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Turtles All the Way Down

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John Green, the #1 bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars is back, with a book hailed by the Guardian as 'a new modern classic'. 'It's quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.' Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there's a hundred thousand dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett's son, Davis. Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza's story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship. First edition includes an exclusive jacket poster featuring some of John's most brilliant and memorable quotes.

A new modern classic * Guardian * A wrenching and revelatory novel * The New York Times * Imaginative . . . affecting . . . unforgettable * Heat * Written with a sure grasp of the thought processes of teenagers . . . Another winner * The Sunday Times * Tender, wise, and hopeful * The Wall Street Journal * Green's most authentic and most ambitious work to date * Bustle * An existential teenage scream * Vox * Turtles delivers a lesson that we so desperately need right now: Yes, it is okay not to be okay . . . John Green has crafted a dynamic novel that is deeply honest, sometimes painful, and always thoughtful, delivered with the characteristic charm the author is known for. John Green, welcome back. We missed you. * Mashable * A thoughtful look at mental illness and a debilitating obsessive-compulsive disorder that doesn't ask but makes you feel the constant struggles of its main character . . . Turtles explores the definition of happy endings, whether love is a tragedy or a failure, and a universal lesson for us all: 'You work with what you have'. * USA Today * A full-on emotional bleed-out . . . John Green hasn't created a book as much as he's created a place - a place to have your most indefinable and grotesque thoughts articulated, to ponder the disconnected reality you experience . . . No matter where you are on the spiral - and we're all somewhere - Green's novel makes the trip, either up or down, a less solitary experience. * The Globe and Mail *

304 pages, Paperback

First published October 10, 2017

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About the author

John Green

363 books303k followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

John Green's first novel, Looking for Alaska, won the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award presented by the American Library Association. His second novel, An Abundance of Katherines, was a 2007 Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His next novel, Paper Towns, is a New York Times bestseller and won the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best YA Mystery. In January 2012, his most recent novel, The Fault in Our Stars, was met with wide critical acclaim, unprecedented in Green's career. The praise included rave reviews in Time Magazine and The New York Times, on NPR, and from award-winning author Markus Zusak. The book also topped the New York Times Children's Paperback Bestseller list for several weeks. Green has also coauthored a book with David Levithan called Will Grayson, Will Grayson, published in 2010. The film rights for all his books, with the exception of Will Grayson Will Grayson, have been optioned to major Hollywood Studios.

In 2007, John and his brother Hank were the hosts of a popular internet blog, "Brotherhood 2.0," where they discussed their lives, books and current events every day for a year except for weekends and holidays. They still keep a video blog, now called "The Vlog Brothers," which can be found on the Nerdfighters website, or a direct link here.

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Profile Image for emma.
1,868 reviews54.5k followers
September 24, 2018
this full review is now POSTED at https://emmareadstoomuch.wordpress.co...!!

john green fangirls, do your worst. you do not scare me. i am definitely not extremely frightened and emotionally fragile right now.


Well, well, well. John Green. We have to stop meeting like this.

By “like this,” I mean: you write a book, I read it, I hate it. Wash, rinse, repeat. Every time! This is lucky number seven! I don’t think it’s working all that well for either of us. For me, at least, it’s definitely getting a little old.

But here we are. I keep using the weird brag/justification of “Yes, I hate John Green, and no, it’s not because I haven’t read (insert The Fault in Our Stars or Looking for Alaska or Paper Towns here) yet, because yes, I’ve read all of his books, and yes, the reviews are in, and yes, it was absolutely all bad.”

Except for the “the reviews are in” part. Because I haven’t really reviewed any of them. I wasn’t on Goodreads in 2006 my dear boy. It has Not been a decade of these shenanigans.

And so, as I continue to use that line of defense against his wildly loyal, unaging group of geeky manic pixie dream girls in training, I continue to argue myself into reading his books. And oh boy do I suffer in return.

This is, unfortunately, not a The Fault in Our Stars type situation. (Never thought I’d be disappointed by something differing from The Fault in Our Stars!!)

I can’t just write a review of this that is, speaking generously, 92% me quoting the book and being like “hahaha can you believe this is just a normal average sentence in this totally real book.” (Although there will be a lot of that because HOW CAN I RESIST. I’m not a superhero.)

This book is not just John Green using cancer as an excuse to make teens fall in love with each other in a way that is profound and sad, or John Green using a missing person to make teens fall in love with each other in a way that is profound and sad, or...using another missing person to make teens fall in love with each other in a way that is profound and sad.

Oh sh*t, oh wait, this book DOES use a missing person to make teens fall in love with each other in a way that is profound and sad. Hahahaha. What is it with John Green and missing people??? We’re Looking for Alaska. We’re tearing this Paper Town apart to find Margo.

