Book Review

Turtles All the Way Down—John Green

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Goodreads synopsis: 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.

This is my first John Green novel. For some reason, I have an aversion to reading “popular” books until years later, so despite having watched all of the Vlogbrothers videos, followed both brothers on their various social media accounts, listened to every episode of their podcast, and saw them at Nerdcon Nerdfighteria in Boston this last year, I’ve never read a single John Green novel. I’ve had Will Grayson, Will Grayson on my shelf for years (since before I moved from Fargo/Moorhead), but because my literary life is determined by my Chubs Mug of Literary Fortitude, I haven’t read it yet.

I also haven’t read Ready Player One or anything by Robin Hobb yet, but that’s because my Chubs Mug is a cruel, capricious taskmaster.

My interest in YA is best defined as “eh, okay.” I actually like the genre, but I tend to not seek it out unless it’s given to me—and my roommate literally wrapped up a signed edition of Turtles and left it on my bed for me to find, because she’s a hero.

So as soon as I finished Pretties, I took off the dust jacket, because as pretty as those make books, they immediately get torn and ripped up and then I get sad, and started reading. I can’t compare Turtles to any of John Green’s other novels. I don’t know if he peaked during TFioS or even Looking for Alaska. I don’t even know if he peaked (so far) in Turtles, so look for none of that here.

Much like my review of The Road, you can probably sum up the rest of this post in one slightly confusing text message I sent to a friend, so I’ll give you the tl;dr right here: “I actually really like it. It’s very John Green. Like… John Green the person who has OCD and talks about it, not John Green the author because it’s the first John Green I’ve read.”

Yeah, I really liked it. It’s a story about a girl with OCD, but the girl’s OCD isn’t her story. It’s her life and she lives it, but she also lives her life with Daisy and her mom and Davis (poor Davis) and Harold (poor Harold). We need more stories like this. We need stories where the characters don’t overcome their OCD/anxiety/depression/mental illness/physical illness/disability, but where they live with it, because frequently these things don’t go away forever. Your broken leg might heal, congratulations!, but your OCD may become manageable for a while.

Did it have weaknesses? Of course. Even authors whose entire collections I’ve read have weaknesses. Did I call the weird sewer thing before they even left the art show? Yeah, a little bit.

But also, a pretty successful Rey/Chewbacca fanfic author was pretty much what I would have wanted to be in high school (except maybe not Rey/Chewbacca, and for more reasons than Rey didn’t exist when I was in high school). Daisy and Aza’s relationship wasn’t my favorite part of the novel, but I loved their interactions. And the fact that Daisy did all that writing on her phone. That’s solid dedication.

Reading this, I felt like I was hearing John Green talk about his struggles with OCD. It was more personal and more honest of a book than I expected in a YA novel about a girl looking for an old friend’s father for the reward money, but I loved it.

Turtles All the Way Down HUD

  • Turtles All the Way Down
  • Author: John Green
  • First Edition: 2017
  • Publisher: Dutton
  • First Reading
  • Date Started: October 18, 2017
  • Finished: October 24, 2017
  • Rating: 4/5
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