John Green is in no way new to the publishing scene, but even die-hard fans are raving that this is their new favorite work of his. “Turtles All the Way Down” was immediately a #1 New York Times Bestseller, becoming one of the most sold books on Amazon during its release week and garnering major online hype.
Green’s first book in years, the story follows Aza, a teenage girl living with severe anxiety and OCD as she attempts to solve the mystery of a missing local billionaire. After hearing about the story, she and her friend, Daisy, are inspired to rekindle her friendship with the billionaire’s son. The book explores reunion, grief, friendship, and the ever-constant strife of living inside one’s mind.
Each character is unique in this one, and their relationships with one another are dynamic and entertaining. There’s Daisy, a “Star Wars” fanatic that writes her own fanfiction; Davis, who’s constantly searching the sky and the ornate walls around him for answers; Noah, a young child trying to make sense of his father’s disappearance; Mychal, a talented artist with his own minor, but heartwarming story-line.
Then, of course, there’s Aza Holmes, the protagonist. Aza’s constant thought spirals keep her friends and family at arm’s length as she tries to figure out her medication, the billionaire’s disappearance, and, most of all, how she fits together with her own mind.
The plot could’ve been better defined. There was a general driving force to it, but it’s looseness made it difficult to fall into the book from page one.
However, one of the best parts of this book is the realness of it, largely due to Green’s writing style. Books far too often glamorize mental illness, or make it more convenient than it really is. Green doesn’t do this at all. In fact, his portrayal of it is so raw, it’s at times emotional for the reader. Aza’s conditions aren’t merely plot devices- they’re part of who she is. It’s honest, unflinching, and poignant.
At the same time, though, the story was not a medical journal on the effects of OCD on a teenager’s social life. Green explains the way her disorder can derail Aza’s mind in a way that makes it easy for a reader that doesn’t have the same issues to get an idea of what she is going through, while allowing those that experience the same thing to relate.
The story perhaps felt so real not only because of the way it was written, but because the subject was so close to Green’s heart. He said that the book was an attempt to write about the conditions that had affected him since his own childhood, to voice the experiences of those that also struggle with mental illness.
This authenticity makes the story more than just a sad teen book. It weaves a narrative that makes one grieve and struggle with narrator, celebrating her success while enduring her setbacks.
“Turtles All the Way Down” may be John Green’s most impactful novel yet. While its success over time remains to be seen, its potent characters, fantastic writing, and honest portrayal of mental illness give this book a bright future.
Jordyn Dees // Co-Opinion Editor and Business Manager