Hang on, I’m getting a phone call. What? It’s official? I’m the funniest person on Earth? I knew that tearing paper/Paper Towns joke would push me over the edge. Sorry, first runner-up John Mulaney!

So. Back to the point I lost roughly a thousand years ago. Even though this book DOES contain some terrible overwrought pretentious writing, and a manic pixie dream romance, and a missing person, that’s not its Thing. Like the Thing of The Fault in Our Stars is cancer/death/sadness, the Thing of this book is mental illness. Specifically a combination of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Which John Green has. This is #ownvoices for anxiety/OCD! Rad.

It makes the whole review-writing thing a tad more complicated though. Because, like. I didn’t like this book. Not because of the mental illness rep. But I can’t just exile the whole book to Garbage Island anymore. Because the rep is good.

My life is so hard, you guys.

The fangirls are going to come for me so bad.

The mental illness rep was good. But also it was still a John Green book and I strongly disliked the process of reading it and, in fact, was forced into a reading slump so hard that it feels like while I was reading this my brain was gently removed from my skull and replaced with a small mound of cotton balls.

I have still not recovered.

Let’s do some categories, yeah?

Also: this book needs a huge huge huge huge huge huge HUGE trigger warning for self-harm. I don’t know why I haven’t seen that mentioned more. I don’t consider self-harm a trigger for myself and I still had to take breaks while reading this.



There isn’t one.

This book has excellent mental illness rep, yes, but it is still a John Green book and that means there is not a plot so much as there is “let’s listen to the every thought of some very unbearable and introspective teens for a few hundred pages, shall we?”

All of this overwhelming pretension and analysis and over description of basic inanimate objects comes at a cost, and that cost is a little something I like to call “not being excruciatingly bored.”

I read this book on Overdrive, which has that handy-dandy little feature where you can see the proportion of the book you’ve read in a neat lil percentage. By the 5% mark of this book, we have read exclusively about a single lunch period in the life of our protagonist, Aza, which, we are told eight hundred times, is 37 minutes long.

Five percent.

Thirty-seven minutes.

I’m just going to close out this section here because there is no way I can make it any clearer than that.


Even though this book feels infinitely long, it is actually only 288 pages. Which is why it’s impressive that this sh*t not only feels unrelentingly verbose, but also unbelievably repetitive.

For example, one of my favorite inexplicable tropes crops up about nine hundred and seventeen times in this book: Teenage Characters With Sh*tty Cars That They Humorously Name And Love With All Their Adolescent Hearts. What a wild cliché!

Our protagonist, Aza, has a dinky little car named Harold. This is one of the only jokes in this whole book, and let me tell you there is some dark sh*t and the comic relief is NEEDED. (This is me attempting to be generous as I wonder why John Green could possibly have included so many iterations of the exact same joke.)

It’s not just the Harold joke. It’s also the setting of Applebee’s, where our characters go one hundred times, the only joke being the exact same premise of how funny it is that they are there, using a - hahaha you guys get ready, I really don’t think you’re prepared for how funny this is - a COUPON!

The Applebee’s staff hates them, guys. I mean, are you serious? A coupon? In an establishment often predicated on deals and savings? Get out of here, you zany teens. You’re too much.

Similar to this is the unrelenting onslaught of Details About A Rich Person’s House. Davis, the son of Missing Person Who Makes Teens Realize Things About Love, and also Subject Of Occasional Love When Necessary For Pretentious Pondering, and also Source Of Much Of Pretentious Pondering, is rich as hell. The (innumerable) descriptions of his home sound like 13-year-old me trying to depict teen pop sensation Justin Bieber’s home for a fanfiction I would never even research, let alone complete.

I’ll spare you the wondering: I was not good at writing fanfiction.


Here’s the thing. I know a lot of people love John Green for his writing. I am not one of those people, obviously, for the established reason that I find him unbearably pretentious, but many of them exist.

But like. Why, guys? Why do you love him? This book could be a master class in the use of the passive voice. I use the passive voice all the time, but a) every professor and teacher I’ve ever had has kindly asked me to f*cking stop immediately, and b) I’M NEITHER A WRITING PROFESSIONAL NOR RENOWNED.

But enough of that. Let me just do a liiiiittle bit of quoting. Just to show you guys that I’m right about how pretentious and overwrought and unnecessary it all is. It’ll be a Google Translate type situation: I’ll write the phrase in normal human English, and then we’ll translate it into John Greenian.

Ceiling lights -> “fluorescent cylinders spewing aggressively artificial light.”

He drove faster -> “He accelerated with the gentle serenity of the Buddhist Zen master who knows nothing really needs to be done quickly.”

Fun, right?

Also, here’s my FAVORITE THING. So there’s this passage in the book when Aza goes, “I was out of school for two weeks. Fourteen days of my life reduced to one sentence, because I can’t describe anything that happened during those days.”

