Book Review: Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

Book Review: Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

Francesca Fierro

You’ve probably already heard the news, but John Green’s Turtles All The Way Down recently came out and OH BOY WAS I CONFLICTED. I mean, John Green is like the weird eyebrow trend. Some people love his books, some people think they’re honestly a bit odd, and some people will roll their eyes and exclaim (loudly) “I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT’S STILL A THING WHY DO PEOPLE TALK ABOUT IT?” I mean, The Fault In Our Stars was published in 2012, my friends. That’s a looong time ago. Time to put away the ok?ok. sweatshirts/bags/phone cases. No offense, but the literary community is onto bigger and better things.

I must admit that I did not pick up the book with high hopes. To me, Green’s books are mainly about two eccentric, brilliant, tortured teenagers who give off a very angsty almost hipster vibe. An nonsensical quest of some kind is always launched, with overbearing philosophical messages at every turn. I feel like a character can’t tie his shoe laces without provoking a deep, probing analysis on life and our existence. As I tied my laces together, I marveled at how symbolic this gesture was, the mere act of fastening something so overused, so taken for granted… How many things in life do we blindly stumble through without ever pausing and recognizing their impact? Our shoes carry us through so much, they support us through thick and thin. Yet we remain oblivious to the humble laces that ensure their existence.

And so it goes.

And though there were definitely those philosophical moments where the reader was immersed in some seriously deep contemplation, I found them to be interesting and beautiful, not confusing. The protagonist, Aza, is plagued by intrusive thoughts that lead to thought spirals that consume her life. Her mind is constantly being bombarded to the point where she feels like she is not even real. If she does not control her thoughts, how does she know she isn’t fictional?

“But I was beginning to learn that your life is a story told about you, not one that you tell.

Of course, you pretend to be the author. You have to. You think, I now choose to go to lunch, when that monotone beep rings from on high at 12:37. But really, the bell decides. You think you’re the painter, but you’re the canvas.”

It was equally fascinating and terrifying to be inside her mind. I could never imagine living through even 5 minutes of her internal chatter, the way that her life is delicately balancing on the cusp of a black hole at all times. Green himself has revealed that he had drawn on personal experience when narrating Aza’s story, and he disproves many stigmas about mental illness with unflinching clarity.

Aza was real and raw;  her disease brought out equally the very best and worst parts of her. The romance is very cute but true- there is no sugarcoating the difficulties of forming intimate relationships with OCD. Overall I would heartily recommend this book-whatever you think of John Green-because it is a story of courage, love, and friendship, a story of navigating the waters of this turbulent ride called Life, about breaking relationships and building them up again, about forgiveness, the universe, and the very essence of who we are. It will leave you sad but in the best possible way, the way where you can hope for the bigger and better things tomorrow. The ending is bittersweet but Aza’s final thought about goodbyes is very fitting:

“Nobody says goodbye unless they want to see you again.”