This year bestselling author John Green released his much-anticipated brand new novel Turtles All The Way Down. John Green’s books have sold over 45 million copies worldwide. The first one of his books that I read was The Fault in Our Stars after my friend recommended it to me. After that I was hooked. When I found out that a new John Green book was in the works, I couldn’t wait to read it.
A 16-year-old named Aza Holmes reaches out to an old friend when his father, a fugitive billionaire, is announced missing. Through the encouragement of her fearless best friend, Daisy, Aza gets caught up in the investigation and in turn becomes closer to the missing fugitive’s son, Davis. Davis and his younger brother struggle with the disappearance of their father and Aza wants nothing more than to help them. But, her obsessive thoughts relentlessly dominate her mind and take over her actions.
Turtles All The Way Down is an intriguing title which didn’t give anything away about the actual material, but it is (as expected and hoped for) a wonderful John Green metaphor. Metaphors may help you to think about something more deeply, and since teenagers in a coming-of-age setting don’t often make a lot of sense, Green layers their emotions into an enigma of adolescence.
“Because it’s turtles all the way down” – p.245
I always find John Green’s characters to be very real. The central character in Turtles All The Way Down, Aza, struggles with anxiety and obsessive thoughts, particularly based around contamination and infection. John Green’s own struggles with mental health were a big influence on the story.
Throughout the story, Aza says she doesn’t feel that she has control over her own self, that she doesn’t know whether her thoughts and her body are actually hers, and her fears that she could be fiction. Green writes from Aza’s point of view. When reading Turtles All The Way Down, the readers thoughts become Aza’s thoughts, and the sense of isolation is incessant for much of the story. It provides a unsettling window into a world of anxiety, a very poignant depiction of the trials of mental illness.
The phrase ‘turtles all the way down’ is an expression of infinite regress, a chain that will never come to an end. All the world’s answers will only invoke more questions. In the context of the story, Aza is looking for answers about her own being, but our being is what we make it. Perhaps we’ll never understand everything about life, but we don’t need to know everything in order to live a fulfilled one.
In many ways, Aza is having an existential crisis. But, not just about the purpose or meaning of her life, but of her physical being and ownership of her own self. I love how much John Green’s stories make you think about life and, perhaps, the many ways that people see it.
Another important aspect of his stories is both friendships and relationships, including family relationships. A portion of Turtles All The Way Down focuses on Aza’s friendship with Daisy. Interestingly, their differences (which are vast) bring them closer together. Davis accepts Aza because Aza accepts Davis, who has his own insecurities. Davis’ younger brother, Noah, shields himself from the pain of his father’s disappearance by acting out as a typical teen (maybe because he wants to feel like a typical teen), but really he is being crushed by neglect. A variety of themes are explored in Turtles All The Way Down.
All my thoughts in this post are my own interpretations of the story. I would be really interested to read your thoughts if you’ve also read the story, so please do leave me a comment. I really enjoyed reading it and getting to know another John Green story.