So how many sentences do you think came after that? Zero, right? Aza clearly says the whole thing was reduced to one sentence.



It’s followed by several paragraphs of description.

Sometimes it’s just too easy.

Anyway, I could keep quoting and quoting these increasingly unbelievable sentences but what would be the point? I hate the way this is written and some people love it and here we are. At an impasse. Not even a bad impasse. (Here’s where I should have said some sh*t like And yet not even an impasse worth solving - an impasse of opinion, which is also called life, or something like that. This is all, to me, sentiments alternately ordinary and slightly off disguised under the massive weight of gaudy phrasing.)


Here’s one of my favorite categories! Tiny things that bother me almost as much as the bigger things some might say “actually matter.”

Like, for example, in what world is a security guard responsible for the retrieval of Dr Peppers for quirky teens? (Which is also coincidentally the name of the charity I’m starting, or at least my band.) That security guard’s salary had best be bigger than God’s.

Also, this is literally so over-described that John Green forgets his own descriptions. “He was wearing his school polo shirt and khaki pants.” Next paragraph: “He had skinny, sunburned legs and knobby knees.” SORRY AZA, DID HE TAKE HIS GODDAMN PANTS OFF? DID HE? I’M SORRY, I MUST HAVE MISSED THAT BETWEEN DISCUSSION OF AN IMMORTAL REPTILE OR WHATEVER. PLEASE GO ON.

And I just want to put this passage here and see if anyone else craves the sweet sweet oblivion of unconsciousness after reading it: “The most recent quote was, ‘He who doesn’t fear death dies only once,’ which I thought was maybe some veiled reference to his father, but I couldn’t unpack it. (For the record, he who does fear death also dies only once, but whatever.)”

Okay actually I can’t just let it sit there. Are you KIDDING ME. Is this a deliberate misinterpretation of the quote??? Is this on-purpose dumb??? OBVIOUSLY THE MAN WHO FEARS DEATH DIES MORE THAN ONCE BECAUSE HE CAN’T STOP IMAGINING HIS OWN DEATH! To use your own words, John, it’s a goddamn metaphor! It makes sense to put the killing thing between your teeth or what f*cking ever but that eloquent af classic piece of prose is nonsense to you??

Sometimes even I’m surprised by how much this stuff grinds my gears.


A lot of this book lacks the let’s-talk-about-the-evolution-of-the-universe-and-then-the-afterlife-if-there’s-time-to-spare mentality of most John Green teenage dialogue, but it does Not lack the polished, complete thoughts with that exactly one (1) witticism to every two (2) statements ratio.

Let’s just put some quotes in.

“Last night I lay on the frozen ground, staring up at a clear sky only somewhat ruined by light pollution and the fog produced by my own breath - no telescope or anything, just me and the wide-open sky - and I kept thinking about how sky is a singular noun, as if it’s one thing. But the sky isn’t one thing. The sky is everything. And last night, it was enough.” Like, have you ever in your godforsaken life read a more perfectly, quintessentially John Green passage than that one? It’s too good.

“At the end, when walking was work, we sat on a bench looking down at the river, which was running low, and she told me that beauty was mostly a matter of attention. ‘The river is beautiful because you are looking at it,’ she said.”

Here’s a clip of some texting convo for y’all:
“Him: Then what am I? What is anyone?
Me: I is the hardest word to define.
Him: Maybe you are what you can’t not be.

You know. How teens text!

And then, just when you’re thinking “oh, maybe John Green just does pretentious dialogue now. Maybe we’ve escaped the unrelenting yoke of the quirkiness of his characters, the unbearable cringe-inspiring relatable -” he cuts you off in the middle of that thought with this sh*t: “You are like pizza, which is the highest compliment I can pay a person."

God, that’s just...it’s hard to keep going after that one. Is this a Forever 21 graphic tee from 2011? What is happening right now?

I’m going to google “Cody Ko pizza” to soothe my weary soul. I suggest you do the same.

Anyway, it’s safe to say John Green really “gets” teens, you guys! He understands ’em. I mean, when was the last time you met a teen whose ideal date wasn’t “wandering a freezing cold park, sitting on a bench, and cavalierly mentioning the beauty of the river, only to be well actually’d by their girlfriend about the nature of aesthetic appreciation”?! I know I can’t remember!


The beginning of this book was…not John Green-y. Which, as someone who has declared the aforementioned man my nemesis, is a complete positive. But rather than being pretentious and overwrought and all of those things that make John Green John Green, it was boring. At least passionate hatred isn’t boring. So the introduction of highbrow philosophies related in their polished entirety about a fifth of the way through was almost a relief.

I’ve already quoted way too many of those highbrow philosophies, though. Either you’re masochistic enough to read the book or you have had Enough Of That.

