Turtles All the Way Downby Published 10 Oct 2017
|Turtles All the Way Down.pdf|
|Publisher||Dutton Books for Young Readers|
#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.
Turtles All the Way Down Reviews
Not gonna lie, I’m tempted to flip right back to page 1 and read the book again. THAT NEVER HAPPENS TO ME.
“You’re deflecting.” I just stared at her. “You’re right that self isn’t simple, Aza. Maybe it’s not even singular. Self is a plurality, but pluralities can also be integrated, right? Think of a rainbow. It’s one arc of light, but also seven differently colored arcs of light.”
This is difficult to rate. Looking back, there were definitely certain aspects that I thought were done well, but I just didn't enjoy either the story or the uber-philosophical writing. Given that I consider three stars to be a mostly positive rating, I'm going with two.
Turtles All the Way Down is really only for those looking for deep cell-level evaluation of human consciousness and personhood. To give him some credit, Green captures Aza's needling anxiety and compulsions very well. That little inner voice of doubt that causes you to question things you know until maybe you're not so sure is spot on. It's everything else around Aza's inner turmoil that feels like what it is - filler.
It could very easily have been an interesting portrait of OCD and anxiety, but attempts to add a bizarre subplot of a missing billionaire (who is also the father of her childhood friend, Davis) don't disguise the fact that nothing really happens. I am not opposed to an introspective novel, especially in YA contemporary dealing with mental illness, but I cannot figure out why the author decided to add such a disjointed and nonsensical side story to the mix. Unless, of course, it is yet another "deep metaphor" for the nonsensical nature of anxiety, but I would have found Aza's story far stronger without it.
The ludicrous and boring plot acts as a superficial backdrop for Green to play out the usual "super precocious teens having philosophical conversations." Aza's mental illness and Green's philosophy bleed together into statements that are straddling the line between clever and nauseating:
I guess I just don’t like having to live inside of a body? If that makes sense. And I think maybe deep down I am just an instrument that exists to turn oxygen into carbon dioxide, just like merely an organism in this . . . vastness.
I had very little patience with hipster teens being hipster back when I was the age of these characters; I have even less now.
I don't know why Green has to create such annoyingly unrealistic carbon copies of himself. Even secondary characters like Daisy quickly become annoying - calling Aza "Holmesy" in literally every sentence she speaks is extremely irritating. And these text messages between Aza and Davis:
Me: You’re not your money.
Him: Then what am I? What is anyone?
Me: I is the hardest word to define.
Him: Maybe you are what you can’t not be.
Me: Maybe. How’s the sky?
Him: Great. Huge. Amazing.
It's not even right to say these characters don't talk like teenagers because that makes it sound like teens can't possibly be this smart (and they definitely can), but these characters just don't talk like any people I've ever encountered anywhere. Of any age. They sound like what I imagine old buddhist monks to sound like.
Green takes steps toward exploring the painful reality of living with a mental illness that deeply affects your everyday life and wellbeing, but it's sad that he pulls it back into the land of pretentious philosophical mumbo jumbo. For a while there, it felt real to me, and then it just became John Green talking to himself about the universe and the nature of "self". I guess I have to accept that early John Green - the kind who wrote Paper Towns - is a thing of the past.
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Even though I just finished this book, I already know it's one that will stick with me for years to come. I can't fully express how cathartic this book was. I finally saw parts of myself represented in a novel - the parts that I was ashamed of and pretended didn't exist. This is by far my favorite John Green novel. I can't say much more about this because I'm still sobbing over it. Just read it, please.
4.5 STARS I REALLY REALLY ENJOYED THIS BOOK.
If I leave this review blank for now, I may force myself to film a video review (which I really want to do!) hahah
Trigger warnings: anxiety, OCD
Writing: 5 stars
Characters: 4.75 stars
Plot: 4.5 stars
Originality: 4 stars
(all out of 5 stars)
It's hard to believe I just read a new John Green (JG from now on) book. My mind can't really wrap around that. (Especially given where I was 5 years ago, not even knowing BookTube existed, now I can't imagine my life without BookTube and being Hailey in Bookland). But it was a pleasure to read his writing again. He is extremely talented. I was super nervous going into this admittedly. After the smash success of TFIOS I couldn't imagine a more high pressure situation. Especially as I haven't absolutely loved all of his novels, I just didn't know where this one would fall for me. But I'm so happy that I loved it. It's definitely my favourite YA book on mental illness that I've ever read.
What sets JG apart and makes him, IMO, a pioneer in the YA genre, is the fact that he writes knowledgable teenage characters. He doesn't discount teenagers as unintelligent due to their developing brains. He recognizes that teenagers, IRL, are able to comprehend complex concepts. (This may seem obvious, but I read a book on writing books for young readers recently and it emphasizes the fact that you have to use the most simplistic language possible so young teenage minds can understand it. BS. Teenagers are not dumb).
Because of this, his characters are so startlingly relatable. I think Aza is an especially relatable character for me with her struggles with anxiety. The way JG describes her experiences with anxiety spoke to me so intensely. Specifically the metaphor of the spiral. Blew my mind in all honesty. JG definitely has a talent for metaphors, I never get sick of it. He's always had a way of finding the perfect words to describe that which seems indescribable. Seeing him use this technique regarding mental illness was fascinating. I think if you do, or ever have, suffered from mental illness, you will vastly appreciate his narrative.
I found this story to be very different than JG's other novels. Not in a bad way at all, but the plot was much more subtle. There are two plots happening simultaneously really, one internally and one externally. You think you're following the one and then it turns out the other is the central focus. The way the two were interwoven was genius.
I think this has been written in a way that will appeal to both the next generation of YA readers as well as the aging generation of YA readers. Typically JG's novels have the romance as a main focal point, and they really are some of my favourite romances, but here the romance takes a back seat. The front seat is occupied by Aza's own personal mental health journey. It was such a nice change. (That's not to say there is no romance, it's there but it's just not the main topic).
Overall, this made me SO happy that John Green is returning to the world of YA. It was the most authentic representation of mental illness I've ever read and I'm so glad I went in with an open mind. You can tell he is writing about something he's extremely familiar with. I can't wait to see what he comes out with next (I hope he has plans to write more!)