Title: Turtles All The Way Down
Author: John Green
Published: October, 2017 by Dutton Books for Young Readers
Purchase: The Book Depository
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.
I don’t know if this book helps with anxiety or makes it worse. Having just started meds for my own anxiety, this struck a chord, making me question my own thoughts at times, wondering just how many were my own and which ones were the anxiety talking. Aza’s condition seemed to be on the extreme side, having arguments with herself, trying to fight the impulses convincing her to do things she didn’t want to do. It was hard to read, becoming very disturbing the deeper I got, still, it does a great job at highlighting just how hard it is living with mental illness. The missing billionaire mystery helps bring in some levity, with the friendship between Aza and Daisy stealing the show. Sure, there’s a romantic sub-plot with the billionaire’s son, but the two main girls and Aza’s own issues are where the heart of the book is at.
Forgetting the hype of this being the long-awaited John Green book is probably the best thing. I leapt into this prepared for the spark to have fizzled out, but instead found myself enamoured with how real this felt. They were still in high school and I didn’t hate it. They had dead parents and I didn’t hate it. There was a romance with the richer-than-God boy across the river…and I didn’t hate it. Despite the tropes, the characters held their own and made me care about them, they made me want to keep picking up this book instead of procrastinating, and doing that is getting harder and harder the older I get. When you do find a good book you just want to consume it, but at the same time, make it last—this was one of those.
I really appreciated how descriptive this was, sometimes spending pages painting pictures in your mind of just how tough the mental anguish can be. The way the idea of a tightening spiral is used to illustrate the progression of a panic attack just seemed to click with me. I’ve already found myself showing passages to friends, talking about the things Aza has been doing, and generally just offloading on people. Aza’s obsession with germs pushes some boundaries, with some of the scenes hard to take, but it’s worth reading. Plus, I liked the way Aza measured her sanity based on how frequently the psychiatrist wanted to see her—that made me smirk.
As the book progressed, I felt a shift in it, like the importance of some aspects tapered out, and another plot took hold. It felt natural though, especially with how switched on the characters were. The conversations seemed meaningful, even if there were times when they were arguing, breaking hearts or causing havoc in each other’s lives. With some pivotal scenes, hurtful things were said, leaving me feeling like I needed to jump into the book and hug Aza or shake her. I just wanted her to get better, but it was painfully obvious that her struggles weren’t so easy to overcome. Without glossing over much, this book gave a lot more than I expected it to.
Anyone wanting to think more about mental illness. Although it may be triggering/relatable to those still in the middle of bad anxiety.