I remember the first time I was introduced to the writing of John Green. I was casually scrolling through Tumblr, when I came across a text post of people discussing The Fault in Our Stars. I read the whole thing and had the entire plot of the book spoiled for me. Despite that, I still bought the book and read it cover-to-cover in a matter of hours. I was obsessed. Eventually I had read all of his books and had become a huge fan of every one of them.
When I heard about the release of his latest book, Turtles All the Way Down, I became nervous for some reason. I was nervous that I wouldn’t enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed his others, and I didn’t want to be disappointed. Still, I got the book a few days after it came out and whipped through it in a couple of days. I was anything but disappointed.
Turtles All the Way Down follows the story of Aza Holmes, a 16-year-old girl who’s trying to navigate the world while dealing with obsessive compulsive disorder. She’s accompanied by her best friend Daisy, who loves her dearly, but does not always understand what she’s going through. They are on an adventure to solve the mystery of an old friend’s missing billionaire father. She doesn’t understand why she is the way she is, and it causes constant distress, which translates into everything that she does.
If being a teenager isn’t already hard enough, Aza’s mental illness magnifies the struggles that a lot of people go through as well.
Oftentimes, I feel that romances in Young Adult contemporary novels make the whole story seem more cliche because of their reliance on tropes that become overused quickly, but in this case, it seemed necessary in relation to the main point of the novel. During Aza’s adventure, she reconnects with a childhood friend, Davis, and they quickly grow close. She knows she likes Davis, and he likes her, but her compulsive thoughts have created a crippling insecurity that she doesn’t quite know how to deal with. The romance does not take over the story, it just enhances it, which was refreshing.
I felt an instant connection with this novel the moment I read the first page. I saw myself in Aza’s character so quickly — it honestly sort of freaked me out. Though I do not struggle with OCD, I have a tendency toward anxiety, which holds me back in a lot of situations. A reoccurring concept in the novel is Aza’s “thought spirals” which is when she starts thinking about something, and she can’t stop. I experience that often and have never really known how to describe it. While reading, it was like seeing my thoughts explained in a way that I could never verbalize.
Typically, the main character in YA contemporary novels seems like they’re just a mixture of everything good about a person. They don’t seem to have any flaws, and if they do, they seem to be “perfectly” flawed. Aza and her friend Daisy both seem like they could be actual people, which makes everything seem that much more real.
Whether you struggle with mental illness or are just a chronic over-thinker, Turtles All the Way Down is a novel that will make you feel a little less alone. In my opinion, this is one of John Green’s best.