A lot of this was not typical John Green, but also so much of it was??? The Missing Person thing, for example. Also the classic Uniquely-Named Friends With One Quirk, One Of Whom Is Not White. In this book, we got Daisy Ramirez, Mychal Turner, and Davis Pickett. I read this five months ago so I might be wrong but pretty damn sure everyone’s heterosexual af. The not-white friend is not the one who occasionally kisses our white protagonist (which is to say, this romance is Caucasian As Hell). You know. Just a touch behind on the diversity memo, outside of the excellent neurodiversity.

But also John Green might just not remember how to be John Green, considering that “Daisy’s self-proclaimed life motto was ‘Break Hearts, Not Promises.’” Really, John? You could get that sh*t on a 75% off clearance graphic tee for like four dollars. It’s been done. That’s the best you can do??

It’s like I don’t even know who you are anymore!


I have two nice-ish things to say.

One, I liked this quote: “He’s in that vast boy middle […] The whole problem with boys is that ninety-nine percent of them are, like, okay.” Extremely true and real.

My other kinda-nice thing is also very irrational and super unfair: I wish that John Green wrote a memoir about his particular mental illness. Because I hate this book for what it is, but I didn’t hate that part of it.


I’m going to close this out with the only part of this book that made me actually furious. All the pretension and boring-ness and overwrought language and whatnot is all fun and games to me. But there’s a part of this book that is so resoundingly f*cked up, it made me actually angry. Here it is.

“Most adults are just hollowed out. You watch them try to fill themselves up with booze or money or God or fame or whatever they worship, and it all rots them from the inside until nothing is left but the money or booze or God they thought would save them. […] Adults think they’re wielding power, but really power is wielding them.”

F*ck this. F*ck this passage. I am not here for this Peter Pan adolescent-glorification egotism. Every single face you see in your entire life is representative of a person who has lived a life. Who has suffered. Just because we don’t all do it while spewing eloquent bullsh*t about constellations and speaking in half unknown literary quotations doesn’t mean we’re all cogs in some machine. We all live and think and feel. Maybe this is the thing I hate most about John Green: the glorification of the “weird” to the detriment of the “normal.”

It’s this blatant superiority (including this mocking of alcoholism as if it’s not just as much a mental illness as those of the characters in this book) that makes John Green absolutely unbearable to read.

And so, gang: I think he and I are done. And I can’t say I’m too upset about it.

That’s my bottom line.


actual review to come


NOTE: i know what "turtles all the way down" means, i know that the spiral holds significance, and i know that this cover is still full-on ugly. please do not feel obligated to explain to me the wonderful intricacies i am missing. the only thing i am missing is my vision, because this cover is so ugly it blinded me

yes i am already biased against john green, but can we agree that this cover is straight up UGLY???

and also:

(i borrowed my sister's computer to say this)
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,991 reviews298k followers
October 20, 2017
“You’re deflecting.” I just stared at her. “You’re right that self isn’t simple, Aza. Maybe it’s not even singular. Self is a plurality, but pluralities can also be integrated, right? Think of a rainbow. It’s one arc of light, but also seven differently colored arcs of light.”

This is difficult to rate. Looking back, there were definitely certain aspects that I thought were done well, but I just didn't enjoy either the story or the uber-philosophical writing. Given that I consider three stars to be a mostly positive rating, I'm going with two.

Turtles All the Way Down is really only for those looking for deep cell-level evaluation of human consciousness and personhood. To give him some credit, Green captures Aza's needling anxiety and compulsions very well. That little inner voice of doubt that causes you to question things you know until maybe you're not so sure is spot on. It's everything else around Aza's inner turmoil that feels like what it is - filler.

It could very easily have been an interesting portrait of OCD and anxiety, but attempts to add a bizarre subplot of a missing billionaire (who is also the father of her childhood friend, Davis) don't disguise the fact that nothing really happens. I am not opposed to an introspective novel, especially in YA contemporary dealing with mental illness, but I cannot figure out why the author decided to add such a disjointed and nonsensical side story to the mix. Unless, of course, it is yet another "deep metaphor" for the nonsensical nature of anxiety, but I would have found Aza's story far stronger without it.

The ludicrous and boring plot acts as a superficial backdrop for Green to play out the usual "super precocious teens having philosophical conversations." Aza's mental illness and Green's philosophy bleed together into statements that are straddling the line between clever and nauseating:
I guess I just don’t like having to live inside of a body? If that makes sense. And I think maybe deep down I am just an instrument that exists to turn oxygen into carbon dioxide, just like merely an organism in this . . . vastness.

I had very little patience with hipster teens being hipster back when I was the age of these characters; I have even less now.

