Author: John Green
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Published On: October 10. 2017
I have never experienced the feeling of reading a new John Green book. I read all of his other books years after they were published. After his success with TFIOS, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever experience the feeling of a new John Green book. But here we are. All these years of waiting–worth it.
This book exceeded all of my expectations. I thought TATWD would mimic his other novels–boy/girl meets another girl/boy, tragic life situations, young love, etc. And while there were some similarities, the overall tone of the book different from his others– rightly so due to the nature of the book. For someone who wrote about teen cancer and death, I didn’t think I could read another book of his that was sadder and darker but TATWD is just that. It may not be the heartbreaking romance novels, but it pulls on your heartstrings in a way other books can’t.
Aza Holmes, a 16 year old from Indianapolis, suffers from crippling anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. She fears the microbes living in her body and has the constant need to change the bandaid on her finger. Aza finds herself in what she calls “thought spirals” where the intrusive thoughts about microbes, C. diff, and her overall existence took over her mind. Daisy, her spunky friend, doesn’t quite understand Aza’s fears but supports and love her nonetheless. And then there’s Davis, the boy across the river who happens to be the son of the missing fugitive billionaire.
After reading the premise, I thought that the search for Davis’ father would be the main plot. However, much to my liking, Turtles All the Way Down did not turn into a classic Nancy Drew story and instead focused almost solely on Aza inner turmoil. This book’s focus on mental health was refreshing. It didn’t offer a superficial ending where she was “healed” because it doesn’t work that way in the real world. There are good days and bad days, and even after years of counselling you can still have those bad days. It showcased Aza’s inner monologue as her logic fought with the intrusive thoughts her anxiety threw at her. Without spoiling, there is an instance where we read this inner battle for 2-3 pages until she finally succumbs to the thoughts. The amount of emotion and effect Green was able to pack into those pages was raw and beautiful.
Instead, TATWD focused on Aza and her relationships, which to me was the most heartwarming part of the story. Her friendship with Daisy was so realistic. They loved and cared for each other fiercely but they had conflicts. Daisy would get frustrated with Aza’s anxiety but at the end of the day was always there for her. And then there is her relationship with Davis which is unlike any other romantic pairing I have read in YA fiction. They understand each other on deep level and have very enlightening conversations but (spoiler) it doesn’t work out. Neither can give with the other needs at that moment. It’s a story of first love that is different from any other. I highlighted this quote because it really captures the essence of their relationship:
‘You remember your first love because they show you, prove to you, that you can love and be loved, that nothing in this world is deserved except for love, that love is both how you become a person, and why.”
That is just one of many beautifully written lines you will find in Turtles All the Way Down. Sure, it may not have an epic romance per say or an exciting mystery. However, this book packs a powerful punch with its realism. Ava’s struggles are present in many people in the world today. Struggling or not, I believe everyone can find a piece of this book to relate to or find comfort in. It’s just that good.