Following the inescapable best-selling novel turned film, “The Fault in Our Stars” author and notable internet personality John Green returns with another emotional tale in “Turtles All the Way Down.”
The novel focuses on 16-year-old Aza Holmes who, alongside her best friend Daisy, discovers that there is a $100,000 reward being offered for whoever can help find the missing billionaire, Russell Pickett. In attempts to uncover the case, Aza reunites with her childhood friend Davis Pickett.
So much more than a mystery, “Turtles” invites its readers into the mind of a young woman with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in a manner that is genuine and graceful. Aza’s thought spirals are scattered throughout the story and when they occur, one is left feeling just as distraught and helpless as she is.
For a topic that is so often misunderstood or seen as a burden, Green—who writes from personal experience—handles the sensitive subject matter of mental illness with compassion. The accounts displayed in “Turtles” are not romanticized or sugar-coated. Instead, the vulnerable moments leave readers empathizing with Aza whilst also seeing her as so much more than her illness.
This kind of complexity is spread throughout the other characters as well. Taking place in Indianapolis, the ordinary setting creates the perfect stage for Green’s articulate and philosophical teenagers—a detail that, at this point, is a staple for his stories.
With each character comes greater exploration into dilemmas that are often overlooked. Davis has a rocky relationship with his father but, because of his disappearance, he now must learn how to be there for his little brother. Daisy, despite being Aza’s opposite (chatty, flamboyant and open,) has her own challenges behind the scenes but still manages to be there for Aza even when she cannot fully understand her OCD.
Charming moments of wit and quirkiness do arise throughout Turtles. From celebratory Applebee’s visits, Chewbacca and Rey fanfiction and relatable awkward first-love interactions, the novel does give readers sighs of relief which are necessary before returning to Aza’s mind.
“Turtles’ is beautifully sincere. The interactions between Aza and her doctor as she tries to put Aza’s mind at ease, (“‘I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am’”) or Davis’s blog posts where he responds to literary quotes (“Life is a series of choices between wonders”) are just some of the abundant moments that Green sprinkles in the novel that look into the state of being human. There will surely be a moment that will resonate with any reader.