How to Become a Planet


By Nicole Melleby

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$10.95 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 19, 2022. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Publishers Weekly Best Middle Grade Book of 2021
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”

“Gorgeous.” —BuzzFeed

The two most important things to know about Pluto Timoney:  (1) she’s always loved outer space (obviously); and (2) her favorite season is summer, the time to go to the boardwalk, visit the planetarium, and work in her mom’s pizzeria.

This summer, when Pluto’s turning thirteen, is different. Pluto has just been diagnosed with depression, and she feels like a black hole is sitting on her chest, making it hard to do anything. When Pluto’s dad threatens to make her move to the city—where he believes his money could help her get better—Pluto comes up with a plan to do whatever it takes to be her old self again. If she does everything that old, “normal” Pluto would do, she can stay with her mom. But it takes a new therapist, new tutor, and new (cute) friend with a plan of her own for Pluto to see that there is no old or new her. There’s just Pluto, discovering more about herself every day.


Criterion #1

A planet must orbit the sun.


Pluto was on the phone with the Hayden Planetarium Astronomy Question and Answer Hotline, trying to find out how to create a black hole, when her mom broke down Pluto's bedroom door.

Pluto wasn't allowed to lock her door, but that night the rule didn't stop her. She needed to keep everyone, everything, out so she could just . . . just stop. Just turn off the lights and shut her eyes and stop, which was something she had been thinking more and more about lately.

Hence, the black hole.

But she couldn't do that, couldn't stop or think or anything, with the way her mom was pounding on the door, shouting over and over, “Open the door, Pluto! Let me in! Just open the door!”

The voice on the other end of the phone was jovial and kind as they explained how black holes were created. But that wasn't right, wasn't what Pluto wanted. She knew how black holes were created in space. She knew that it took a dying star, an explosion, and a gravitational game of tug-of-war.

That didn't help her here, now.

Pluto felt heavy sadness, a weight that pushed down on her chest, and she could hear her mom sobbing as silent tears fell down Pluto's cheeks. That weight, and Pluto's reaction to it, was too much. Too dramatic. It was too dark in her bedroom, when it was sunny and spring through her window. She was too shut down for someone who confided everything to her mother.

Her mom's voice, outside the door: “Pluto, please. Please open the door!”

The muffled voice on the other end of her phone: “Can we help you with anything else today?”

Pluto's head rested against her cold wall, light gray and plastered with little glow-in-the-dark stars she had tacked on with her mom when she was four. She picked at one with her thumbnail, pulling it off and taking bits of gray paint with it. She couldn't explain what happened next, only that the sadness turned to anger in her chest, and she knew those little stars wouldn't help her. They wouldn't die and explode and suck her into their dense nothingness, and she was mad at them. She was mad at those little stars, and at the voice on the other end of the planetarium hotline, and at her mom, and at herself, and she needed the stars to come down. She needed them to stop glowing.

She dropped the phone and ignored her mom, and she pulled at those stars, one by one, yanking paint off the wall and throwing them away. It still wasn't enough to make everything stop, and she reached for the books on her bookcase, the astronomy ones her mom had bought her every year for her birthday, and she threw them, too, reveling in the sound of hard thumps as they hit the walls and the floor.

She reached for her brand-new book, too, the one about the Challenger sitting on her desk next to her mom's old computer, the one her dad had sent to try to make her feel happy, which was ridiculous, really. The Challenger was a tragedy, and Pluto had enough of her own sadness lately. She held the book up as high as she could, but before she could launch it across the room, she heard a loud, splintering crack—which was just as satisfying, really—like something huge crashing down, down, down.

But it was just her wooden door, and then her mom's arms were holding her tight.


When it finally came after one hundred and eighty long days, the first day of summer break didn't matter to Pluto. The countdown she'd made with Meredith still read 34 Days Until Freedom!!! because Pluto hadn't been to school in over a month. She hadn't had to worry about end-of-the-year pool parties, or endless have a great summers, or Meredith begging her to just be her friend again.

