Cover Reveal and Exclusive Excerpt: THE SCIENCE OF BEING ANGRY, by Nicole Melleby

The MG Book Village is thrilled to welcome back Nicole Melleby, this time to reveal the cover and share an exclusive excerpt of her latest novel, The Science of Being Angry. Take a look at the cover below, and stick around to read the excerpt. And get excited for the book itself, which is slated to release in May of 2022!

Exclusive Except from the Science of Being Angry:

“This is a terrible idea.”

Joey ignored her brother. Colton, her other brother, did, too, because they always ignored Thomas in moments like these. Thomas thought everything was a terrible idea. He usually went along with it, anyway, because he hated feeling like the third wheel. He was like Mama in that way.

There was really no avoiding it though, since they were triplets. They should all have been equals, but it was simple math: three of them meant there was always an odd man out.

Joey and Colton had their toes over the edge of the swimming pool. They were always the first two to do everything. The first two born, the first two to start a fight, the first two to climb out of bed in the middle of the unusually sticky, humid fall night to jump into the apartment swimming pool on a dare. They were like their other mom in that way, regardless of the lack of shared DNA.

The boys, Joey’s brothers, were skinny and pale in only their underwear. Joey had one of Mom’s old hockey shirts on; it came down to her knees. If it were up to her, she’d just be in her underwear, too. But they were already breaking a lot of rules, and her moms could be ridiculously strict about certain gender-related things, like girls wearing shirts outside, even though they were lesbians.

“On the count of three,” Joey said, tugging at the neck of her shirt. She was sweating; they all were. That was why they were out here in the first place.

The apartment-complex pool had been closed since after Labor Day, but it hadn’t yet been drained. It was too hot to sleep, and Joey had a view of that pool from her bedroom window. She had climbed out of bed and walked quietly on the pads of her feet to her brothers’ bedroom. Colton was breathing loudly. He hadn’t been snoring, but his mouth was open, and it drove Joey mad that he could sleep through this heat. Her sleep shirt was damp with sweat.

Thomas, from his bed across the room, had noticed her first. “What are you doing?” he had asked, his voice sleepy.

Joey hadn’t responded to him then, either. Instead, she climbed up on top of Colton’s bed, and started kicking at his legs, trying to get him to wake (both out of jealousy that he was asleep and because she knew if anyone else would agree to do this, it would be him).

“Stop,” Colton mumbled, his face buried into the pillow. “What are you doing?”

“I can’t sleep,” Joey said. “It’s too hot.”

“You’re supposed to do like Mama says,” Thomas said. “Think about your toes falling asleep, and then your feet, and then your legs, and then—”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, Thomas,” Joey interrupted. Mama thought meditation could fix anything. If not that, then the essential oil diffuser she put in Joey’s room. Joey usually turned that off once Mama was in her own bed.

The one in Colton and Thomas’s room was turned up high. As if the smell of lavender actually did anything.

“I want to go in the pool.”

“You want to what?” Thomas asked.

Colton blinked sleepily at her. But then he smiled.

Joey wasn’t supposed to have a favorite, but in moments like these, it was probably Colton. “Are you coming or what? I’ll dare you.”

Colton hesitated for only a moment before climbing out of bed. “Yeah, okay. I’m coming.”  

. . .

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 company. Her life is good. But sometimes she loses her temper and lashes out, like that time she threw a soccer ball—hard—at a boy in gym class and bruised his collarbone. Or the time jealousy made her push her (former) best friend (and crush), Layla, a little bit too hard.

After an incident at Joey’s apartment building leads to her family’s eviction, Joey is desperate to figure out why she is so angry. A new unit on genetics in her science class makes Joey wonder if maybe the reason is genetic. Does she lose control because of the donor her mothers chose?

The Science of Being Angry is a heartwarming story about what makes a family and what makes us who we are.

