Turtles All The Way Down Review

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green: My Review

Rating: 4.5/5

We never really talked much or even looked at each other, but it didn't matter because we were looking at the same sky together, which is maybe even more intimate than eye contact anyway. I mean, anybody can look at you. It's quite rare to find someone who sees the same world as you.

Turtles All The Way Down was simply a stunning book and, in my opinion, John Green's best yet. Just as you would expect from a Green novel it was incredibly deep and layered, dripping with intense metaphors which I can NEVER resist and I must have turned over about fifty page corners, bound together by highly intelligent, flawed and complex characters at the core. 

I've got to start off by saying how thankful I was for the representation of mental health in this book. Although I cannot speak personally to the depiction of OCD and anxiety, so many own-voices reviews I've read confirm that the way Green writes about Aza's mental health is second-to-none in its accuracy (which I suppose you would expect as Green himself suffers from these disorders, so Aza is in some ways an autobiographical character). 

This is one of those books that, for some, shows perspectives that are unimaginable and, for others, acts a source of immense comfort, making them feel understood and their feelings validated. Every tiny thought that enters Aza's head is stripped bare and laid before us on the page and you go through this crazy experience where you feel like you're actually in the middle of a panic attack as you read her thought spirals and it's just such a raw and brutal insight into the disorder that's unlike anything I've read before. I wanted to reach into the pages and give her a shake or a hug or beg her to take her medication because it was almost physically painful to read about this young girl who can't get better, who has the whole world to explore but is trapped inside her own head. It was so damn powerful. 

I am also once again very thankful for Green's refusal to dumb his characters down. One of the biggest critiques I see of his books are that his characters are always these pretentious teenagers who speak like 40 year old philosophers and it's just SO unrealistic, etc, etc, etc. Personally, I just don't think these people are used to seeing teenagers in YA fiction actually treated like adults, or can't accept the notion that teenagers can be mature or ahead of their years or possess imaginations that expand beyond the realm of dating and parties and Starbucks. I think it helps that I was and still am one of those philosophical 16-year-olds who is like, let's talk about the stars and metaphors and what poetry means and the infinite possibilities of life and death! What I'm trying to say is I am always here for smart people in YA literature and I love John Green for giving Aza and Hazel and Augustus and Margo and Alaska and all of his other deep, mysterious teen characters the same respect as adults.

I had very mixed feelings about Aza and Daisy's friendship though. For the most part, I detested Daisy so very much. Although she could be funny, I immediately found her dialogue so overbearing and just didn't particularly care about her. Later on in the book, she then says some really horrible things to and about Aza which were completely unnecessary... and then Aza just sort of forgives her for it?! The fact that Daisy didn't get more of a comeuppance annoyed me hugely; what she says pretty much underlines the negative ideas that mentally ill people are exhausting and too much work and befriending them just feels like you are doing a good deed. And I got so irritated by it that I docked the book half a star. However, at the same time, I understand that being friends with someone who suffers with social anxiety is not all sunshine and rainbows and of course is going to be challenging, so I do think Green was right to discuss both sides of the equation. But I still hate Daisy.

On another note, I did really like Davis as the love interest. I don't think I could ever bring myself to dislike a cute nerdy rich boy who writes poetry, but is also walking on a wire just like Aza. I loved seeing how Aza's feelings for Davis collided with her perpetual obsessive thoughts and how the complexities of their relationship evolved, even if the ending did destroy me slightly.

Overall, I'm so glad Turtles All The Way Down lived up to the hype for me. John Green is a genius.


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