Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers on October 10th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Health, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Mystery, Realistic Fiction, Romance, Teen, Young Adult, Young Adult Contemporary
Length: 304 pages Source: Amazon
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Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.
Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.
In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.
Aza is almost definitely probably for sure going to die of C. diff.
She doesn’t have it yet. Or maybe she does. She doesn’t think so. But she could. Probably. Her mind is an ever-tightening spiral of reminders that her body isn’t her own but really she’s just an animated corpse and everything she does is actually at the whim of the millions of microorganisms that make up the physical being that is her. Meanwhile, her best friend Daisy is in a new relationship and this guy she knew as a kid has recently lost his father. And by lost – it’s literal. His father ran away to avoid legal prosecution and now Davis has to take care of his troubled l little brother Noah and now Aza is back in his life and he really likes her but she freaks out when she kisses him.
Turtles All the Way Down is a rollercoaster ride of what it means to have extreme anxiety and invasive thoughts as a teen and still struggling to find out who you are (probably just microorganisms) and falling in love (how long do someone else’s microorganisms stay in your body?) and trying to help a friend and his brother find peace (even when you have no peace yourself).
This book was incredible and stressful.
You can’t help but to love Aza with every fiber of your being. She is a well-meaning girl who is battling very hard for clarity and assurance that everything is going to be alright. As the book is told in her third-person POV, you get to hear her mental monologue. It took me several days of short reading spurts to accept this, because as I read, I felt my heart quickening and a sudden consciousness of my sweat and saliva and just everything going on in my body and oh my goodness I don’t think that I could be Aza for a single day, let alone my entire life. It makes me so, so grateful that there are so many resources out there for mental health support.
That said, the fact that reading this gave me so much anxiety is also a testament to how well it is written. John Green does not apologize for who Aza is and he does not try to fix her. This book is simply about living with this tightening spiral and managing it, but Aza is not crazy and she cannot be magically “cured”. The mental health rep here is so, so good and even though I don’t suffer the level of anxiety Aza does by any means, I really appreciated her.
The story was written perfectly for the perspective.
This book wasn’t what I was expecting, plot-wise, but that’s okay. It actually worked really perfectly. On the outside, the goal of this book is “find Davis’ father” but because of who Aza is, this is a small back-thought. She tries so, so hard to get to it, but at the end of the day she’s so busy battling her inner demons that she has very little focus for her quest.
Like any John Green book, there are relationships. We are shown what it’s like to try and live a normal life while suffering in the sort of mind trap that confines Aza. How her thoughts affect her friendship, her relationship, her family life, and her every day activities like eating or driving. We get small respites in the form of Daisy’s Rey/Chewbacca fan fiction and Davis’ obsession with celestial bodies, but mostly it’s all Aza all the time.
I really, really liked it but don’t think I’ll read it again soon.
This is the sort of book that is written really lyrically (beautiful) but just made me so so so so so stressed out I had to keep putting it down because I felt like I couldn’t breathe. There was so much Aza. So much information all the time and it’s written intentionally that way. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I am glad to be done with it because I felt like I was drowning, if that makes any sense at all.
For people with extreme anxiety and who are prone to invasive thoughts and spirals, please read this book with caution.