Nicole Melleby, a born-and-bred Jersey girl, is the author of the highly praised novels How to Become a PlanetIn the Role of Brie Hutchens…, and Hurricane Season. She lives with her partner and their cat, whose need for attention oddly aligns with Nicole’s writing schedule.

Interview with Nicole Melleby about HOW TO BECOME A PLANET

Today we’re chatting with Nicole Melleby, whose book How to Become a Planet publishes today! This contemporary middle grade tells the story of Pluto, a young girl who is dealing with a summer unlike any she’s experienced before. Instead of trips to the planetarium, playing at the boardwalk arcade, and working in her mom’s pizzeria, she’s faced with a diagnosis of depression. When her father threatens to move her to the city, where he believes money will fix Pluto’s problems, Pluto determines to complete a checklist which she feels will get her back to her old self. But a new therapist, a new tutor, and a new friend with a checklist of her own help Pluto learn that there is no old and new Pluto- there’s just her.

Of the few middle grade books which feature characters dealing with depression, the focus is often on the initial cause or even when the character feels they’ve ‘overcome’ their depression. What made you decide to explore a character dealing with a recent diagnosis?

I wanted to show that mental illness can be a lifelong issue. I wanted to let Pluto explore what it meant for her, now that she has this diagnosis, moving forward. How does it change her? Does it change her? What does it all mean? Getting a diagnosis isn’t the end for Pluto—it’s a new beginning, like it ends up being for a lot of kids (and adults) struggling with mental illness. And it can be scary! She’s got all of these big emotions, and her depression has set her back in a lot of ways while she and her mom were trying to figure out what was wrong, and now that they know what is wrong, where do they go from here? Ultimately, I wanted to show my readers that it’s okay to have these diagnoses, that it doesn’t change who they are, and I wanted to show them that despite it feeling so hard, there is always hope.

How to Become a Planet is your third middle grade novel. Are there any themes you’ve noticed pop up across all your books?

Mental illness and queer characters always have a place in my books, in a number of different capacities, but I have noticed now that I’m on my third book that a big theme that often comes up for me is the dynamic between parents and my middle grade aged characters. In Hurricane Season, Fig struggles with this intense sense of responsibility to take care of her dad and herself in the face of his undiagnosed bipolar disorder. In In the Role of Brie Hutchens…, Brie is desperately eager for her mom to just see her and love her for who she is. And here, in How to Become a Planet, Pluto is constantly caught up in her single mom’s expectations and concerns for Pluto’s well-being, and how that effects Pluto’s own journey. I once read that the difference between Young Adult and Middle Grade is that Young Adult characters look to find their place in the world outside of their friends and family, while middle grade characters try and find their place within their friends and family. Middle grade characters are surrounded by adults who make the calls about their lives, and I think it’s important for them to find agency and understanding within that. 

Your novels feature strong secondary characters that help guide and mentor the main character. Do you have a favorite secondary character that you’ve written?

Oh, this is such a tough question to answer! I have a particular soft spot for Fallon, Pluto’s new best friend (and crush!) in How to Become a Planet. Fallon is my first nonbinary character; she’s a bit of a nerd (a book nerd, to be specific) and she can be prickly and defensive if she gets her feelings hurt. But she listens to Pluto and tries her hardest to understand what Pluto is going through. Like attracts like, and Fallon sees something familiar in Pluto’s struggle to understand herself, since Fallon’s going through some pretty similar feelings herself. She’s gallant and sweet and exactly the type of friend Pluto needs when she finds her. 

But I also have to give a shoutout to Parker in In the Role of Brie Hutchens. She’s Brie’s best friend, and she has my favorite moment in all of my books: When Brie comes out to her, Parker (who can’t respond verbally, since they’re in the middle of class) responds by sending Brie a thumbs up and rainbow emoji. She’s the kind of best friend I think any queer kid could love. 

I’m going to cheat and keep going, because while we’re on the subject of all of these wonderful best friends, I have to mention Danny. In Hurricane Season, Fig is going through a lot, and she’s going through most of it alone, until Danny comes along. While he ends up with a bit of a misguided crush on Fig, at the end of the day, Danny completely and fully has Fig’s back and is there for her when she needs him. 

