Turtles All The Way Down by John Green
Published by: Dutton Books (Penguin Books), 2017
Genre: Young Adult
Indiana’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Pete’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Re-readability: We will both come back to this one at some point.
Summary: Aza Holmes deals with extreme anxiety every day of her life. She’s just trying to get through high school with her friend Daisy. When they hear about the disappearance of a local businessman and the hefty reward for finding him they set out to solve the mystery. Davis, the missing billionaire’s son, is a long lost friend of Aza, and they develop a complicated relationship.
Indiana: So I know a lot of people had mixed feelings about this one, but I really liked it. It seemed like a brave book to write, in the sense that it was a very personal storyline for John Green and one that hasn’t been greatly explored (to my knowledge at least).
Pete: Knowing that John Green has battled anxiety his whole life adds some weight to Aza’s own story. I heard Green talking about his own experiences and how they affected this story on NPR. I’m slightly surprised he waited this long to write a story about a protagonist with anxiety and OCD.
Indiana: Agreed. Although it was certainly a step away from some of his other works, Turtles All The Way Down still had that tragic-mystery plot to it. For some reason it reminded me of Paper Towns or one of his others, but I liked that the storyline wasn’t only Aza figuring out how to cope with the loss of her father, OCD, high school in general, etc. The mystery of where Davis’ father went added a bit more meat to it.
Pete: I think the mystery of his disappearance added momentum to the plot, but not in a way that felt manipulative. It was fun, particularly because of the $100,000 reward for information leading to his whereabouts. But Green ended up handling the mystery in an unexpected way that was more appropriate for the story, by the end.
Indiana: Obviously, we won’t spoil that part now. I also think Green captured a complicated friendship between Aza and Daisy. There are definitely points where I put myself in Daisy’s shoes and realized how lonely it must be to be best friends with someone who gets lost in their own head (whether it be because of an anxiety issue or OCD) frequently. There were plenty of times when Daisy drove me nuts too and seemed completely selfish, but Green kept the balance and it felt realistic.
Pete: I think at times both Daisy and Aza seemed almost too mature—but both make plenty of blunders throughout the book, and both were believable. I think Green did an excellent job with all of the characters. Everyone had their own perspective and their own share of struggles. Aza was the protagonist, but the world didn’t revolve around her. She was in the middle of a web of other people’s issues, and it felt like every character had learned something about themselves by the end.
Indiana: Absolutely. The whole book felt satisfying in the sense that every missing piece was (mostly) filled in or explained by the end.
Pete: And it wasn’t too tidy of an ending either. It just felt fitting. It’s hard to think of anything I didn’t enjoy about this book. John Green had a lot to live up to after the massive success of The Fault in Our Stars, but Turtles All the Way Down exceeds expectations.