John Green takes on the realities of mental illness in ‘Turtles All the Way Down’

Title: Turtles All the Way Down
Author: John Green
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Publisher: Dutton Books
Length: 304 pages
Available: 10 October 2017
Available Now


9780525555360Aza Holmes isn’t convinced she’s the star in her own story. It’s her best friend, Daisy, who shines brightly—and that’s the way Aza likes it. Daisy’s loud bravery is what Aza is able to hide behind while she worries about whether or not she’s dying from a disease she’s convinced her doctor has missed.

When a local billionaire, and father of her childhood friend Dave, goes missing, Aza is forced to come out of her shell. But getting caught up in trying to solve the mystery of the disappearance brings more truth about Aza than the missing man to light. From the self-infected wound on her finger that she keeps re-opening, to her compulsion to check symptoms of diseases she could be getting, Aza is a beautiful and unique heroine. One that feels more honest than any other of Green’s main characters so far.

“But for some people, the invasion can kind of take over, crowding out all the other thoughts until it’s the only one you’re able to have, the thought you’re perpetually either thinking or distracting yourself from.”
— p. 45

The plot isn’t what drives the story in Turtles All the Way Down, but Aza’s story. How she deals with her compulsions and how they both help and hinder her ability to live a “normal” life. Even though it’s what her doctor, her mom, and her best friend want desperately for her. It’s a pressure she feels acutely.

“I knew how disgusting I was. I knew. I knew now for sure. I wasn’t possessed by a demon. I was the demon.”
— p. 229

Fans of John Green’s previous books will find familiar elements of his books—the self-aware main character, too intelligent for their own good, struggling to understand love and their place in the world—but with a fresh voice. Green has taken a turn away from the truly contemporary aspects of Young Adult fiction and, instead, headed into a literary direction, focusing on characters and themes over plot.

Heartbreaking and breathtaking, Turtles All the Way Down is a must-read.

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