Turtles All The Way Down, book review


Title: Turtles All The Way Down
by: John Green
Publisher: Penguin

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.

Turtles are one of earth’s most ancient creatures. They are unable to come out of their shell—they’re trapped—a fitting analogy for mental illness—trapped by your own thoughts…

John Green has written a confronting, thought provoking, YA novel that has captured the mind of an Indianapolis teenager who has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and intense anxiety, with meticulous detail. Through his use of words he seems to have used every shade of colour to describe the complexity of the OCD and anxiety spectrum. John Green’s portrayal of the main character’s mental illness is beyond successful, as you feel Aza’s panic leaping off the pages, and during the build up to the turning point in the story, you feel anxiety’s tightening vice-like grip with the spiral that Aza describes in the story.

Turtles All The Way Down is a book of vital importance in recognition of mental health topics and awareness. It is a book that could have only been written by someone who has walked in the shoes of someone with OCD and anxiety, and John Green is that person (http://ew.com/books/2017/10/10/john-green-mental-health-struggles/). His experience and insight are what gives the main character, Aza, complexity, depth and credibility.

John Green has included therapy sessions in the story, an absolute necessity I think, not only to help the reader understand Aza’s daily struggle, but also to reach out to readers who may have a similar experiences and are afraid to seek help.

Beside the main character having a mental illness (extreme anxiety, self-harm, obsessive compulsive disorder and intrusive thoughts about bacteria), the author has also tapped into the day to day contemporary lives of young adults with accuracy. There’s Star Wars, fan fiction, mobile phones, school pressure, part time work and the uneasy communication with parents. In addition, John Green has added another dimension to the story with the mystery of a missing parent. It is through trying to solve this mystery that Aza reconnects with a childhood friend, Davis, and under the stars, their romance is awakened.

Turtles All The Way Down is not a happily ever after book. It’s storytelling impact is raw and poignant, and will have you thinking from the opening sentence of the book to the closing sentence. If you have OCD, or anxiety, or intrusive thoughts, or any combination of the three plus more, you will completely understand Aza and form a irreversible bond with her. Above all, Turtles All The Way Down is much more than a book about the darkness of mental illness—it is a book of acceptance and hope, with the love and support of a mother, a best friend (we all need a bestie like Daisy), and a boyfriend who wants to understand his girlfriend, if she will allow him into her world.

Purchase a copy: https://www.penguin.com.au/books/turtles-all-the-way-down-9780241335437

Title: Turtles All The Way Down
by: John Green
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 978-0-241-33543-7
Category: Young Adult
Pages: 304 pages

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Reviewed by Julieann Wallace
(Dip T, B. Ed, Author, Illustrator, Tea Ninja, Cadbury Chocolate Annihilator)

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