And, finally, she didn't need to worry about school calling home, asking where she was, asking when she was coming, making her mom's voice tremble as she spoke into the phone, “I don't know. I don't know. I don't know what to do, either.”

Instead, what Pluto did have to worry about was that her mom was already out of the shower, shuffling around in the bathroom they shared, nearly ready to start the day. The hall light was on, bleeding into Pluto's bedroom, making the thick purple curtains that blocked out the morning sun null and void. If she had a bedroom door, she would close it to block out the light and the sound of her mom as she hummed while she got dressed.

But Pluto did not have a bedroom door, and hadn't had a bedroom door for a little over a month now.

Her mom stuck her head in the doorway. “Hey, Shooting Star,” she said, words mumbled as she spoke around the toothbrush in her mouth. “You're with me today, kid, so start making some moves.”

Pluto and her mom both knew she would not be “making some moves.” Pluto resented the fact that her mom even suggested it, that her mom went about her morning as if nothing had changed inside Pluto, as if an endless month in bed could suddenly come to a stop without trouble.

When she didn't move: “Plu, I'm serious.” As if that made a difference.

Pluto was serious, too. She needed to stay in bed, under her thick purple blanket covered in white little stars. Her mom had picked out the bed set the moment Pluto outgrew the small wooden crib with the solar system mobile. The blanket was warm, and it was soft, and it was not something she was willing that morning, or any other, to give up.

The bed shifted as her mom climbed in, smelling like the Taylor Swift perfume Pluto had bought her for Christmas last year. Her mom's arms wrapped around Pluto's middle, holding her close against the scratchy fabric of one of the low-cut tops her mom always wore that Pluto hated. Her mom's breath tickled her ear. “I don't want to pay for a sitter, Pluto. I want you to come with me.”

Pluto felt a familiar feeling rise from her stomach up into her throat, one that made her want to scream and cry and argue, if only she weren't so tired. Tears came anyway. Twelve-year-olds couldn't stay in bed all day on their own, no matter how much they might need to. If she was older, an adult, she would stay in bed and no one could force her to do anything, a fixed planet around which everything else moved while she ignored it. But for now, Pluto was the moon and her mom was the planet she was forced to orbit.

Even if that meant being pulled out of bed, every inch of her silently protesting, while an invisible rubber band that kept her body strapped down was yanked taut as her mom tugged her into sitting. “There's my girl,” her mom said, as Pluto blinked at her slowly. Her mom's eyes were gray, like clouds during a rainstorm, and while they were always so gentle when they looked at Pluto, they hadn't wrinkled at the corners with a genuine smile in what felt like forever. That, though, was comforting, because Pluto could not remember the last time she really smiled, either.

“Get dressed,” her mom said simply, as if she wasn't asking her to do something that required a Herculean effort on Pluto's part. “I'll go make you something to eat. It's the first day of summer, Plu. It's time to start having fun again.”

She left Pluto alone to fight the urge to curl into herself and sleep. Standing hurt. Looking over at the Challenger book still placed on her desk with the ripped spine hurt. She picked it up, and the cover and first handful of pages slid away from the rest. Even broken, it was heavy in her hand, which was heavy on her arm, which was heavy on her shoulder. Gravity, it seemed, was extra hard on Pluto.

In fairness, gravity had been harder on the Challenger. The shuttle had fallen from the sky before it was even close to orbit. It all happened so quickly, the smoke and the explosion and the destruction. Pluto often wondered about what that moment had been like, the one after everything was okay, but before everything was not okay, where the Challenger and the seven lives on it were somewhere in between, not okay but not not okay.

Pluto called the Hayden Planetarium Astronomy Question and Answer Hotline to ask, once. After a brief moment of absolute silence, the voice on the other end of the phone quickly launched into a detailed account of all the mechanics of why the Challenger didn't have a successful takeoff, which didn't answer Pluto's question at all.

