There are some books that just touch a special place in my heart, and “How to Become a Planet” is one of them. It’s filled with so much heart and love, and I instantly want to recommend it to every YA reader I know.
When Pluto (yes that’s her real name) gets diagnosed with depression and anxiety, she goes on a quest one summer to complete everything on a to-do list she’s created. The list includes attending her best friend’s birth party, taking her medication, and seeing a therapist. She just wants to find out how to get back to her old self (the one that didn’t struggle with sadness and panic attacks). Pluto learns to lean on the people around her, including her supportive single mother and a new friend named Fallon.
I won’t go into too much other detail so that the book stays fresh, but I have to say that Nicole Melleby did an incredible job capturing mental health struggles (especially ones that can manifest in adolescents). I could instantly relate to her descriptions of panic attacks and the darkness and lack of joy that comes along with depression. Not only do I think a lot of people can relate to Pluto’s story, I also think the book can do a great job creating compassion and empathy in people who haven’t experienced issues with their own mental health. These topics aren’t talked about enough, especially with this age group.
Aside from the subject matter, Melleby is also skilled at creating fully dimensional characters that feel recognizable and authentic. The book is paced really well – there aren’t any boring chapters or lack of plot advancement. Melleby is able to infuse the novel with some complicated situations but they’re handled with great care and with grace.
I hope this book becomes required reading for young readers. I’m a fan of any story that allows me to relate while also increasing my compassion for others that might be out there struggling too. I’m so in love with this book and can’t recommend it enough!
*Free ARC provided by Netgalley and Algonquin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review*