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 acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza's story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.--INSIDE FLAP.
In John Green's Turtles All the Way Down, we meet Aza, a sixteen year old consumed by anxiety and obsessive compulsive thoughts, feeling forced by her own brain to focus on the bacteria that surround her and the bacteria she knows are inside her, an absolute all-consuming compulsion that compels her to reopen a cut on her fingerpad over and over to make sure it is clean and not infected.
When a billionaire goes missing, on the run because of shady things he's done with his money, Aza finds herself and her best friend drawn into the mystery, because of the reward, but also because of Aza's past connection with the fugitive's son, Davis. As Aza is drawn into the seemingly infinite and and completely overwhelming spirals of her own mind, she struggles to hold onto herself and the relationships she has formed.
Aza is so so painfully and amazingly real. Green has done a masterful and important thing by making her the first person narrator of her own story. I needed and need Aza, as I am sure so many readers did and do. I picked this book up not only because of glowing recommendations from people I care about, but also because I needed it. I am in the midst of my own work on my own anxiety disorder and depression, especially following the loss of my beloved dog, and while it is nowhere near where Aza finds herself, there is still so much in the book I could relate to, so much I needed to hear put into words. Green understands it so well because he's been there, and is still there, and this allows him to write with such honesty. He tells a story that needs to be told, because it makes all of us out there who can relate feel and know we are not alone. And that there is nothing to be ashamed of, no need to hide--a best-selling author has put out a best-selling book that tells our truth--and who we are is important, and valid, and makes us no less than anyone around us.
It is so rare to find a book that you keep nodding your head along to, that you feel every word in your heart, that resonates so strongly, and that makes you feel uplifted in your soul. This was one of those books for me. I recommend it with my whole heart, and with my spiraling, but beautiful, mind.
John Green has previously demonstrated masterful ability to capture the adolescent psyche; here, the storylines of amateur sleuthing and romance are appealing and fun to read. But in Turtles all the Way Down, Green also writes from compelling personal experience, showing what it’s like to live with OCD and its impact both on the individual and everyone they care about. Much of this story is told from inside Aza’s head, complete with competing internal monologues. When Aza begins to lose her grip, Green delivers a dramatic and emotional account of OCD’s complete control over Aza, and it’s like you’re right there in the middle of it with her.
With Turtles all the Way Down, John Green is doing important consciousness-raising about the crippling nature of OCD, anxiety, and other mental illnesses which are too often hidden from view. Reading this has made me more aware of anxiety-related behaviors in people I care about, and more sympathetic to what may be going on inside of them.
"I like short poems with weird rhyme schemes, because that's what life is like."
Aza is sixteen and suffers from OCD. She and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, happen upon some information relating to the disappearance of a local billionaire and decide to investigate. After all, there is a $100K reward for information leading to his whereabouts and subsequent prosecution for illegal financial activity. Their adventure leads them to the billionaire's son, Davis, who has been left to care for his younger brother. The plot shifts then; the search for the billionaire father is somewhat tabled and the developing relationships among these young people becomes much more the focus. The mystery of the missing man lurks in the background and serves as an anchor around which the story can spiral but this is not a mystery story. It's a rich story of life as a teenager and a compassionate portrayal of mental illness.
All these teenagers are smart. All of them have lost parents. And all of them are good-hearted and all of them are confused by the crazy adult world swirling around them. Aza's narrative voice is compelling, her terror at the thought of succumbing to some terrible infection and her inability to stop. thinking. about. it! is so brilliantly presented by Green. Daisy is clever and direct and hilarious. She's exactly the best friend anyone would want to have. And Davis is a lonely young man isolated from the world by his father's wealth.
I couldn't put this book down. I absolutely loved it.
The book is extremely well written and entertaining. There are fun facts at every corner and quotes to make your think. I always love a book that makes me want to stop and copy down paragraphs, ideas, or quotes to remember to go back to as much as I want to keep reading. I just hope it won’t be too long before johns next book. Any hope for a non-YA book?
Well, first of all, it's John Green. So, if you have read and enjoyed more than one of his books, you'll probably want to read this one, too. I'm a fan, obviously -- but I also think that this one is perhaps Green's most honest work to date. One criticism that I've read of Green's work is that the characters don't speak like normal teens, but I didn't feel that that was the case in this book -- sure, they have the occasional esoteric discussion of human consciousness and great literature, but that didn't overwhelm the story for me, in this case. I also appreciate the way Green handles the main character's mental illness. Highly recommended.
The primary plot driver is extremely unimportant, so there won't be a lot of twists and events. What exists is the thin thread of mystery--the lugubriously rich father of an old childhood friend disappears to escape indictment. Our two heroines hope to find him and earn a reward. Our POV character is not the main driver of this story--that's her friend. But it retains the same peculiarity and quirkiness that Green is good at. It's closer to "Paper Towns", but minus the insufferable pining over a crazy girl. Green also fixes the mistake where his teenagers speak way over their vocabulary range, like college freshman milking every damn page from a thesaurus to sound smart on an English paper (e.g. Augustus Waters).
