Turtles all The Way Down by John Green is a novel released in October of 2017. I was eager to pick this up after his novel, The Fault in Our Stars. I have not read The Fault in Our Stars Since high school, but remember enjoying this book and wanting to read more of his work. I read Green’s newest novel over a couple of days and had mixed thoughts about it. As a heads up, there will be spoilers for Turtles all The Way Down in this post. This review shoes negative and positive aspects I found in this novel, and is my own opinion on this work–I’m open to hearing your thoughts!
I like John Green and am a fan of his YouTube channel. I think he is a very intellectual person, with many lessons to offer through his novels. Still, I wanted to be honest on my thoughts on this novel, giving both pros and cons.
The main character and high school student, Aza, suffers from OCD. The depiction of this illness is realistic. I liked the metaphor Green used to describe her anxiety, as a spiral while she spirals deeper into her illness, she feels as if she cannot escape from it. Her best friend is Daisy, a cheerful, optimistic girl who writes fan fiction. She also gets closer to a boy named David Pickett.
The main plot of the story, in addition to Aza’s struggles, is the mysterious disappearance of David Pickett’s billionaire father. I liked the premise of the book because it had a focus on mental illness. Although I liked the mystery part of finding the father, I found myself quickly losing interest in this plot as I was more interested in learning about Aza’s own challenges with her illness. Regardless, there was a good balance between Aza’s own story and the billionaire plot.
But one major gripe I had with this novel had to be the friendship between Aza and Daisy which began to fall apart after they ‘earned’ a fifty-thousand dollar reward from the billionaire’s son. I did not see Daisy as a good friend and did not like that the two continued their relationship after Daisy ridiculed Aza for her illness on multiple occasions, calling her selfish and calling Aza a ‘tortured’ person because of her anxiety, which as a result, made it very difficult for others–in other words, this could be perceived as her calling Aza a burden, something a person should never or even hint at towards someone with mental illness.
Daisy also vents out her frustrations on Aza by self inserting her into fan fictions, making the fictional character a burden to the rest of the characters. She calls Aza’s character useless in the story and in real life, she proceeds to call self-centered. I do not think the two should have continued on with her friendship, but they remain to be close friends.
Another issue I had with the novel was the dialogue. Although the narration was good, sometimes solid at some points, with very memorable quotes from Aza, including this one:
““Your now is not your forever.”
I found myself highlighting quotes I found memorable, which shows the strength of Green’s craft and his understanding of mental illness.
However, the dialogue between the characters was a bit…odd from time to time. A character at one point uses text speak at one point, saying BTW out loud, which Aza herself even thinks is unusual. The characters also have many discussions and make points sometimes by using quotes from authors and other writers. Although the English major in me was happy to see the quotes, it felt a little off when teenagers were using them on a very frequent basis.
I gave the book three stars on Goodreads. I found some aspects of it to be enjoyable, such as the narration and the commentary and depiction on mental illness, but on the other hand, the dialogue and friendship between two of the main characters took away some of this enjoyment. This book did not have the same impact on me as his previous novel, The Fault in Our Stars, but either way, as a writer, I know this book was a labor of love and I know how his work does resonate with many others.