Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Posted by: Paige
I devoured this book in two days. It arrived on release day: signed, sealed, delivered. Literally it was signed by the man himself. I was lucky enough to have pre-ordered a signed copy, which made my excitement that must more palpable as I began to read.

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John Green is a heavy hitter in the YA world, and not just because his books have been made into films. He has a knack for capturing the teenage experience in a way that is poignant and relatable to not just teens but all audiences, and this book is no different.

First of all, it takes place in my (and Green’s) hometown of Indianapolis, so right away I find myself visualizing places he describes in the book. Indianapolis is a fairly normal place, and while there are some unique things about living here, the setting allowed the characters to be the highlight of the story. This book does an excellent job putting the characters at the forefront and allowing their choices and personalities to drive the plot.

The main character, Aza Holmes, is trying to cope with what she calls “invasive thoughts”: an obsession she has with getting sick. She is afraid of getting C. Diff, and is plagued by constantly thinking about it and worrying about contracting the illness.

It’s downright debilitating sometimes. And when her best friend Daisy decides they should team up to solve a mystery involving a missing millionaire and his son, Aza must balance her invasive thoughts with her increasingly complicated life.

Green does it again, but this time his story isn’t about love. It’s about friendship and mental illness and overcoming fears and obstacles. It’s about contemplating one’s existence. Constance Grady, a reviewer from
Vox, wrote: “John Green’s new book is not a quirky sad romance. It’s an existential teenage scream.” I couldn’t agree more.

This book is a bit different from others of his that I have read. It tackles important issues that surround mental health, but it also relates to common teenage problems like complex parent/child dynamics. It does so in a way that beautifully sprinkled in humor so that the entire book isn’t as sad as you realize it is when you finish it, which speaks highly of Green’s talent for developing his plot through his characters.

Daisy is by far my favorite character. She was the most like me and I could totally relate to her personality. Also, this book had so many amazing quotes. You can see my thread on twitter below. I live-tweeted the first half of the book as I read.

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It’s also much darker. The issues it tackles don’t lend themselves to a nice solution at the end that’s wrapped up in a bow for the readers to enjoy. You have to be OK with loose ends and uncertainties with this one, and while that leaves a certain level of discomfort, it also makes the book feel authentic. I didn’t have to remind myself that I should suspend judgement because it was easy to get wrapped up in it.

If I had to give this book a criticism, I would say that at times the conversations between the teenagers were a little unrealistic. I spend A LOT of time around teenagers and I never hear them debating being a fictional character or discussing their existential crisis with so much intelligent articulation.

But maybe that’s what makes these characters so special. They are truly the stars of the book, and Green makes sure they shine.

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