“I wonder if I fucked it up. But if I hadn’t done it, I’d have wondered something else. Life is a series of choices between wonders.”
Oh my god, you guys. I never thought I’d find a John Green book I’d love as much as Paper Towns, but this one comes close. Turtles All the Way Down tells the story of sixteen-year-old Aza as she struggles to cope with severe anxiety and intrusive compulsions within her daily life. Things become more complicated as she joins her friend Daisy in an attempt to uncover the whereabouts of missing billionaire Russell Pickett, drawing the attention of his son in doing so.
This book is so different from anything John Green has ever written, and that combined with his philosophical writing style blew me away. I’ve always loved the introspective way in which John Green’s characters narrate their stories, but Aza’s voice is so authentic. In particular, I was impressed by the way her compulsions translate into paragraphs, paragraphs that make the reader nearly as anxious as the character.
Aza herself makes such a fantastic protagonist (John Green with a female protagonist! GUYS). Readers are taken for quite a ride being inside of her head, but it’s one that leads to a better understanding of mental illness. I can’t speak directly to the OCD representation here (anxiety, different story), but John Green has discussed his own OCD, which is actually somewhat similar to Aza’s. I’ll leave the link to his video here.
The relationships in this story are incredibly heartfelt, and Daisy, despite infuriating me at times, complements Aza so well throughout the entire book. Their friendship is one of the best female pairings I’ve read in YA, and I loved even more that Green focuses on that more than on Aza’s romantic relationship with Davis. I also loved Aza’s relationship with her mother, if only because it encapsulates most familial bonds during teenage years.
Plot-wise, Turtles All the Way Down is a bit slow, but I don’t think it needs to be faster or more intricate than it is. We’re not being given an epic adventure story or soap opera. Green is offering us the opportunity to gaze inside every day life from the perspective of someone learning to live with a mental illness. I don’t mind the fact that little actually happens in this book because it’s about much more than that – and if you can capture ordinary life and make it interesting enough to read in two sittings, well done.
The ending of this book made me cry, and I feel that the message at the very, very end is something so necessary when discussing recovery. I also appreciate that the ending doesn’t wrap up neatly or end in some unrealistic, fantastical way. It feels natural and portrays recovery as something you’re never quite finished with.
I gave Turtles All the Way Down a 4.5 out of 5 star rating on Goodreads. I’m not sure if it’s my favorite John Green book to date, but it’s up there. I recommend this to Young Adult fans and readers with an interest in psychology. This book is important and entertaining, and there’s hardly a better pairing than that.
Have any of you read Turtles All the Way Down? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!