Book Reviews

Book Review: Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 5 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes
Favorite Quotes: “The way he talked about thoughts was the way I experienced them—not as a choice but as a destiny. Not a catalog of my consciousness, but a refutation of it.”

“When my thoughts spiraled, I was in the spiral, and of it. And I wanted to tell him that the idea of being in a feeling gave language to something I couldn’t describe before, created a form for it, but I couldn’t figure out how to say any of that out loud.”

“Me: You’re not your money.
Him: Then what am I? What is anyone?
Me: I is the hardest word to define.
Him: Maybe you are what you can’t be.
Me: Maybe…


Summary (via Goodreads): 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. 

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimedshares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.


My Review: Turtles All the Way Down is a heart-warming and real representation of the infinity-like state of being that is anxiety and the irresistible, automatic rituals of obsessive compulsive disorders. John Green offers a unique perspective, awareness and approach to these mental health disorders that Aza, the main character, experiences.

Aza is a fantastic character and individual. She uses metaphor after metaphor – stacked under one giant umbrella of a metaphor – in order to describe internally and vocally the anxious thoughts that have plagued her for unknown years (always it seems) and the things she must do to satisfy those all-powerful thoughts. Her narrative is incredibly raw and, in my opinion, an accurate representation of what the inside of a truly anxious mind looks and feels like. Aza is tough despite her inability to fight these thoughts that gnaw at her daily. She does her best to live with anxiety and get better, but struggles with who she is and what “I” means – physically, mentally, emotionally and biologically.

I didn’t care for Daisy, Aza’s best friend. Daisy is more reckless, self-serving and irritating than anything. Her ultimate reason for her behavior and “coping” methods for dealing with Aza seemed juvenile and downright mean. I do give her credit for trying to maintain the friendship – Aza’s current level anxiety isn’t something a teenager is exactly prepared for, which Aza acknowledges – but still…

I liked Davis but he’s kind of just there. His family situation is the vehicle for Aza’s story to progress. There’s not much character growth for him, just a coming-to-terms with the unexpected and crazy new life his father has left him and his little brother to navigate.

I also liked that the inciting incident is a runaway billionaire fugitive. Strange. Kind of at odds with Aza’s story. But a hook that keeps you interested.

The title does come up in the book and offers an “explanation” of why the book is called what it is. I get it in terms of the context of the conversation it occurs in. And the random orange spiral on the cover makes sense now – simple and effective. But, overall, I’m still confused about the turtle aspect.

This is the first book I’ve read by John Green and I absolutely loved it. The writing is so him – creative, intelligent, quirky and honest.

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