By Amelia Van Arsdale
Turtles All the Way Down is a fantastic, gut-wrenching book by the author of The Fault in Our Stars, John Green. This young adult novel was published on October 10, courtesy of Dutton Books. It touches on topics such as anxiety, OCD, teen romance, mystery, poverty, and friendship.
Aza Holmes is a 16-year-old living in Indianapolis with anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She and her best friend Daisy discover that Mr. Pickett has gone missing, a billionaire with a son named Davis that Aza used to be close to. The family is offering a $100,000 reward, a sum that would get both girls out of somewhat poverty. As Aza searches for answers to the mystery and becomes closer to Davis than she ever thought was possible, her mental health plummets and she has to figure out how to control it before there’s no going back.
In terms of plot, there was a good balance between Aza’s mental health and her search for Mr. Pickett. While the book seems like a mystery, the book really veered away from it and focused on how Aza can cope with real life while trying to take control of her thoughts.
For example, while Aza is at Davis’ house trying to find clues, the prevalence of her OCD fades, but when she comes home, she explains how the ‘thought spirals’ get to her and how they never end. Overall, it was a nice balance between the two and Green did a great job of not overwhelming the reader, but slowly giving them chunks of the raw pain in Aza’s brain.
Though you could see in Aza’s mind in great detail and witness her change throughout the book, the other characters seemed to be somewhat left alone in terms of development. Really the only the only time the readers learns about the other characters is when they’re introduced. With a few exceptions such as Davis’ poems and Daisy’s Star Wars fanfiction. No one besides Aza and Daisy once had a big ‘Wow, I’m different then you thought I was’ moment. It was honestly disappointing compared to Green’s other books such as The Fault in Our Stars or Looking for Alaska which both have very intricate character development.
It could be argued that Green did this to show that Aza was so wrapped up in herself that she didn’t notice a change in her friends. However, it was still a shame that the potential for more character development was never really explored. That being said, Aza herself greatly changed throughout the book. It is seen in the amazing detail during her mental episodes, so much so that it greatly makes up for the other characters.
Speaking of Aza’s episodes, those scenes were absolutely chilling. When she explains the ‘tightening, never ending spiral’ it feels like it’s happening to the reader. The descriptions Green uses give the reader an incredibly accurate feeling of the anxiety and OCD Aza feels, even though they don’t even have the disorder.
The dialogue in the book also helps the reader understand not only how Aza feels about the outside world, but how other characters perceive her when she’s having these episodes.
Though the characters are mostly ignored besides Aza, the amazing concept, plot balance, descriptions and dialogue completely make up for it. All in all, John Green’s book Turtles All the Way Down is so realistic that the reader himself feels like their brain isn’t their own, but still ultimately can’t put the novel down.