Turtles All the Way Down by John Green


3 stars

Sixteen-year-old Aza’s on the search for missing billionaire Russel Pickett so she and her best friend Daisy can win the hundred-thousand-dollar reward. Together, they navigate their way with the help of Pickett’s son, Davis. Aza is trying her hardest to be good enough, but living with her OCD is hard for her and she’s not sure if she can live with her tightening spiral of oppressive thoughts.

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I’ve never really been a fan of Green’s writing. The only redeeming quality of TFIOS that made me give it a 4 was Hazel’s own character growth, how it made me feel, and how the story wrapped up so nicely.

I feel like nearly the same thing is happening with Turtles. I like Aza’s own character–I think the OCD representation & interpretation is very well done, and her own character went through a lot of growth, despite how she’s very introspective and doesn’t interact much, just observes.

Yet, there were things that held me back.

I’m just not really a fan of Green’s kind-of-pretentious, very metaphorical, philosophical writing style. Although he manages to create a unique voice which many writers aren’t able to do, I don’t actually like his voice. I know other people do, but it’s just not for me. Which is why I don’t really enjoy reading his novels.

Furthermore, his characters just don’t seem like real teenagers. They don’t really talk like teenager’s and I’m not just talking about Aza’s facts & quirks, which is helps shape her OCD, but the way her internal narration is phrased & some of the conversations she has are just something that a general majority wouldn’t think of talking about, especially in the way Green’s characters do.

I don’t know what teenagers Green knows, but they’re definitely not the ones at my school.

Also, I really didn’t like Daisy. Her character just doesn’t appeal to me besides the fact that she’s a Star Wars Chewie fanfiction writer. Besides that, calling Aza “Holmsey” at least once a chapter is too much for me. She’s very pushy sometimes, and she seems very blasé toward’s Aza’s OCD. Obviously you shouldn’t make a huge deal over it, but it’d be nice to see a little more concern over Aza’s worries besides the “Spiral again? Spiral.”

Aza and Daisy have a lot of issues, things I don’t think were touched on enough in the novel. When they went through rough spots that were very justified on each part, they made up and just went back to being BFFs super quick. I felt like this wasn’t healthy, especially on Aza’s part because it felt like she became friends again with Daisy more so out of need rather than true friendship. They’re just taken for granted for each other, which is where I think a lot of their problems come from. There wasn’t enough talking in their relationship and I really didn’t like their friendship dynamic & the message it sent.

The billionaire plot was almost wholly unnecessary to me. I felt like it didn’t contribute much and although it was supposed to act as the “physical” plot, it was a big let down as a lot of it was just Green making his characters discover something. They weren’t given the clues and it doesn’t really classify as a mystery. It seems somewhat extraneous was just a little too out there for me. Not the “out there” type of “out there” that opens your mind to new things, but the “out there” in which it just seems so implausible.

It was more of a plot device than an actual plot, yet the plot of Aza’s own mental health didn’t feel substantial enough to make up the whole novel. So her semi-plot plus the semi-plot of the billionaire was supposed to equal a whole plot. (You can’t add apples and oranges together to make an applorange. Math doesn’t work that way.)

On a positive note, I didn’t have the same issues with the romance as I did with TFIOS because the romance was a lot more low-key in this novel and the main characters made decisions that were good for them. They weren’t very irrational and it was more of a flirtationship rather than love.

Aza’s own mental health plot was the star of the novel and I really enjoyed reading about her struggles with her OCD. I think it was executed very well and although I don’t have personal experience with it, it seemed to be a good representation of the topic as it is #OwnVoices. Her compulsions, struggle with the medicine and therapy, etc. were all very intriguing to read about and I genuinely liked hearing about her journey with this.

But, I felt like her dynamic moment was merely a moment. It wasn’t really a conglomeration of everything happening in the novel to lead up to the climax, it was just one scene that she happened to go over the brink for and require help with. In this aspect, a lot of the novel, if not for the billionaire plot, felt like exposition on her character and what Aza is like. Her moment of change was just one scene that didn’t have very much connection with the rest of the novel–it could have very well happened in different circumstances.

Despite this, I really, really enjoyed reading about Aza’s OCD, and there were parts of the book that weren’t bad, yet there were also parts I didn’t like. This just ended mashing together into a really big OK to me, which is why it’s a solid three stars. I wasn’t super emotional after reading it, like I was with The Fault in Our Stars (just because I didn’t like Hazel and Gus’ romance very much didn’t mean I didn’t cry because Hazel was sad), which is another reason why this didn’t feel exceptional to me. I was generous with TFIOS on its ability to make me cry, its cohesiveness, and Hazel’s own character (4 stars), but I felt like Turtles just didn’t hit as many marks as TFIOS did.

This novel is a very quick read, which meant it wasn’t dragging me through 400 pages of who-knows-what and it was nearly painless to read, even if I wasn’t the biggest fan of it. It was just another John Green novel to me–very well developed FMC, so-so everything else.

If you like John Green, you’ll probably like this. If you don’t like John Green, my bet is on you continuing to follow suit.

much love, vicky

Have you read Turtles All the Way Down? What did you think?

2 thoughts on “Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

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