What do you hope young readers take away from How to Become a Planet?

Mental illness is often seen as an “adult issue” and that’s just not true. There are many, many kids who struggle with depression and anxiety and other mental illnesses. You’re not alone if that includes you. 

In your astronomy research for How to Become a Planet, what was one interesting thing you learned that didn’t make it into the book?

I actually found out after I turned my book in that due to the increasing number of debris in space, the space station has guidelines for avoiding a collision, that includes keeping empty space in an invisible rectangular shape clear around the space station called the “pizza box”. This was particularly amusing to me, because Pluto and her mom own a pizzeria on the boardwalk and are obsessed with all things astronomy. While I didn’t know this fun fact, I can almost guarantee Pluto and her mom are well aware of it! 

As a Pitch Wars mentor, you have experience guiding aspiring writers. What advice would you give to young writers?

You don’t have to write every day—I see so many writers wracked with guilt over how much or how little they write day-to-day, and it’s hard! Write how much you want to write, how much you need to write. You decide what those answers are. 

Find a group of writers who are in the same boat as you. If you’re looking for an agent? Find writers to commiserate with. If you’re on sub? Ditto. Find a debut group if you’re having a very first book coming out—because all of these stages are daunting and new and no one knows how to navigate them, but it helps not navigating them alone. 

Also: If you’re facing a rejection? I find it best to sing this ridiculous song, because it’s so ridiculous it makes me feel better every single time I have sung it to myself (which has been often, because rejection is part of being a writer!): Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I should just go eat worms. Worms! Worms! Worms!

Get your copy of How to Become a Planet from Indiebound!

Nicole Melleby, a born-and-bred Jersey girl, is an award winning children’s author. Her middle grade books have been Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selections, recipient of the Skipping Stones Honor Award, and a 2020 Kirkus Reviews best book of the year. Her debut novel, Hurricane Season, was a Lambda Literary finalist. She lives with her partner and their cat, whose need for attention oddly aligns with Nicole’s writing schedule.

Nicole is currently represented by Jim McCarthy (@JimMcCarthy528) with Dystel, Goderich & Bourret LLC.

Feel free to follow her on Twitter!

MG at Heart Book Club’s September Pick: HURRICANE SEASON, by Nicole Melleby

The September MG@Heart Book Club pick is….

HURRICANE SEASON, by Nicole Melleby!

For Fig’s dad, hurricane season brings the music.

For Fig, hurricane season brings the possibility of disaster.
 
Fig, a sixth grader, loves her dad and the home they share in a beachside town. She does not love the long months of hurricane season. Her father, a once-renowned piano player, sometimes goes looking for the music in the middle of a storm. Hurricane months bring unpredictable good and bad days. More than anything, Fig wants to see the world through her father’s eyes, so she takes an art class to experience life as an artist does. Then Fig’s dad shows up at school, confused and looking for her. Not only does the class not bring Fig closer to understanding him, it brings social services to their door.
 
As the walls start to fall around her, Fig is sure it’s up to her alone to solve her father’s problems and protect her family’s privacy. But with the help of her best friend, a cute girl at the library, and a surprisingly kind new neighbor, Fig learns she isn’t as alone as she once thought . . . and begins to compose her own definition of family.
 
Nicole Melleby’s Hurricane Season is a radiant and tender novel about taking risks and facing danger, about friendship and art, and about growing up and coming out. And more than anything else, it is a story about love—both its limits and its incredible healing power.

A 2019 Skipping Stones Book Award Winner

“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

“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.”
Bookish 

“Melleby doesn’t shy away from how terrifying it is to watch someone in a dangerously manic state, but the narrative never tips into melodrama. A thoughtful portrayal of mental illness with queer content that avoids coming-out clichés.”
Kirkus Reviews

“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

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