I don't know why Green has to create such annoyingly unrealistic carbon copies of himself. Even secondary characters like Daisy quickly become annoying - calling Aza "Holmesy" in literally every sentence she speaks is extremely irritating. And these text messages between Aza and Davis:
Me: You’re not your money.
Him: Then what am I? What is anyone?
Me: I is the hardest word to define.
Him: Maybe you are what you can’t not be.
Me: Maybe. How’s the sky?
Him: Great. Huge. Amazing.

It's not even right to say these characters don't talk like teenagers because that makes it sound like teens can't possibly be this smart (and they definitely can), but these characters just don't talk like any people I've ever encountered anywhere. Of any age. They sound like what I imagine old buddhist monks to sound like.

Green takes steps toward exploring the painful reality of living with a mental illness that deeply affects your everyday life and wellbeing, but it's sad that he pulls it back into the land of pretentious philosophical mumbo jumbo. For a while there, it felt real to me, and then it just became John Green talking to himself about the universe and the nature of "self". I guess I have to accept that early John Green - the kind who wrote Paper Towns - is a thing of the past.

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Profile Image for Ariel.
301 reviews64.1k followers
October 11, 2017
I’ve been having a bad run with YA lately. I’ve loved it for so long that I persevere on, remembering that there are gems, that there are treasures, but increasingly I’ve found myself worried - have I grown out of it? Have I overdone it? Each novel seems to be repeating some unspoken pattern, or at least trying to make something new out of the same ingredients. It was with trepidation, then, that I wandered in to Turtles All The Way Down, thinking “yes, I’ve liked John Green books in the past, but maybe that was before I had grown tired of the same ingredients.” … NOPE. IT’S GREAT. YA IS ALIVE AND WELL.

Like always, I’m thankful for Green’s refusal to dumb anything down. He treats his teenagers like adults because they are adults, or nearly are, and at the very least deserve the same respect as adults. When we are introduced to Aza’s life, and her way of living it, nothing is hidden. Her anxiety and mental health continue to be an unrelenting problem in the narrative because they are an unrelenting problem in her narrative. It doesn’t ease up, it doesn’t get fixed, and at times it is nearly physically painful to read about a sad girl who can’t get better. You do just want to reach into the pages and give her a shake, or a hug, and tell her to please get better. But that’s the point. She can’t. Or not forever. And that’s okay. Because she’s still lovely and wonderful and loved.

I have a particular love for the ending. My dad and I agree that watching a good movie is more fun the second time. Now you know that every thing is going to be all right and you can just relax and enjoy it. I went into the ending so nervous that it would be cheesy, or unrealistically hopeful, or really unnecessarily sad. I was so surprised by an ending that moved on from being a teenager, looked at a life beyond teenage hood, that I nearly cried. I nearly cried because not enough teenagers hear that what they’re going through truly matters, but also that they'll be leading a completely different life very soon. It was something I told my brother constantly when he was still in high school and I had gone on to University and suddenly had to try and remember how hard high school had been.

A note on technology: I feel very strongly about the use of technology in YA. It frustrates me to no end when a teenager “leaves their phone at home” or “runs out of data” or “doesn’t think to text someone something time sensitive.” It isn’t the way that teenagers function, it doesn’t make any sense, it ignores a huge part of the way that teenagers understand themselves and each other, and can you tell that I really care about it yet? John Green does the impossible here: he manages to include technology organically, to make it important to the story and to their lives, but without making it gimmicky. For that, I am also thankful.

Finally, I am thankful for this representation of mental health. It is ugly, sad, disturbing, frustrating, but not hopeless. It isn’t everything (even though sometimes it is) and it’s honest. I am so happy, so unbelievably happy, that kids and teenagers and also adults will have this. That they will read it and feel understood, or empathize, or both. You know how we always want books to “make us better people”? To “show us new perspectives we couldn’t imagine”? Pick up Turtles All The Way Down.

Full disclosure: I read an early version of the book and worked with John Green and his editor, and my name is in the acknowledgments! The posting of this review is unrelated to the work I did!
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
614 reviews87.8k followers
October 15, 2017
The Short
Trigger warnings: anxiety, OCD

Writing: 5 stars
Characters: 4.75 stars
Plot: 4.5 stars
Originality: 4 stars
(all out of 5 stars)

The Long
It's hard to believe I just read a new John Green (JG from now on) book. My mind can't really wrap around that. (Especially given where I was 5 years ago, not even knowing BookTube existed, now I can't imagine my life without BookTube and being Hailey in Bookland). But it was a pleasure to read his writing again. He is extremely talented. I was super nervous going into this admittedly. After the smash success of TFIOS I couldn't imagine a more high pressure situation. Especially as I haven't absolutely loved all of his novels, I just didn't know where this one would fall for me. But I'm so happy that I loved it. It's definitely my favourite YA book on mental illness that I've ever read.

