John Green’s ‘Turtles All The Way Down’ is a brilliant read

The book is just beautifully true. The narration feels like that of a teenager. Even down to small details, Aza’s voice is relatable and likable. (Books.google.com)

John Green, award-winning author of “The Fault in our Stars,” returned to the writing world last week with the release of his new novel, “Turtles All the Way Down.” The widely-anticipated book has been in the making for six years now, and it finally hit shelves Oct 10.

The story follows 16-year-old Aza Holmes, self-proclaimed sidekick to her best friend Daisy. A billionaire in their city has gone missing and a $100,000 reward is available for anyone with information regarding his whereabouts. The catch? Aza knows the man’s son and, with Daisy’s insistence, the pair decides to investigate. With the hope of tuition money on their minds, they spend the novel going off on the investigation, following leads and, on Aza’s part, battling her ever-worsening OCD.

John Green said the idea behind the novel came from the question: “How do you find a sense of self when you feel like your self isn’t really yours?” The story explores this idea as Aza navigates her intrusive thoughts and the demands of her daily life. She is simultaneously obsessed and disgusted by the bacteria within her. Her entire life ruled by the fact that she is not a singular person, but millions of cells with intrusive thoughts she cannot control. These thoughts are well-portrayed, often leaving behind grammatical rules and syntax as they take over Aza’s narration, sometimes even in the middle of sentences.

John Green’s voice is as clear as ever and he presents another gripping and well-written tale about the realities of teen life. Media representation of mental health is tricky to get right, as writers often fall into the trap of romanticizing it and making it appear quirky and beautiful. “Turtles All the Way Down” does an excellent job of showing the reality of mental illness and how crippling it can be, especially for young people. The story is unique in the way that the main conflict is not an outside force - it’s Aza’s own mind.

The book is just beautifully true. The narration feels like that of a teenager. Even down to small details, Aza’s voice is relatable and likable. Her struggles are real and painful and readers are carried through her emotions, experiencing her panic, helplessness, heartache and hope in real time. The book deals with serious topics but the story is not weighed down by them. The work is also full of comic relief, from Daisy’s “Star Wars” fanfiction to Aza’s unconditional love for her teal car, Harold.

The story is not easily predictable, and the emotion is so strong that it is hard to put the book down. Green’s portrayal of teens, as always, is spot-on, and his devotion to the realistic portrayal of life and tragedy remains ever strong.

With several best sellers already under his belt and six years of anticipation, John Green said he had doubts that he would write again, and readers were unsure if he could top the fame of “The Fault in our Stars”. Regardless, “Turtles All the Way Down” did not disappoint. It is a beautiful tale of mental-illness and friendship, and of courage even when it feels impossible. It is a remarkable read, and definitely worth a 5/5 review.


Courtney Gavitt is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at courtney.gavitt@uconn.edu.