- Title: Turtles All the Way Down
- Author: John Green
- Genre: Young Adult
- Structure: First-person linear narration
- First Line: “At the time I first realized I might be fictional, my weekdays were spent at a publicly funded institution called White River High School, where I was required to eat lunch at a particular time – between 12:37 P.M. and 1:14 P.M. – by forces so much larger than myself that I couldn’t even begin to identify them.”
Synopsis: #1 bestselling author John Green returns with his first new novel since The Fault in Our Stars!
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.
In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.
I’ve flip-flopped on this book as I read it. There were some moments where I was really into it and there were some moments where I was epically annoyed by it. You’ll probably be able to see what I mean by reading the in-depth review. I don’t hate it. I don’t love it. I don’t think it was bad, but I also don’t think it was great. Here are a few things I did truly enjoy about it:
- It hits the nail on the head when it comes to describing the pain of living with OCD. This is the main reason I like the book. I think OCD is widely misunderstood disorder and there’s a lot of stigma around it. This breaks down that barrier and does it so accurately. If you have depression, anxiety, and/or OCD, you will probably find comfort in this book because somebody finally gets it.
- The characters are very likable. I felt like I could connect on some level to each character. John Green is known for his ability to make his characters realistic, vulnerable, and relatable. He does not disappoint with this book.
- There’s many great moments in the book that gave me pause because what was being said was powerful. I wasn’t enamored by everything (you’ll see below), but there were many times when I stopped to write down a line or two to save because they were amazing insights.
- It’s a fast read. It’s not a short read. It’s still your typical book length. However, due to the characters and story having a great flow, this is a book that you can easily get lost in over a weekend and find yourself wondering how and when you got to the end of the book.
THE UNFAVORABLE BITS
I’m still not sold on John Green as an author, and I know I will get flack for that because he has some diehard fans. I think this book fits the genre of Young Adult quite well (and that’s not a critique on the genre, just an observation). However, I think his writing technique can use work.
For one, he has these great tidbits of profound thoughts scattered throughout the work. But, they don’t cater to the characters or the story. They read more like vanity profound thoughts: something the author sprinkles in with little relevance to essentially flex their writing biceps. It’s the written equivalence of a bodybuilder flexing in the mirror post-workout.
In addition, I question the authenticity of these profound revelations, mainly because of past experience. There was a tiff when Fault in Our Stars came out because many found that those profound revelations and thoughts were heavily borrowed from Tumblr text posts written by users other than John Green. Since the revelations/thoughts in Turtles All the Way Down have much of the same feeling, I question credibility, even though I can’t say for sure because I’m not in the Tumblr community as much as when he came out with Fault in Our Stars.
My main thought on both these points is that I’m sure that John Green, as a person and writer, is deeply philosophical and has plenty original, incredible revelations that are relevant to all of us. However, the ones in Turtles All the Way Down feel inauthentic, whether because they are ill-fitting for the character at hand (but well-fitting for the author, himself) or because they are slightly altered variations of the original written by a different source.
In addition, the ending felt disconnected from the story. Not so much in the direction it took (the direction was fine and expected), but it felt rushed and like it was an after-thought. I understand the concept of bookends and framing, but this particular bookend seemed to be pulled together by weak strings.
As always, I give you a heads up about strong language or graphics in case you’re sensitive, or if the person you’re recommending the book to is sensitive. There is some strong language, but it’s nothing wild. I still think it’s appropriate to the teen/young adult genre.
THE SWEET SPOTS
In this section, I cover some of my deeper, personal thoughts. Books are meant to make you think. I always think the best books are the ones that help you discover pieces of yourself.
- Did this book remind you of anything that has happened to you?: I don’t have OCD, but Josh does. I’ve known this about him since the start of our relationship and he’s had it since he was a kid. When we first started dating, I had no clue as to what OCD was or what it meant. I actually bought psychology textbooks and guidebooks on the topic because I wanted to understand it and not just be a by-stander. It is rough to have. And, no, it’s not about needing to be hyper-organized. Not even a little bit. I think John Green does a phenomenal job at portraying and describing in vivid detail what it’s like to live with OCD.
- Did this book give you any new ideas of yourself?: I think it gave me new insight to Josh and other loved ones who struggle with OCD. You can only read so much of a “professional opinion” and outside perspective. This book gave me a much better picture of what OCD is really like. I know not everyone is looking for that connection, so I will also say that this book also has great little nuggets of insight and lines I deeply connected with that had nothing to do with OCD and everything to do with just trying to exist in this world.
- What lesson did you learn?: Things are hardly how they seem. It’s better to keep moving forward than to allow yourself to be bitter about past experiences. Everyone has a deep pain they have to live with, regardless of their status. Some things aren’t meant to last forever, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t great or important.
I reluctantly rate this book 4/5 stars. I would recommend it to people. I think the majority of that rating comes from the fact that John Green finally did OCD justice and wrote about it so powerfully and accurately that I can’t help but commend him for it. I think this is a book many people would be able to connect and relate to on a deep level. However, if it weren’t for the strength in that aspect, I might give it a simple 3/5 rating due to some of his writing techniques that distracted from the story and characters.