What sets JG apart and makes him, IMO, a pioneer in the YA genre, is the fact that he writes knowledgable teenage characters. He doesn't discount teenagers as unintelligent due to their developing brains. He recognizes that teenagers, IRL, are able to comprehend complex concepts. (This may seem obvious, but I read a book on writing books for young readers recently and it emphasizes the fact that you have to use the most simplistic language possible so young teenage minds can understand it. BS. Teenagers are not dumb).

Because of this, his characters are so startlingly relatable. I think Aza is an especially relatable character for me with her struggles with anxiety. The way JG describes her experiences with anxiety spoke to me so intensely. Specifically the metaphor of the spiral. Blew my mind in all honesty. JG definitely has a talent for metaphors, I never get sick of it. He's always had a way of finding the perfect words to describe that which seems indescribable. Seeing him use this technique regarding mental illness was fascinating. I think if you do, or ever have, suffered from mental illness, you will vastly appreciate his narrative.

I found this story to be very different than JG's other novels. Not in a bad way at all, but the plot was much more subtle. There are two plots happening simultaneously really, one internally and one externally. You think you're following the one and then it turns out the other is the central focus. The way the two were interwoven was genius.

I think this has been written in a way that will appeal to both the next generation of YA readers as well as the aging generation of YA readers. Typically JG's novels have the romance as a main focal point, and they really are some of my favourite romances, but here the romance takes a back seat. The front seat is occupied by Aza's own personal mental health journey. It was such a nice change. (That's not to say there is no romance, it's there but it's just not the main topic).

Overall, this made me SO happy that John Green is returning to the world of YA. It was the most authentic representation of mental illness I've ever read and I'm so glad I went in with an open mind. You can tell he is writing about something he's extremely familiar with. I can't wait to see what he comes out with next (I hope he has plans to write more!)
Profile Image for Val ⚓️ Shameless Handmaiden ⚓️.
1,862 reviews30.1k followers
January 19, 2018
2 Stars...and that's me being generous.

This book was, well...not good.


I went into this with somewhat high hopes.

I knew it was about a girl with anxiety issues and - as someone who struggled with a lot of anxiety as a hormone-ridden, depressed teen who lost a parent at a young age myself, (much like Aza) I expected to really connect with this story.

At least on some level.

One reviewer I follow even ranked this as her top read of 2017. Said it was "life changing."



To each their own and all that jazz - truly, I'm happy other people got something out of this book -but, in my opinion, for something to change my life - or at least remotely affect me in any way - it has to have at least some depth to it.

And this book had about as much depth as the shallow end of the kiddie pool.

Now, I realize that I - a 35 year old woman - am not the targeted demographic for this book, but still...

There has to be at least some point to a book.

Character development...a cool plot...a semi-decent romance, even...

But this book?

Had basically no plot.
No true character development that I can see...

And perhaps the most simplistic "moral of the story" I've ever seen.

So let me save you a few bucks or a trip to the library and just give you what amounts to the entire point of this book here:


*drum roll*
*drum roll*
*drum roll*
*drum roll*
*drum roll*
*drum roll*

Life Goes On.

Yep, that's pretty much it.


Profile Image for Zoë.
328 reviews65.8k followers
October 19, 2017
Even though I just finished this book, I already know it's one that will stick with me for years to come. I can't fully express how cathartic this book was. I finally saw parts of myself represented in a novel - the parts that I was ashamed of and pretended didn't exist. This is by far my favorite John Green novel. I can't say much more about this because I'm still sobbing over it. Just read it, please.
Profile Image for Becca.
267 reviews92 followers
Want to read
August 18, 2014
Let us play a little game called "What could this book possibly about?"
First off, we can argue a bit about the setting. His early work would suggest that he prefers warm places, but over the years he has slowly migrated to the Midwest.We can assume that this time it will be set on the sun, for the conditions are best for cultivating our feels, and destroying our hope.

Next, we can examine the characters. They must be the perfect combination of witty, socially awkward, beautiful, and of course, burdened with a great amount of tragedy and overwrought with pain. I'm guessing ex-convict and clown. Good pairing

The plot is tricky, you see, for this varies greatly book to book. The spectrum is quite wide. I'm going to guess it'll be a complex story that weaves together the lives of the ex-convict who becomes the first great poet in years, and the young circus clown who keeps having dreams of the constellation Hercules. Yes, this sounds about right. I think they will need to save the world from llamas.
And the romance. One mustn't forget the romance. All you really need to know is it will break your heart.
So, if I have guessed correctly, this book will be about a past criminal mastermind and a clown, living on the sun. Together they will stop llamas from taking over the universe.
Or, y'know, worst comes to worst and it's twilight fanfiction.
Whatever it is, I'm sure we will I CAN'T,"ASFJSDFLK" and feel all of the feels.
UPDATE: So, we have a title. This is clearly about wimbleton and its philosophical after effects.
Profile Image for Emma Giordano.
316 reviews115k followers
November 13, 2017
If I leave this review blank for now, I may force myself to film a video review (which I really want to do!) hahah
Profile Image for Angelica.
814 reviews1,150 followers
April 13, 2019
Rating 3.5

“Spirals grow infinitely small the farther you follow them inward, but they also grow infinitely large the farther you follow them out.”

