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Book Review: Turtles All The Way Down by John Green (Spoiler Free)

Monday, October 30, 2017

October 30, 2017

“True terror isn’t being scared; it’s not having a choice on the matter.” ― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

John Green did it again and this time with more metaphors! 

Turtles All The Way Down is one of those books that I will remember forever and not just because it was well written or because it was written by John Green, but because it left an imprint on me. The last time I read a book that affected me the way TATWD did was a few years back when I read  The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky for the first time. I remember being moved and feeling as if Chbosky understood the way my wind works and the same exact feelings came out of reading John Green's newest masterpiece. 

The synopsis from 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. 

I cannot speak for everyone who reads this book, but personally it made me so happy to read about a main character who has similarities with myself. Some of you may or may not know that I deal with very severe anxiety and I too fall down what Aza calls, "thought spirals". Not a lot of authors write characters who deal with mental illness so I applaud Green for doing so. 

“The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.” ― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

I liked that the book had a very direct and interesting plot that allowed the story to keep moving towards a singular goal, but it wasn't so overly dramatic that it took away from Aza's journey and how she lives her life. I think Aza is one of those characters that you can't help but fall in love with. She has flaws, but also these little gems about her that I just love. She is observant, but not too inclusive and she cares about a lot even when people may not understand that she does.

Her best friend Daisy, however, is a whole other story. If Aza is the sun, then Daisy is the moon. People say opposites attract, right? Well that is very true in the case of this friendship. Daisy feels like the mirror of Aza, but she isn't perfect either. At times she can be very self absorbed and doesn't really understand what Aza is going through, but she offers somewhat of a buffer between Aza and Aza's mind. 


There are a lot of moving parts that all make up the complex machine that is Turtles All The Way Down. One character in particular, Davis, was one that I enjoyed reading about immensely. He isn't just used as a simple love interest like a lot of characters are in YA books. He is the good part of Aza's life that she has to deal with because he isn't going anywhere. While Daisy seems to push Aza into being "normal" at times, Davis runs alongside her. 

When it comes to the mystery of the novel, I thoroughly enjoyed finding out what happened to Davis' father as the story progressed. The mystery of Russell Pickett seemed liked the background plot of the story, but it never got lost which is important. The investigation gives Aza something to hold onto as she goes through high school while dealing with her intrusive thoughts. It was almost heart breaking when Aza reached her breaking point. I think everyone needs to read this book carefully because of moments like this. Not only will you understand the character more, but I also think it will make you understand the reality of mental illness and how it shouldn't be shrugged off. 

I think another point Green really understood in this book was the relationship between Aza and her mother. Parents try anything and everything to protect their kids, but when it is something like a mental illness where you can't punch back, it can be maddening. I know my family can sometimes struggle with how my mind works. I can hear it in their voices and see it on their faces as it is difficult to explain what is happening. I think Green hits the nail on how Aza communicated with her mother and the way her mother is constantly making sure her daughter is feeling okay, is exactly how it is, at least for me. 

“Everyone wanted me to feed them that story—darkness to light, weakness to strength, broken to whole. I wanted it, too.” ― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

And even if you don't deal with mental illness or don't know anyone who does, I think you'll be able to connect with this book. Losing control is a theme in this book and I know a lot of people feel as if they cannot control things in their life so I can almost guarantee that this book will give most readers a new outlook on life. Oh ,and if you are expecting turtles to be the main focus of the book, well you may be a tad disappointed. There is a major reference, but nothing too abundant. 


I give this book 5/5 stars and I believe this will become a book that people read for a long time. I think it will be brought up in discussions and read in schools (I hope) and more people will read about Aza and learn more about what it is like to be trapped within your own mind. I have to thank John Green for writing such a powerful and funny and different book. Turtles All The Way Down is definitely one of a kind! 

Happy Reading!

- Haley 

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