Synopsis: It all begins with a fugitive billionaire and the promise of a cash reward. Turtles All the Way Down is about lifelong friendship, the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, Star Wars fan fiction, and tuatara. But at its heart is Aza Holmes, a young woman navigating daily existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.
In his long-awaited return, John Green shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity.
Author: John Green
Title: Turtles All The Way Down
Despite having The Fault in our Stars sitting on my bookshelf, I hadn’t previously read John Green. The hype surrounding this book initially caught my attention and then it was recommended by a friend. I trust recommendations far more than hype and I decided to give it a go.
There are occasions when you read a book and you feel so connected to the character, it’s like they are expressing everything going through your mind, everything you’ve been fighting to find the words for.
That is how I felt reading this.
You don’t get to be in anything else – in friendship or in anger or in hope. All you can be is in love.
Aza suffers from severe anxiety, to the point where she can’t sit and have her lunch without her mind going into overdrive. Yet it is this highly-anxious, unreliable mind that narrates the story, expressing the frustration that an issue such as anxiety can cause.
I do not have anxiety to this level, not even close. But for those who do, Aza presents it in a way that makes sense, a way that reveals how debilitating it is when you can’t even kiss the boy you fancy without your mind unhelpfully informing you that it will kill you.
The plot – finding a missing billionaire – takes a backseat as Aza develops in both herself and her relationships. She tackles her inner demons relentlessly while revealing there isn’t an off-switch and that there isn’t a way to suddenly be cured from everything that plagues you. At the same time, she comes to understand what this means to the people closest to her and how her behaviour affects those relationships, even when the people in question understand her better than she thinks.
Turtles All The Way Down oozes charm. There is a natural pace to the story; it cannot be fast because Aza’s mind gets too distracted by other details in order to always move forward. But it always feels realistic rather than a sudden detour that makes no sense and adds nothing to the story.
Despite her mind spending pages focusing on how she might die, Aza is a likeable character that I’m certain many people can relate to. She refuses to give up or give in and that awareness that something is going on that she can’t control reveals a lot about her inner strength; she will not let this defeat her. Aza isn’t the only character though; there are her friends, her mother and her new boyfriend. Despite rocky moments in each relationship, Aza is surrounded by people who care and understand her.
This was a moving read, if nothing else because of how I could relate to Aza. No one was put in a bad light; everyone had to work to help Aza get control of her anxiety. It opens up knowledge and questions about mental health without pushing and doesn’t make either a character or society the bad guy: it is an illness, not a choice, and isn’t made to be something it isn’t.
An emotive and satisfying read, suitable for more than just the intended YA reader.
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4 thoughts on “Book Review: Turtles All The Way Down by John Green”
I haven’t previously read anything by John Green, and it seems that I am missing out based on your review of this book! The charm and natural pace of the story, plus the element of a mental illness portrayed in a very relatable manner all appeal to me massively! I am glad that you found this so satisfying, I am off to Amazon to order myself a copy of this immediately!
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Ah fabulous! I really hope you enjoy it. This is the first John Green book I’ve read but will definitely check out more of his stuff. Thank you for the lovely comment!
I loved some of John Green’s books but was thinking of giving this one a pass. I will definitely be reading it now.
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Oh wow, that’s great to hear! I really hope you like it when you get around to it! Thanks for the comment (and the follow!)