Well, this is awkward.

I went into this thinking I wouldn’t like it. Heck, I went into it pretty much expecting to dislike. And yes, I know that’s a horrible thing to say, and a terrible reason to read a book, but come on, you can hardly blame me.

I hated The Fault in Our Stars, with all of its extremely pretentious characters (although I did cry at the end, and actually liked the movie). I then left Looking for Alaska, halfway through after a friend spoiled the ending (thanks a lot, Megan!) I also couldn’t get past chapter five of Paper Towns, (mostly because I had already seen the movie and hated Margo).

So, Turtles All the Way Down, was me giving John Green one last shot. And you know what? I liked it. I actually, genuinely liked it.

This book is classic John Green. You got the two teenagers from well to do families who sit around contemplating the meaning of the universe with all the knowledge and wisdom of college philosophy professors and the vocabulary of a SAT test book.

And yet, in spite of all of these things, I actually enjoyed this one. Maybe because Aza and Davis didn’t come across as annoyingly pretentious as Augustus and Hazel had.

So, the story is about Aza, a girl dealing with spiraling thoughts that are entirely out of her control. She feels trapped and bullied by her mind as her anxiety takes over. And yet, she tries her best to be a good friend and daughter and to live the life she wishes she had.

It’s also about Davis, a billionaire boy with a missing father, who is trying his best to be a good influence for his 13-year-old brother.
It’s also about mental illness and family and friendship and falling in love. Really, it’s about a lot of things, but more on that later.

I think John Green does an excellent job at portraying Aza’s illness and the way that thoughts can sometimes control a person. I know firsthand how hard it can be to deal with invasive thoughts. I know that sometimes the mind seems like a different entity from the self and John Green wonderfully showed all the thoughts going through her head. More so, he did it in a way that properly displayed mental illness.

I liked the romance also, although at points it was a little too philosophical for my taste. I liked that love doesn’t fix mental illness. I liked that the world goes on and good things happen and sometimes bad things happen. I also like the way that mental illness is portrayed as affecting not just the individual but also those around them. I loved seeing how family and friendships are tested and yet remain. Truly, I think that it was all brilliantly done and I must say, kudos to John Green because I could actually relate.

So, why not a higher rating? Well, this book felt like it was trying too hard. It was too many things. It took a great story and stretched it out to the point that the plot seemed thin. It felt out of focus and it greatly diminished my liking of it.

I think it could have had a greater emotional impact if it had focused on only one thing, either Aza and her troubles, or Davis and his missing father. It could either be a look into mental illness or a mystery. Or, it could be both if it were longer and found a way to combine the two. But, alas, it did not.

Overall, I really enjoyed it and totally recommend. I am actually looking forward to whatever John Green writes next.

Let me know what you thought!
Profile Image for Claudia Lomelí.
Author 8 books76.8k followers
October 30, 2017
"Anybody can look at you. It's quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.”
Profile Image for Maria.
67 reviews8,576 followers
March 26, 2019
4.4/5 Stars ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

“You're the narrator, the protagonist, and the sidekick. You're the storyteller and the story told. You are somebody's something, but you are also your you.”


This book this FUCKING BOOK. I devoured it in under a day! I couldn't leave it down even though I had studying to do. I was there, with Aza, feeling what she was feeling, understanding even though I don't suffer from it, wanting to "heal" her even though I know I couldn't. This book was so deep (too deep for teenagers but that's John Green for ya) and it entailed so many excellent quotes that cut deep into me. The other characters were brilliant, too (even though Daisy just pissed me off at times), the Star Wars references were cute, being a SW nerd myself, I relate (even though the Rey x Chewbacca parts were sort of weird) and I think he did his research a lot for this book. 6 years is a lot of time and he really produced amazing work out of them.

I'm so looking forward to the movie I heard that is coming out, (a John Green book not becoming a movie would be a first) I hope they do it justice. It was the first of his books I read before the movie comes out not because of the movie so I'm really curious to see what their angle will be about it.

Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,481 reviews79k followers
October 24, 2017
"You're a we. You're a you. You're a she, an it, a they. My kingdom for an I."

