REVIEW: “Turtles All the Way Down” shows John Green at his best


Courtesy John Green Official Facebook page.

Dylan Wright, A&E Editor

Five years after his hit novel “The Fault in Our Stars,” John Green released “Turtles All the Way Down.”

The book follows Aza Holmes, a young teenager suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and her journey through high school. Along the way, she strikes up a romantic relationship with an old friend when his millionaire father goes missing. The story explores teenage friendship and relationships while dealing with mental health issues.

Written in first person, “Turtles” immediately gives the reader a sense of who Holmes is, demonstrating how she interacts with her best friend Daisy Ramirez and her boyfriend Davis Pickett while dealing with a crippling case of OCD.

Holmes’ conversations with people are often drowned out by her own thoughts as they spiral toward the worst case scenario. Holmes is an interesting protagonist, and it is sometimes unsettling to be trapped with her inside her head. Green’s prose captures the voice of Holmes perfectly.

While the writing gets pretentious at times, it does go with the first person point of view of Holmes. She is a character that constantly over-analyzes, and the anxiety of that shows through in her high schooler philosophy. Everything is life or death in high school. It just so happens that Holmes believes that a little more strongly than most high schoolers.

The depiction of mental health in “Turtles All the Way Down” is what makes the book rise above typical young adult fare. The reader experiences Holmes’s thought process in impactful and relatable ways.

Green, who suffers from OCD himself, clearly channeled some of his experiences into this character. While that can often lead to a stale character, his characterization of Holmes is entirely fleshed out and real. Like many of Green’s other books, the story is sometimes heartbreaking, especially in moments where Holmes cannot properly communicate with the people she truly cares about.

However, “Turtles All the Way Down” is far from a perfect book. The story itself is a bit far fetched, as the main crux of the plot is pushed forward by the search for a runaway millionaire.

This takes away from the brutal realism of Holmes’s experiences, and weakens the impact at times. Had the story taken a more down-to-earth approach to the narrative, the book would have been better off.

Despite this, it’s an important book for any teenager that may find high school overwhelming or may suffer from anxiety or OCD like Holmes. It is an honest portrayal of the struggles of these conditions, and doesn’t pull any punches in terms of the impact they can have on a young life.

While the main plot leaves the realm of realism, the character of Aza Holmes is a good character for young adults to relate to and empathize with.

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