She placed the broken book back on her desk and reached for her phone instead, the one she got for her tenth birthday “just for emergencies” but mostly used to download podcasts and, at the time, text back and forth with Meredith.

There was a notification that one of her favorite astronomy podcasts had a new episode about meteoroids, comets, and asteroids waiting to download.

Pluto knew a lot about meteoroids, comets, and asteroids already. She knew that when objects speed into Earth's atmosphere, the heat produces a streak of light from the trail of particles they leave in their wake.

She looked over at her bedroom wall, at the little white specks left in the gray paint from where she'd yanked off the plastic stars one by one a month ago, hearing her favorite podcast narrator in her head: Like an asteroid, Pluto Jean Timoney leaves a trail of her own destruction in her wake.

“Pluto!” her mom called. “Don't forget your meds!”

The little orange bottles sat right on top of her desk, next to the broken book. Take 1 with food. Take ½ in the morning. Take 1 as needed.

Depression and anxiety. Two words. One brand-new diagnosis.


The bell above the pizzeria door jingled as they stepped inside. “Kiera! We're here,” her mom shouted. They'd hired Kiera, a college student, for the summer, and she was tasked with opening up.

Kiera was either the tall pretty one with the long, long black braids, or the shorter pretty one with the sea-green eyes. When she was younger, Pluto used to love the older girls. She would follow them around and cling to their server aprons and let them lift her into their arms as she twirled their ocean-salted hair around her fingers. But at the end of the summer they would always leave, and they would rarely come back. She didn't know why it hurt as much as it did, but she decided it hurt less when she didn't bother learning their names.

“We're back here!” Kiera called from the kitchen.

Which meant Donna was there already, too.

Donna was also Pluto's fault, and of all the changes in the past month, Donna was the one that Pluto fought hardest against. Pluto's mom wouldn't hear any of it. “I need help if I'm going to be able to figure out what's best for you and still run the restaurant,” her mom had said. “So, Donna stays. Because I need her.”

Donna wasn't a Timoney, and she was the first person who wasn't a Timoney to ever run Timoney's Pizzeria. Pluto didn't like how she changed the way their menus looked (“The old ones were a little too difficult to read”); she didn't like how she hovered by the cash register when the new college girls were using it (“They make so many careless mistakes, we should consider confiscating their cell phones”); and she didn't like how Donna made Pluto sit at the counter instead of a booth when Pluto was there for lunch (“Leave the booths free for the customers, Pluto”).

And she didn't like how her mom seemed to just give in to any and all of Donna's changes.

Her mom didn't seem to mind, though. If anything, she seemed eager to share the responsibility. When Pluto's mom was a little girl, she'd wanted to be an astronaut. She'd wanted to touch the stars and look into that vast unknown and uncover it. She'd wanted to step on the moon and leave behind her footprint. Space offered an endless array of possibilities, and Pluto's mom wanted the chance to explore every single one.

Instead, she ran a little pizzeria on the Keansburg boardwalk.

Pluto's great-grandfather had bought the New Jersey hole-in-the-wall that would become Timoney's Pizzeria in 1956. When he died, he left it to his oldest son, Pluto's poppy, and when Poppy died when Pluto was five, he left it to his only daughter. Pluto figured Poppy thought he was doing her mom a favor, like his dad had done for him. Pluto's mom practically grew up in that pizzeria. She was taught how to count using the money in the register, learned fractions from the pies themselves.

But Pluto knew her mom still had dreams of NASA, even if her talking about going back to school happened less and less and hardly at all anymore.

Pluto didn't remember much about Poppy. She remembered he smelled like oregano and oil—just like her mom—and that they both had the same too-many-teeth smile. She remembered he always wore a Rangers hat, and how any time she threw a tantrum (of which there were many), he picked her up with his large hands under her armpits and set her in the “penalty box,” which was any isolated corner.

