After five long years of anticipation, John Green, New York Times bestselling author of “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Looking for Alaska,” “Paper Towns,” and “An Abundance of Katherines,” has finally released another novel. “Turtles All the Way Down” is a contemporary novel unlike any of Green’s previous books. It focuses largely on the internal struggle of the main character rather than the outward struggles portrayed more intensely in some of his other books.
Sixteen-year-old Aza Holmes was never going to investigate the mystery of the fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there is a $100,000 reward on the line, and her best friend Daisy has convinced her to join the investigation. Aza used to be friends with Pickett’s son Davis when they were little, and during the investigation a romance begins to form.
Through all of this, Aza struggles with being a good daughter to her mother, a good friend to Daisy, a good student and maybe even a good girlfriend. She tries, but her anxiety holds her back. It is constantly affecting her life, worming its way into situations where it can be a huge burden.
Green does an incredible job portraying Aza’s anxiety. Her anxiety infiltrates her thoughts at almost every moment. It distracts her from homework, conversations and the people around her. Green describes her anxiety as “a tightening spiral.” Her thoughts spiral inward, and as she tries to escape them, her thoughts only close in tighter on her mind, trapping her in a never ending gyre.
As the reader envelopes themselves in the story, they can feel the weight of Aza’s anxiety themselves. “Turtles” does an incredible job making the reader understand the mental health issues that Aza is forced to deal with.
She has absolutely no control over her thoughts and Green portrays this to the audience from the very first page. As the story progresses, the original adventure of finding the fugitive billionaire fades away as Aza’s mental state worsens. The story focuses more on Aza’s struggle as she slips deeper into the endless depths of her mind.
The way that Green portrays Aza’s anxiety is extremely eye-opening. On multiple occasions Aza tries to explain to her therapist how she feels and why she acts the way she does about certain things. For example, Aza won’t take her medication to make her anxiety better, but she explains that, in her mind, taking the medication will make her a different person and she doesn’t want her body to be taken over by something else.
Aza’s main fear seems to be that she thinks that she isn’t in control of her own body and life. She thinks her mind has been taken over by her thoughts. She is also afraid of her body being taken over by bacteria. These fears that may seem irrational to someone else are extremely prevalent in her life.
“Turtles All the Way Down” is truly eye-opening. Readers become aware of what it is really like to have a mental health issue. This book is especially great for teenagers to read, as many of them are going through similar experiences themselves. Anyone who loves Green’s other novels will be sure to fall in love with this one too.