‘It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.’
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 was easily one of my most highly anticipated reads, it even featured on my Christmas Book Wishlist here. I couldn’t wait to pick up a copy after loving its predecessors The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska, must reads if you haven’t already. Previously, John Green has bowled me over with his writing style, it is unique and unafraid, it is clever and thought provoking, it will break your heart throughout but leave you feeling whole in the end. That being said, I had really high hopes for Turtles All The Way Down, I wanted it to pull me in and make me fall in love with a new set of characters, and in true Green style, it did not disappoint.
Turtles All The Way Down focuses on Aza, a sixteen year old who suffers with anxiety and severe obsessive compulsive disorder. Aza and her best friend Daisy decide to investigate the disappearance of local wanted billionaire Russell Pickett, in the hopes of receiving the hundred thousand dollar reward. Aza previously attended camp with Pickett’s son Davis, which Daisy see’s as their ‘in’ for finding clues and getting the money. While being presented as a mystery tale, Green encapsulates so much more into it – such as the themes of loss, friendship, love, mental illness and hope.
While the mystery aspect remains throughout, the focal point of Turtles All The Way Down are Aza’s anxiety and OCD illnesses. From the very first page we are immediately immersed in Aza’s thoughts, compulsions and feelings. Aza is consumed with thoughts of not being in control of her own body, of it becoming infected and taken over somewhat. Green depicts mental illness in a way readers can understand and relate to, a scene that really stood out for me is when Aza is describing how her mental illness makes her feel. Aza and Daisy attend an underground art show where they are required to wear hard hats with lights attached. Aza tells Daisy to turn the light off on her hat and as they do, she begins to explain how it feels to be in the dark, senseless, floating, not in control, a metaphor for how she feels when she is scared. I thought this was a very simplistic, yet captivating way to describe how Aza sees herself and her mind, and a moment that really solidified the relationship between the two girls for me.
As well as her friendship with Daisy, I love the way Green portrays the relationship between Aza and Davis. Both characters have been connected by loss since their first meeting at camp and this is also the case when they meet again. I really liked the character of Davis and how we were given insights into his point of view through his blog posts. Much like TFIOS, I loved reading the text conversations between these two characters, short and sweet, but depicts their connection perfectly. Both Davis and Daisy are interesting characters in their own right, who have their own complexities and issues and whose lives I’d love to read more about.
In terms of Green’s characters, both in this book and previous, there is the opinion often in reviews that nobody actually talks how they do. I think Green writes teenagers extremely well, they are layered and highly intellectual, plus I personally think it is nice when we get some of the author’s voice through the characters. I think that the opinion that Green’s characters can often sound a lot more mature than they are highlights why his books are set apart from the rest, much like his characters, they are unique.
My favourite aspect of this book was the portrayal of mental health; it is honest and more importantly, un-romanticized. Turtles All The Way Down does not shy away, and shows how Aza deals with her anxiety and OCD in ways that can be very difficult to read. In addition, there is no attempt of a quick fix to make everything happier, Aza lives with her illness day in, day out, in love or not and will continue to for the rest of her life. Despite this there is always a level of hope maintained throughout the book, and you will root for Aza throughout.
Overall I loved Turtles All The Way Down, so much so, I read it over a couple of days and I just couldn’t put it down! It is honest and real, and great if you want to gain insight into what it is like living with a mental illness. Turtles All The Way Down, much like Green’s other works, will leave you with a new perspective, greater knowledge, questions and really, what more can you ask from a book? This was a superb read and one which I will no doubt be picking up again soon!
Have you read Turtles All The Way Down? What did you think?