She remembered how he used to tell her, when she was small enough for him to lift onto the counter next to the register, that her grandma sometimes had tantrums she couldn't control, too.

“Did she have to sit in the penalty box?” Pluto had asked.

Poppy had laughed at that.

But both he and her grandma were gone, and the penalty boxes were traded for antidepressants.

Kiera came out from the back kitchen (she was, as it turned out, the college girl with the braids), with Donna trailing her. “Hey, guys!” Donna said, smiling bright in a way that reminded Pluto of a “mom smile,” even though Donna didn't have any kids.

“Hey, D, sorry we're late,” Pluto's mom said. “I'm glad you're here. I didn't think you were coming in today.”

Donna waved off Pluto's mom's concern with the dirty rag in her hand. She was a tall woman, with wide hips and thick dark hair and brown eyes. She had moved to the Jersey Shore from Staten Island a year ago and seemed more at place in an Italian pizzeria than Pluto and her mom (with their blond hair—bleached in her mom's case—and light eyes, regardless of their heritage) ever did. “I forgot I scheduled an early delivery someone had to sign for. I didn't want to make you rush in,” Donna said.

“You didn't have to do that. We'd have gotten here.”

Donna looked doubtful. Pluto was doubtful.

“It was really no problem. But you want to come help me bring the crates in so I can head out and Kiera can get the tables set?” Donna asked, motioning toward the kitchen where the deliveries were brought in from the back door.

Pluto's mom placed a hand on Pluto's head, playing with the semi-greasy strands of her ponytail. Pluto hadn't taken a real shower in a few days. “I've got your workbooks in my bag if you wanna start looking at those?”

Thinking about those workbooks made Pluto's stomach hurt, made her want to curl into a ball, into the dark, and disappear.

There were thirty-four days of school Pluto had not attended. There were more than thirty-four phone calls made home. There were two home visits, and three different doctor's notes, and endless arguments between Pluto's parents.

But a deal had been made so Pluto wouldn't have to repeat the seventh grade come September, and her mom would no longer be in trouble. That deal involved a tutor throughout the summer, workbooks and lessons, and a whole lot of studying Pluto did not want to do. Could not do. Would not do, full stop.

Just thinking about it made her feel sleepy, and weighed down, and made her chest tight. Too tight.

“Oh! Anna, before I forget,” Donna said as Pluto's mom began pulling the stack of workbooks out of her large shoulder bag and Kiera pulled the cleaning supplies out from under the front counter to start wiping down tables. “Julie next door said they're doing one of those wine-and-paint nights at the pavilion. She and Barb were going to try to get all the business owners together to go. I figured we could schedule a couple of our better girls for a few hours that night so we could join in.”

Pluto's mom's smile was tight. “Yeah. Maybe.”

“We could use a night to ourselves,” Donna said. She was looking at Pluto when Pluto glanced up at her.

Pluto's mom didn't drink, and she wasn't exactly the wine-and-paint-night kind of person, anyway. She was the attend-Comic-Con or binge-watch-Star-Trek-on-Netflix kind of person. She was the kind of person who'd met Pluto's dad at a renaissance fair upstate. Pluto's dad loved role-play and games—he still met with his Dungeons & Dragons group every Saturday, which was why he usually couldn't take Pluto for entire weekends. And Pluto's mom had gone dressed up as a member of Star Trek's Starfleet who got lost traveling through time.

Donna was wrong if she thought Pluto was the reason her mom didn't seem enthused by the idea, but Pluto wasn't going to say so.

“Hey,” Pluto's mom said, bumping Pluto with her hip. “Get a move on with those worksheets, okay? Sit anywhere you want.”

Her mom said things like that a lot. Get moving, get a move on, move, move, move.

Her mom and Donna disappeared into the kitchen, and Pluto slithered into the closest booth, not caring that Donna would probably make her move to the counter. The cushioned seat, red and plastic and only comfortable because it was familiar, was ripped at the corner, fuzz poking out from its insides. She put her worksheets down on the table, slick from the cleaner Kiera had wiped it with. Pluto put in her earbuds, then pulled at the fuzz and scrolled through her phone to find her favorite astronomy podcast.

