Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

10:55 PM

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green | Rating: ★★★★★

"True terror isn't being scared; it's not having a choice in the matter."

Years ago, a very good friend of mine (hello, Cynthia!) introduced me to John Green's work by having me read Looking For Alaska. At the time, I was just leaving high school and, for me, this was the perfect time to experience his words for the first time. A lot of bloggers and authors seem to like to criticize John (for some reasons that make sense, for others that... don't) but I remember thinking, as I made my way through the books he'd had under his belt at the time, that the way he wrote teenagers felt real to me.

The fast paced conversation. The wit. The tries at being (or sounding) like adults and succeeding for a moment, only to revert back to sounding infantile. For me, there was something easy to relate to as a teenager when it came down to his dialogue. It was like listening to my friends talk. Or an expression that I longed to write but never could. 

One of the most common bits of criticism we see about his writing is that the teenagers he writes have the knack of sounding "too adult" or pretentious. Turtles All the Way Down has garnered some of that same complaint, but I think--I'm not sorry to say this--that people forget that teenagers are at that point between childhood and adulthood. For some of them, this means immaturity and conflict; for others it means something else different.


(Not to mention differences in privilege and other very important POVs.)

No-one's coming of age experiences are spot on the same. John Green, after all, writes fiction. And it seems unfair to underestimate the maturity of teenagers or their level of understanding of the world. It is downright naive to believe they can't talk about the world, have depth to their conversations, or just appreciate art. No, really, I read a review that called out something about one of the characters and his knowledge of art in Turtles All the Way Down.

I'm getting off track. This is all besides the point--this is about my thoughts on the book. I think the first word that comes to mind is breath-taking and a thought-provoking view of mental illness in the eyes of one teenager. Turtles All the Way Down can be painfully realistic whilst still maintaining that dash of dry humor that John Green is so known for.

What I loved most about this book was its accurate portrayal of living with mental illnesses and the struggles that come to be. It doesn't shy away from the nitty-gritty; instead, we're given a front row seat to how Aza, the main characters, ticks. Green paints her with such care, such honesty, that it is hard to remember what you are reading is only fiction--because, by the end, you've gotten so wrapped into her head that you begin to wonder where she ends and you begin.

That's what I look for in books. In character development. Someone to not only see myself in, but to really and truly get to know. Aza is more than her illness; she is more than her family, her friends, her love interest. She is everything. Frankly, she is one of Green's best written characters to date and I am going to stand by that.

One of the things that you can expect from the novel is that John Green signature: IT'S GOT ALL THE QUOTES. When I say I tabbed a lot, when I say I related to a lot from my own personal issues with anxiety, I mean a lot.

For example, this is one of my favourites parts of the book and something that hit close to home:

"I wish I understood it," she said.

"It's okay," I said. "Nobody gets anybody else, not really. We're all stuck inside ourselves."

"You just, like, hate yourself? You hate being yourself?"

"There's no self to hate. It's like, when I look into myself, there's no actual me--just a bunch of thoughts and behaviors and circumstances. And a lot of them just don't feel like they're mine. They're not things I want to think or do or whatever. And when I look for, like, Real Me, I never find it. It's like those nesting dolls, you know? The ones that are hollow, and then when you open them up, there's a smaller doll inside, and you keep opening hollow dolls until eventually you get to the smallest one, and it's solid all the way through. But with me, I don't there is one that's solid. They just keep getting smaller."

Turtles All the Way Down is a coming of age story that will leave readers deep in thought and, we can only hope, spark a conversation amongst teenagers about mental health. It has a lot of topics that are explored (aside from the main characters struggles, it tackles friendships and romance, the home life of our narration and two other characters, and holds tight to one massive mystery) so it's got some-thing for everyone.

John Green just keeps getting better with every book.

Note: due to the topic of mental health and the contents of this book, there may be some elements to it that are triggering to other readers. Please be sure to look into the plotline and mental health issues discussed within its pages before reading it if you think you could possibly be triggered by the way the main character operates.

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