Books

Lights, Planets, People! – A Graphic Novel About Mental Health

In September, UEA’s Molly Naylor published her graphic novel Lights, Planets, People with artwork from Lizzy Stewart. The graphic novel features Maggie Hill, an astronomer preparing to deliver a lecture to women in STEM, whilst facing her first-ever therapy session. 

Throughout the novel, we see Hill’s struggle with anxiety, panic attacks, and bipolar disorder, all whilst building up the nerve to conduct this lecture – a lecture she is counting on to inspire young women. Her anxiety stems from the pressure she is putting on herself, knowing that women in STEM are overlooked, but dreaming to inspire people to not let these hurdles stop them. After all, she hasn’t. 

It was an emotional piece, but it was incredibly accessible. My mind was somewhat confused by the scientific terms, but the warm, encouraging artwork allowed for an easier understanding of what was being spoken about. I found myself moved by Lights, Planets, People! and I was inspired by the passion expressed throughout the novel. I’m in no ways passionate about science, – it was always my weakest subject at school – but I’m passionate about the encouragement of women in STEM, and I know this is a beautiful way to introduce and encourage young women to pursue these subjects. 

The writing itself doesn’t overload us with scientific data, or scientific jargon, but the pure emotion pulsates off our main character Maggie, flies off the pages, and warms our hearts. The conversation of Stewart’s artwork and Naylor’s writing allows us to feel how much Maggie cares about what she does, and her character is brought to life beautifully. Even I was inspired, and I found myself fascinated by the topics of space travel. This book is the perfect gift for any young reader, especially young women interested in STEM and astronomy. It’s a book to show that, even if an astronomer’s mission fails, what they’re doing is so vital. 

What stood out to me more than anything, was the unabashed discussion of mental health. Maggie starts off ashamed of her mental health, even if she doesn’t realise it. She refuses to talk about it to anyone, even the woman she loves, and it ends up being more isolating for her. Her journey, therefore, is about opening up to people – telling them of her struggles and inspiring young students in more ways than one. It encourages readers to understand that they can help and inspire others by being their honest, full selves, rather than hiding the strongest parts of them. 

It’s a wonderfully inspiring novel, amplified by the beautiful, gravity-defying artwork. There is no doubt that this book is a must-read.  

To close this piece, I’m going to leave you with a quote that stood out to me, a quote that I think everyone needs to remember: “You have to be allowed to fail. Because…when we strive for perfection, we relinquish our humanity.” 

22/12/2021

About Author

Louise Collins



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