How to Become a Planet

Algonquin. May 2021. 288p. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781643750361.
Gr 3-7–Pluto’s struggle with coming to terms with her anxiety and depression has caused her to miss 34 days of school. Her mom has agreed to tutor her from home so that she won’t have to repeat seventh grade. But all is for naught, because Pluto is not cooperating. She’s lost all her friends, doesn’t attend to her studies, and doesn’t take her daily meds, and her relationship with her mother is increasingly strained. Pluto doesn’t have any idea what is happening or how to stop it. All she knows is that she can’t spend her whole summer in bed, though she certainly has no plans to work at her mother’s pizzeria on the town’s boardwalk. Pluto forges an unexpected new friendship with Fallon, who wears boys’ clothes and styles her hair like her brothers, but is still working out what that means for her. The two make a wish list of things to accomplish before summer’s end. But Pluto is not prepared for the funny feelings in her stomach each time she finds herself in Fallon’s presence. This middle grade story touches on the experience of first love, the transition to high school, and the struggle to find one’s place in the world. Pluto is described as having blonde hair and gray eyes, while Fallon has blue eyes and curly brown hair.
VERDICT 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.

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