SPOILER ALERT: The following review contains spoilers.
I have a complicated relationship with John Green’s books. I love his writing but I dislike his stories. Turtle’s All The Way Down is no exception to this pattern. Green’s latest book tells the story of Aza, a high school girl with anxiety (OCD?) and her best friend Daisy as they attempt to find a missing billionaire, who also happens to be the father of Davis, Aza’s old friend from camp. The story goes on and in typical YA fashion Aza and Davis immediately fall for each other and so begins the teenage angst.
While the storyline really wasn’t great there were some elements of the story that I did appreciate. Unlike other books by John Green, romance didn’t play a significant role in this story. Instead he focused on Aza and her struggles with her mental health. Not ending up with Davis made the story just a touch more realistic. However, the whole missing dad/billionaire thing seemed unnecessary. It added nothing to the story and made it seem just a little too far fetched.
Story disasters aside, his writing was decent. I definitely didn’t hate it but I also didn’t love it as much as I have some of his other stuff. He does a stellar job delving into and depicting the thoughts of an anxious person. Anxiety is something a lot of people struggle to explain, especially to someone who has never been anxious or depressed. Green’s examples and descriptions made me say go “YES! EXACTLY” every other page. His descriptions of anxiety are very accurate and a big part of why I liked the book as much as I did. Aza is a great portrayal of what someone with an anxiety disorder is going through. Green gives spot on examples of what a thought spiral looks like, of how it will sneak up on you when you’re least expecting it, the constant insecurity that inadvertently affects all family, friends, and relationships. Other than that the rest of the writing was pretty unspectacular.
Looking For Alaska is easily Greens best work and Turtles All The Way Down doesn’t even begin to compare. John Green hasn’t grown much as a storyteller. He uses the same patterns, similar characters, and follows the same story arch as all his other books. He has a formula that works for him and he hasn’t deviated from it. That been said I will always be waiting for a new John Green book, the fan in me has not been deterred yet.
“The worst part of being truly alone is you think about all the times you wished that everyone would just leave you be. Then they do, and you are left being, and you turn out to be terrible company.”
“One of the challenges with pain–physical or psychic–is that we can really only approach it through metaphor. It can’t be represented the way table or a body can. In some ways, pain is the opposite of language.”
“And we’re such language-based creatures that to some extent we cannot know what we cannot name. And so we assume it isn’t real. We refer to it with catch-all terms, like crazy or chronic pain, terms that both ostracise and minimise. The term chronic pain captures nothing of the grinding, constant, ceaseless, inescapable hurt. And the term crazy arrives at us with none of the terror and worry you live with.”
“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 do look for the, 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 think there is one that is solid. They just keep getting smaller.”
“It’s so weird, to know you’re crazy and not be able to do anything about it, you know? It’s not like you believe yourself to be normal. You know there is a problem. But you can’t figure a way through to fixing it. Because you can’t be sure, you know?”
“And even though I laughed with them, it felt like I was watching the whole thing from somewhere else, like I was watching a movie about my life instead of living it.”