The Science of Being Angry

by Nicole Melleby

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From the acclaimed author of Hurricane Season, an unforgettable story about what makes a family, for fans of Hazel’s Theory of Evolution and Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World.
Eleven-year-old Joey is angry. All the time. And she doesn’t understand why. She has two loving moms, a supportive older half brother, and, as a triplet, she’s never without...

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Published By Algonquin Young Readers

Format Hardback


Number Of Pages 288

Publication Date 05/10/2022

ISBN 9781643750378

Dimensions 5.9 inches x 8.55 inches

School Library Journal Best Book of the year
An ALA Rainbow Book List Selection
Nautilus Silver Award Winner

"This emotional read shows the power of friendship and family without omitting the work that goes into loving someone.”
Booklist, Starred Review

"Joey has scrappy determination, and readers can’t help but be charmed by her and her lovable and well-developed cast of family and friends. Joey’s inner thoughts and desperation to better understand her impulses builds empathy for those grappling with similar struggles....A strong recommendation for readers who enjoy contemplative, character-driven stories.”
School Library Journal, Starred Review 

“Impressive … powerfully crafted with a satisfying conclusion, and it tackles uncommon but critical themes with nuance and complexity. A strong novel about strong feelings.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Melleby excels at exploring aspects of queer life within a layered story. … An affecting portrayal of a preteen who has even more to figure out than most about why she is the way she is; how to handle herself; and where she fits in the world.”
The Horn Book

“This is an interesting look at a tween who is struggling with understanding and dealing with her neurological differences.”
YA Books Central 

"Themes of mental health, sexuality, and familial belonging are accessibly explored through the direct analogy between Joey's worries and the science unit. . . The storyline realistically depicts the family's gradual acceptance of professional mental healthcare. . . The relationship between Joey and her nonbiological Mom evolves tenderly and takes center stage, with a conclusion that successfully affirms that love, not genetics, makes a family."


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”


“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


“This funny, tender, and heart-wrenching story will have readers calling for an encore.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Melleby paints Brie as a recognizable teen. . .  Wrenching and genuine."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Younger teens questioning their sexuality—or faith—will find much to ponder here.”

"Her struggles and those of her family seem authentic, their interactions realistic, and Brie’s desire to be really seen and loved for who she is will ring true with many middle school readers."
School Library Journal

“A great coming out story. It does not all go smoothly, and Brie has a lot of challenges that she has made for herself, but it's truly heartfelt and genuine. A captivating and charming middle grade contemporary.”
YA Book Central


“Melleby deftly tackles weighty topics—mental illness, child protective services, single parenting, sexuality—while effortlessly weaving in elements of the life and works of Vincent van Gogh, creating a thoughtful, age-appropriate and impressive novel.”
Shelf Awarenessstarred review

“Melleby’s debut offers a tender, earnest portrait of a daughter searching for constancy while negotiating her father’s sickness and the social challenges of tween girlhood, including her first crush on a girl.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Fig’s story will engage middle grade readers who enjoy thoughtful novels that address complex topics.”
School Library Journal, starred review

“Father and daughter find their way back to each other in this moving novel, and readers will root for Fig every step of the way.”

“A thoughtful portrayal of mental illness with queer content that avoids coming-out clichés.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Themes of trust and LGBTQ romance are incorporated into this weighty but hopeful story.”
“Stunning . . . I found it hard to put down.”
Confessions of a YA Reader

“Fig is beautifully crafted and real, and readers will whole-heartedly fall in love with her.”
YA Books Central

“An important and expertly layered novel.”
New York Journal of Books