Book Review | Turtles All the Way Down

Turtles All the Way Down follows the story of Aza Holmes as she tries to solve the mystery behind the escape of billionaire fugitive Russel Pickett. Aza realizes that he knew Pickett’s son, Davis, and so her best friend Daisy convinced her to get back in touch with the boy because authorities have set a reward money of $100,000 in exchange for information about the fugitive’s whereabouts. Thinking they might just get lucky, Aza agrees but gets more involved than she originally planned.

This book is certainly one of the most anticipated releases of 2017 as The Fault in Our Stars was such a big hit and it took John Green six years to release a new novel after that. I’m honestly not a huge fan of John Green and I wasn’t really following updates about Turtles All the Way Down before it was released so I just dived right into reading it during a readathon knowing nothing about the synopsis but expecting beautiful and sad metaphors. And I was not disappointed. This book has, in fact, exceeded my expectations.

Simultaneous to the above-mentioned plot, the author focused on Aza’s struggles with OCD and hypochondria, which I think is just timely and fitting as we are now trying to end the stigma surrounding mental illnesses. OCD and hypochondria were not really mentioned anywhere in the story but it was the behaviors of Aza that established these illnesses, so just in case you have bouts of OCD or general anxiety, you should think twice before reading this book because it can be really triggering. I suffer from general anxiety myself and I had to put it down several times to take breathers because some scenes were so intense and sensitive for my brain to process. Nevertheless, John Green made a perfect representation of mental illness in this book. It’s as if he was describing something he’s extremely familiar with. I know firsthand how hard it can be to deal with intrusive thoughts and John Green depicted it so well.

“You feeling scared?”
“Of what”
“It’s not like that. The sentence doesn’t have, like, an object. I’m just scared.”

What I loved most in this respect was how Aza’s mother provides her with the support she needs. She always asks Aza if she’s anxious, or if her visit to the doctor went well, and I think this manifestation provides a great example for parents to follow.

Despite the sensitivity of the theme, the story did not feel heavy in the heart. While readers are taken constantly into Aza’s head to deal with her “spiraling thoughts,” some elements in the story felt chill and added balance. Daisy, for example, added energy to Aza’s otherwise low-spirited vibe. I instantly liked her character upon discovering that she writes Star Wars fan fiction and that she has written one which involves Chewbacca and Rey falling in love with each other. Oh what I would give to read that piece. Davis has his own amusing quirks, too. He writes poetry, runs a blog, and fancies astronomy. There’s also the element of romance and so much flirting was thrown in the mix.

“The problem with happy endings is that they’re either not really happy, or not really endings, you know? In real life, some things get better and some things get worse. And then eventually you die.” The resolution was sad and optimistic at the same time. It figuratively recognized the fact that mental illness is a lifelong struggle and once you’re afflicted with it, you may have to live with its fluctuation forever, but besides that, life can still be meaningful. It also showed that certain relationships can go on and others have to end but that is just how life is.

Turtles All the Way Down is a realistic and compelling contemporary read especially in the aspect of mental health. It has easily become my favorite John Green book.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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