Would bacteria from pizza grease survive in outer space? Pluto provided narration to her imaginary podcast. The Hayden Planetarium Astronomy Question and Answer Hotline, when she'd called them, didn't have an answer to her pizza grease question. Instead, they told her all about the microbes that thrived on the Space Station.

NASA says the International Space Station is covered in bacteria, so why don't we send up a slice from Timoney's to test this grease theory? Pluto pulled her earbuds out again, suddenly uninterested in listening to an actual podcast, and ran her finger over the slick table before wiping the wet disinfectant residue from her hand onto the cushion.

The cushions were made of fuzz, the pizzas were made of dough, sauce, and cheese. Above them—and around them—the universe was made of stars and rocks and galaxies. Her mom always wanted to know what was beyond those stars and suns and rocks and galaxies, and Pluto did, too. Only, lately, Pluto just wanted to know what was beyond the skin and blood and bones and what was inside the brain that made her. She just wanted to know what made her want to stop, when everyone else seemed so eager to keep moving.

The Hayden Planetarium Astronomy Question and Answer Hotline probably couldn't answer that for her, either.

The bell above the door jingled. It was still pretty early, so Pluto assumed another college student or Martin, their cook, was arriving to work. When she looked up, though, there was an actual customer standing there, one who looked about her age, dark frizzy hair, wild from the ocean air, surrounding her like a cloud. She wore a white T-shirt and long bathing suit shorts that were neon green—Pluto thought she might get a headache if she stared too long. She met Pluto's gaze with ice-blue eyes that were just as bright as those shorts.

When she saw Pluto, she lifted her hand in a small wave. Pluto quickly looked away, searching for Kiera, who had disappeared from the main room, probably to help Pluto's mom and Donna with the deliveries.

Luckily, Pluto's mom appeared from the kitchen and said, “Hey, sweetheart, I'll be right with you,” before disappearing again. But then just as quickly as she had gone, she popped back out again. “Actually, Plu, can you help her out, please?”

Pluto's eyes were wide and pleading as she looked over at her mom, whose eyes echoed Pluto's desperation. The hope that shone in them made Pluto want to scream, and cry, and beg her mom to leave her be. Especially when the point of hiring Donna in the first place was for moments like these, where her mom couldn't be in two places at once.

Still, Pluto nodded, and with a relieved smile, her mom disappeared behind the kitchen door once again.

Pluto slowly slid out of her booth and approached the register, and the customer in her bright neon shorts followed. Pluto kept her eyes down and picked up a pen and pad to take her order. She dropped the pen, and it rolled right near her feet, but that still felt too far away to pick it back up again. Pluto looked around for a new one as she waited for Neon Shorts to speak. When she didn't say anything, Pluto looked up.

Neon Shorts was staring right back at Pluto. “Are you ready?” she asked. “I just wanted to make sure you were ready. I wasn't sure.”

Pluto averted her gaze, again, and slowly nodded.

“I just need a large plain pizza.”

A large plain pizza was its own button on the register. It was their most popular and easiest order. Still, Pluto stared at the notepad, at the pen in her hand that should have been writing down the simple order. At the very least, she should be punching the button at the register to ring Neon Shorts up, so Pluto could take her money, and make her leave, and get the entire thing over with.

“Are you okay?” Neon Shorts asked, and Pluto recognized the tone in her voice. It was the same one Meredith used when she started changing her mind about wanting to hang out. When Meredith was slowly realizing things were different with her best friend. “I mean, you just seem . . . I just need the one pizza.”

Pluto wanted to tell this neon shorts–wearing kid that she didn't mean to make things awkward, just like she wanted to tell Meredith she didn't mean to stop being her best friend. She wished everyone could understand that she just wanted to be in her bed, that she didn't want to talk to people, didn't want to be there helping her mom, and that every part of her body ached in a way she couldn't explain every time she had to get a move on. Her body seemed angry, too tired and sad, and was fighting her every step of the way.