It's more of a character study, like "Looking for Alaska" was. In that, the pathology was someone with an unredeemable crush on a real-life MPDG. Her, it's someone broken by anxiety and mental illness, self-centered (not because of ego, but because OCD does that to a person) and unable to have relationships because of that. Green says that the best thing you can get from books is to "imagine humans complexly" and I think he does just that in a package that's fun to open.
Will it become a classic? I wish I could say it's likely, but I wouldn't believe that myself. It probably won't make you cry, but it will make you understand. And I think that's a better achievement.
“Maybe you don’t chose what’s in the picture, but you decide on the frame.”
Turtles All the Way Down is the story of Aza, a high school girl with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or ODC. Her OCD manifests itself in the form of obsessive thought spirals. Once she starts thinking about certain things, she goes into a thought spiral that can be nearly impossible to come back out of. They mostly center on imagining that harmful bacteria has somehow gotten into her body and will lead to her getting clostridium difficile (C. diff) and eventually dying.
When Russell Pickett, a billionaire who lives in the same town as Aza, goes missing, Aza and her best friend Daisy set out to search for clues regarding his disappearance, hoping that they will be able to collect the $100,000 reward being offered for information leading to his whereabouts. Along the way, Aza renews her childhood friendship with Russell’s son Davis.
Russell’s disappearance in the book is secondary to how the book explores how Aza’s OCD affects her relationship with herself and with her friends. Each one is a struggle in its own way. I’ve read things from several people with OCD who say that John writes the internal dialogue of someone with OCD in the most accurate way they’ve every read. Even though I don’t personally suffer from it, I can see why they would say that. I felt like I had a much better understanding of the mental illness after reading this book. John has OCD himself so I’m sure that’s one of the reasons why he could be so descriptive with Aza’s thoughts.
I highly recommend this book, as well as pretty much anything by John Green. Read his books, watch his vlogbrothers videos, and listen to the Dear Hank and John podcast. Become obsessed like me!
I was struck most of all by the bit that said that the O is the most debilitating part of OCD, but because it's invisible, we tend to focus on the C. I think after reading this book, I understand that a little better than I used to.
ps If you've ever lived in Indianapolis, and especially if you've ever walked Pogue's Run, this book is even sweeter.
Turtles All the Way Down follows Aza, a high school student living with obsessive compulsive disorder, as she attempts to cope with her mental illness while solving the mystery of a local missing billionaire (whose son Davis just happens to be an old acquaintance of hers). This leads to some complicated situations- due to her OCD Aza becomes very self-absorbed, affecting her friendships. Her newfound relationship with Davis is compromised by the fact that he believes Aza has only reached out to him in hopes of claiming the $100,000 reward for finding some information about his father’s disappearance.
Turtles All the Way Down definitely maintains the “John Green” style. One thing I learned during my John Green binge of 2013 is that he certainly has a format by which he writes; there is some teenage romance going on, and more than one of his novels has featured some sort of mystery that the main character needs to solve (I got some strong Paper Towns vibes while reading this). That being said, I enjoy John Green’s style and Turtles All the Way Down is no exception. In fact, in my personal ranking of John Green novels, this one would fall near the top of the list.
Some of the things about this book that I loved: Aza’s name (which her parents picked because they wanted her to have a unique name); the inclusion of the tuatara, which is a pet lizard that the missing billionaire left his entire estate too (and even hired his own personal zoologist to care for- it is now my life goal to have a personal zoologist); and all of the slightly pretentious aspects of this novel (which also appear in many of John Green’s other novels- I know some people dislike this, but it makes me feel a little bit profound while reading his books).
What I didn’t like quite as much: Aza drove me a little bit crazy throughout the story. Often, she would act in a way that is not how I would respond to that situation and I would think “come on girl, get it together, act normal!” This is not a criticism of the writing or story of Turtles All the Way Down- I actually think that this was intentional as it involves Aza’s experience with her mental illness. This is also not the first time I have had these feelings about characters in books/movies/television shows (I gave up on Arrested Development after two season because I Just. Couldn’t. Handle. Stupid. People.) but it really does impact my enjoyment of whatever type of media I am consuming.
Overall, I give this book 4/5 stars. I think that if you have enjoyed other books by John Green, then you will also enjoy this one (and if you haven’t read anything by John Green, what are you doing-get reading). John Green is one of my favorite YA authors, and I was impressed by his latest novel.
I know some people absolutely love this book but it’s just okay for me. I’m not familiar with mental problems, anxiety disorders or OCD. I did find out through a Google search that Aza is actually based from what JG had gone through (or is still going through). I must admit that Aza’s inner turmoil was hard for me to take (I have to take breaks each chapter), but it definitely opened up my mind to this kind of illness. And yes, I do like the Star Wars reference and Daisy’s interesting version of it.