Book Fairy Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

One of our book fairies, Tiff in Perth –  Australia, has shared a lovely review  of the book Turtles All the Way Down by John Green! We are excited to share with you her thoughts about this gem. Happy reading!

About the Book

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.

Book Review

I can’t quite put into words how I feel about this book. I have always been a fan of John Green’s writing. His ability to draw you into his world and make you invested in his characters is amazing. His books stay with you long after you have turned the last page. Years after having read Looking for Alaska I still find my self pondering over it’s intricacies and meanings. There is no doubt in my mind that Turtles all the Way Down will be exactly the same.

The thing I loved about this book is that it was so easy to read, but yet so thought provoking. I read the book in one night which in itself speaks volumes about how good it is. Very rarely is there a book I will finish in one sitting. But I just HAD to put everything on hold to read this one! Like all of John Green’s books, it follows the lives of a handful of teenagers going through high school. The main character Aza suffers from anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Her anxiety ultimately manifests itself as a fear of the microorganisms living within her and those around her, along with the potential to gain diseases from these microorganisms. We are introduced to her mental health from the very start almost gently at first, but John Green doesn’t waist time in letting you think this is just a quirk or something not of great significance to her life, or in fact to the story. Aza’s best friend Daisy is also dealing with issues of her own, but not in the same way. She is from a poor family and is trying in vain to be able to pay for her future in college. This problem is what forms the back bone of the plot. Daisy stumbles across a news article about a billionaire who has gone missing amidst an abundance of fraud and bribery accusations. Information leading to his whereabouts will grant the informant $100 000 in reward money, and it just so happens that Aza used to be friends with his son. It is not hard to expect a gripping tale of mystery and teen romance. Indeed all the key elements are there; a missing billionaire, his troubled son who is still mourning the loss of his mother, a mansion full of hidden secrets and dead end clues.

However the book is less about creating plot twists and rather, more about focusing on Aza’s mental health struggles. The plot can be said to take a back seat for once as we experience Aza’s struggles along with her, residing in her mind and hearing how her thoughts spiral tighter and tighter pulling her down with them. All other aspects of the novel seemed to fall away in the wake of Aza’s anxiety. To me this was such a real and raw way to show people, who have no experience of anxiety, what it is really like. When you have an anxiety attack this is exactly what happens, the world around you becomes a pin prick of existence. Yes you are still there and events will transpire but they are never at the forefront. I loved this raw representation of anxiety that was constant in the book. John Greens candour amazes me and is perhaps the main reason I admire his writing so much.
As someone who has experienced anxiety I found it incredibly real reading Aza’s struggles. John Green’s description of her experience where astounding. His ability to put into writing what few of us can hardly articulate is beyond me. It may have been a hard book to write given the subject matter, but my goodness is it needed. If anything comes from this book I hope it opens dialogue across the world about these mental health issues. They are something we all need to talk more about. Whether you have a mental illness or not, talking is the first step we can take to eradicate the stigma surrounding these issues and create a world where people are not afraid to speak out and seek help.

My head was buzzing when I finished the book as if a swarm of bee’s took all my thoughts and replaced them with their incessant sounds of flight. I truly felt as if I had seen another way in which anxiety expresses itself. Given the impact this book had on me, someone with very mild anxiety, I was glad to find the last pages of the book included help lines in many different countries around the world. I have no doubt this book will resonate with those of us who have anxiety. Much in the same way it will strike a chord in those who do not. To understand or see even slightly what mental health is to some people is an incredible thing. Turtles all the Way Down gives you the opportunity to see this, what you choose to do with such an understanding is up to you. I am sure however that it will help in the ongoing struggle we all have with talking about mental health.


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