Turtles All the Way Down Review

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary: “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.” (Summary found on Goodreads).

“Actually, the problem is that I can’t lose my mind,” I said. “It’s inescapable.”

It’s been a very long time since I read a book and felt this emotionally attached to it, as though I were somehow bound to the main character and their problems. I think nearly everyone in the book blogging community found solace in Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and I did too, but…Turtles All the Way Down blows that out of the water. I have never related to a character more than I relate to Aza Holmes.

John Green’s writing isn’t spectacular. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve watched enough of his Crash Course videos to hear his voice instead of my own when I’m reading either. Even Aza’s quotes sounded like Green. It’s a little unnerving if you ask me. Aside from that, it comes across as though he’s trying too hard at parts to sound like an inspirational poster. A few lines is okay, but every other paragraph he adds something “profound” and “deep”. Don’t get me wrong, I love all that, but after awhile it feels a tad forced.

“In the best conversations, you don’t even remember what you talked about, only how it felt. It felt like we were in some place your body can’t visit, some place with no ceiling and no walls and no floor and no instruments” 

If I were going by logistics, I would rate this four stars, but I honestly can’t bring myself to do that. I read the last half (ish) during my photography class when I finished working and I had literal tears in my eyes. If it’s an effort to get me to shed tears while reading in general, it’s even more of an effort to get me to do so in public. Thankfully, I didn’t receive any uncomfortable looks.

I really saw myself in Aza. It was 100% visible that this was an own voices novel. I’ve never seen someone write about anxiety so raw and real. I felt Aza’s anxiety as if it were my own. I don’t have as severe of anxiety as she does and am very lucky, but I saw myself in her existential crises and constant fear. She was also a lot like me in that she doesn’t express her emotions very well, choosing to repress until it all burst into a mess too large to pick up.

“True terror isn’t being scared; it’s not having a choice on the matter.”

Beyond even the anxiety representation, I really loved how it touched upon first love. Romance wasn’t even at the center (shocking, right?). It actually felt more about friendship and I loved that. I can’t say I was overly satisfied emotionally by the ending (no spoilers!), but I do have to say it was a million times more realistic than anything else I’ve ever read. I also really, really loved Davis. I would very much like to have a Davis in my life. His poetry was A+ material, too.

“It’s a weird phrase in English, in love, like it’s a sea you drown in or a town you live in. You don’t get to be in anything else—in friendship or in anger or in hope. All you can be in is love.”

The romance aspect tied really well into the mental illness and anxiety portion. It wasn’t one of those books where the love interest “cures” the main character. That was where I could really tell Green understood what it was like because the majority of books with the “cure all” mentality are written by authors who don’t understand.

As well, the friendship between Aza and Daisy was extraordinarily messy. I can’t say I like Daisy at all, but I think the character development was pretty strong. She’s a terrible friend, quite honestly, but at the end of the day, Aza wasn’t all that great at it either. Both of their characters were really flawed and it made it feel so real.

“You’re both the fire and the water that extinguishes it. You’re the narrator, the protagonist, and the sidekick. You’re the storyteller and the story told. You are somebody’s something, but you are also your you.”

All in all, this book broke me into a million pieces. I also didn’t see the plot twist coming at all, so kudos to you, John Green.

I highly recommend this book, especially if you have anxiety and would love to feel seen.

I will leave with one more quote, a personal favorite, that shook me to my entire core: “But I also had a life, a normal-ish life, which continued. For hours or days, the thoughts would leave me be, and I could remember something my mom told me once: Your now is not your forever. I went to class, got good grades, wrote papers, talked to Mom after lunch, ate dinner, watched television, read. I was not always stuck inside myself, or inside my selves. I wasn’t only crazy.”

-Book Hugger

(This review was basically one-third quotes, but I have no regrets. I would plaster this book all over the world if I could).

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