Sometimes that anger fought its way from Pluto's body into her chest and up her throat, and she couldn't help that either, but none of that had to do with this kid standing in front of her.

“Should I wait for your mom?” Neon Shorts asked. “It's okay if you don't know how to take my order.”

I do know how to take your order. I know how to do all the things, and your shorts hurt my eyes. Pluto wanted to tell her that, but sometimes it was just . . . too hard and too tiring to get her brain and her mouth to work together.

It was no surprise when Neon Shorts lost her patience. Pluto didn't know if she was relieved or disappointed when she said, “Never mind. Don't worry about the pizza.”

Before Pluto could find the drive to say, Don't go! I'm sorry, our pizza is the best but the doctor diagnosed me as broken, Neon Shorts was back out the door, the bell above it jingling her goodbye. The pizzeria seemed a little darker with her gone.

That night, as Pluto's bed was pulling her into it as if it were the central point of Earth's gravity, her dad called. Her mom answered from the living room, but Pluto did not have a bedroom door, so she could hear everything.

Pluto braced herself, hoping their conversation would carry on long enough that her dad wouldn't ask to speak to Pluto, too. He lived in the city with his girlfriend and his closet full of business suits and weekends full of D&D. He sent her birthday cards with the writing done by Hallmark, signed simply, “Love, Dad.” He took her out to dinner once a month and ordered so much food they chewed more than they spoke. And that was before she'd been labeled with depression.

Pluto rolled over, facing the light gray wall with the chips from where she'd removed the plastic stars. It was hard to know what to say to her dad on a good day. On days like this, it felt much too hard to try.

She heard her mom sigh and move away from the doorway, as if that did anything to hide the conversation. “She's still just not . . . herself.”

I am, thought Pluto. I'm right here.

“No, I know. It's not that, I just could really use your help paying for it,” her mom said, her voice hitting a desperate twinge that made Pluto's chest feel tighter. “The tutor is supposed to be great. She's supposed to know how to handle kids like Pluto. And she's right here, in Keansburg. I really think Pluto should still stay right here.”

Her mom and dad had been having that fight more often. The one where he said, She is better off here where I can get her help, and her mom said, Please don't take her away from me.

Pluto would not listen to her mom begging her dad to stop asking to take Pluto away. But before she could drown out the sound with a podcast, the desperate note in her mom's voice disappeared, and she sounded weary and small and tired as she said, “Do you really think it would be better for her there? It wouldn't be too big of an adjustment?”

Pluto couldn't breathe as her mom continued, saying, “I just want my girl back. She's just not my girl anymore.”

Pluto pressed play. Turned the volume all the way up, but it wasn't enough.

She wished she had a door to slam shut, even if she couldn't have gotten herself to move from her bed to do so.


Some mornings were different, and Pluto knew the moment she woke that this was one of them. Her body did not ache in protest as she sat up in bed, and her heart was racing in a way that suggested she could get a move on. A note sat on the dresser beside her, a checklist that her psychiatrist had suggested she make when she and her mom visited at the start of the month.

  • Take your medication


  • A Publishers Weekly Best Middle Grade Book of 2021

    “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.”
    Kirkus Reviews

    “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

On Sale
Apr 19, 2022
Page Count
288 pages

Nicole Melleby

About the Author

Nicole Melleby, a New Jersey native, is the author of highly praised middle-grade books, including the Lambda Literary finalist Hurricane Season, ALA Notable book How to Become a Planet, Camp QUILTBAG (co-written with A. J. Sass), and The House on Sunrise Lagoon series. She's also the author of Sunny and Oswaldo, her debut picture book. She lives with her wife and their cats, whose need for attention oddly aligns with Nicole’s writing schedule. Visit her online at

Learn more about this author