Turtles All the Way Down, A new novel by John Green
October 10th 2017 and Turtles All the Way Down marked the return of YA powerhouse John Green. Green’s previous novels include Printz-Award Winner Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and the international bestseller The Fault In Our Stars.
Turtles All the Way Down follows sixteen-year-old Aza Holmes as she does her best to be a good friend, a good daughter, and a good student, all while juggling the thought spirals that accompany her OCD. Aza and her loyal and bold best friend Daisy find themselves investigating the mysterious disappearance of local billionaire Russell Pickett, the father of Aza’s childhood friend Davis.
After five years, fans of Green, including me, have a new book on their hands — and it does not disappoint.
The triumph of Turtles is its incredible ability to transport the reader into the mind of Aza and to illuminate and validate the struggles of individuals with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In the same way that The Fault in Our Stars treated teens with cancer as real, angry, impulsive and wise and naive all at the same time, so too does Turtles All the Way Down teens with OCD. Yes, Aza has looked up the Wikipedia page for Clostridium difficile hundreds of times and yes, she has opened the callused skin on her middle finger ever since she was a child. But she also loves Harold, her sixteen-year-old Toyota Corolla, and she sings along to her favorite boy band songs. She worries about her friendship with Daisy and her future at college (just like all of us). She also gets to be a human being.
Turtles has done what great literature has always strived to do, bring its readers into an experience that isn’t there own. I don’t remember the last time a novel has done that for me. Green’s examination of mental illness is unflinching, scary, but completely and utterly honest. We, as readers, get to see Aza’s thought process as she gives into her compulsions. We experience her “intrusives,” the thoughts that tighten as she follows them down. If you are not in control of your thoughts who is? Who are you when you aren’t fully in control of your behavior or thoughts?
It is with satisfaction but sadness that I turned the last page of Turtles All the Way Down. But as Green writes, “… no one ever says good-bye unless they want to see you again.” Goodbye, Turtles All the Way Down. I look forward to my next reread.