How to Become a Planet tells the story of Pluto who, just before her thirteenth birthday, is diagnosed with depression and anxiety. She missed the last month or so of seventh grade and needs to work with a tutor to get into eighth grade at the end of the summer. Her mom is trying really hard to help but Pluto’s dad wants her to come live in New York with him. Pluto then makes a list of everything she needs to do before the end of the summer to go back to the Pluto she was before. Life gets in the way but in all that chaos, Pluto makes a new friend, one who didn’t know pre-diagnosis Pluto and who comes with a list of her own.
I can’t detail everything going on in this book, like the fact that Pluto isn’t called Pluto for no reason, or that it came to my attention not because it deals with mental health but for its queer storyline (it’s written as delicately and profoundly as can be hoped for in a Middle Grade book).
As a parent, reading about this sweet child fighting her way through depression was at times overwhelming and it made me think a lot about my own child, who, despite her own issues, is fundamentally a happy person. Which I know doesn’t mean everything is fine. I’m a fundamentally happy person but I also know exactly what Pluto is going through. I have to say, I never expected to find a twelve-year-old girl so relatable. At one point Pluto says, “I don’t know who I am anymore”. Ugh. Look at the name of this blog.
This book would have helped young me a lot, maybe not at twelve or thirteen because I don’t think I was that aware that early but who knows. It’s gentle and heartbreaking and heartwarming and so many other things at the same time. I haven’t liked a children’s book so much in a very long time. While it made me cry more than I’m comfortable with, it also made my heart very full and warm.