I hate when I have a middle of the road review to write; I like to feel passionately about a book one way or another, and I almost feel it is easier to share my feelings on a book that is a 1-2 star than any of the 3 stars that come along. I feel at a loss for words to describe my experience while reading this book; I've seen multiple reviews state they felt Turtles All the Way Down wasn't even on the same level as The Fault in Our Stars, and I have to agree. While this wasn't a BAD story per se, it didn't feel up to the John Green standard we've come to expect. Multiple times I was stopped by randoms at the gym asking how it was, because it was on their wish list, and I could never muster anything more than "This book is fine. Fine is what it is. It is not great, but it is fine" and I felt guilty for that.

For such a short book with big font and little chapters and lots of spacing between lines, this book sure was slow in the first half. I believe he was going for atmospheric, but when I think of setting the tone in a slow building way, I think of descriptive writing that can be filled with prose or not, but definitely something that draws me in and makes me feel a part of the story, and that's not what happens here. The narrative is very jerky and disjointed, and it took awhile for my brain to become engaged enough to care what was happening. I think the premise of this book, minus the billionaire side story (but I'll get to that in a minute), was excellent. I love YA books featuring mental health issues and illnesses and this was by far the strongest aspect of the plot. I didn't find Aza likable in the beginning, but I feel that was the point so that we could form a connection with her as she grows and becomes aware of herself in new ways.

Honestly, I really could have done without the awkward side story of Davis and Noah's missing father. I didn't feel it added to the story; actually, I felt it took away from some of the more important factors since it stole coverage where those pages could have been used to further the main focus. I couldn't help but wonder what felt off, and I think it came down to a rushed characterization of Davis, Aza, and their relationship. It almost felt as if chunks of the story were missing and we were just supposed to fill it in our own way. I would have liked a little more development, but that's just me. I did feel the ending was another strong point; it was messy, uncomfortable, and slightly disturbing, but added a gleaming spark of hope and a viewpoint of recovery for those struggling with various mental health issues and disorders.

Please don't toss this book aside and chose not to read it just because it didn't wow me; I think it has some very valuable insight into a very tough subject that is still taboo in 2017. There are plenty of 5 star reviews that are much better than mine and I hope you enjoy it more fully than I did. Maybe I'm getting too old for this type of YA contemporary or maybe I'm just out of touch with how teenagers behave and converse, so I think I'll just say that it was fine, but the over hyping of this book pre-production may have done more harm than good for the die hard fans.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.6k followers
November 27, 2019
'anybody can look at you. its quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.'

oh my gosh. oh my gosh. oh my gosh. i now forgive john green for making me wait 5 years for a new book because this was perfection. honestly, my new favourite of his. i know john green stories tend to be a hit or miss with people, but there is no denying he can write. i loved all the intricacies, and poetic sentences, and overall warm feeling of this book.

i also really appreciate the personal side of this story and could really feel a difference with this book compared to his pervious works. i think greens own struggles with OCD just made the book all the more genuine and honest. and because of this, there couldnt have been a better portrayal of thoughts for a main character who suffers from anxiety and specific triggers.

i thought this was so well done and i loved everything about it!

5 stars
Profile Image for Bill Gates.
Author 5 books514k followers
May 18, 2018
When Melinda and I did an event with John Green in New York a couple years ago, we knew we had to bring our youngest daughter, Phoebe, along. He is one of her favorite authors, and she’s converted our entire family to fans of his books.

Before we went on stage, John pulled Phoebe aside to share a secret with her: the plot of his new book. He made her promise not to share it with anyone, and she stayed true to her word for nearly two years. She wouldn’t even tell Melinda and me!

Phoebe doesn’t have to keep the secret any longer, because that book—Turtles All the Way Down—was released late last year.

I’ve read a couple of John’s books and enjoyed each one, and his latest is no exception. Turtles All the Way Down tells the story of Aza Holmes, a high school student from Indianapolis. When a local billionaire goes missing and a $100,000 reward is offered for information about his disappearance, she and her best friend decide to track him down.

Aza’s quest is complicated by the fact that she has obsessive compulsive disorder and severe anxiety. Her struggles are a huge part of the book, as her compulsions constantly get in the way of her social life. John’s writing feels almost claustrophobic when describing Aza’s mental swirl. Some people might find those parts difficult to read, but he really gives you a sense of what it feels like to live with OCD.

Because this is a John Green novel, romance must factor into the equation. Aza begins to develop feelings for Davis, the son of missing billionaire Russell Pickett. He is initially skeptical about her intentions, because he’s used to people sucking up to him to get close to his dad. While I hope I’m nothing like the morally bankrupt Russell—he wants to give all of his money to his pet lizard and was under investigation for fraud and bribery—I think my own kids can relate to some of Davis’ experiences.

John actually talked to Phoebe in New York about what it was like growing up with me as her dad. I asked her to write up her own mini-review now that’s she had a chance to read the book. Here’s what Phoebe had to say:

“For years I have been a loyal John Green fan—devouring his novels in the back of coffee shops, while traveling, and curled up on my couch. Something about the imagery of his books makes me get caught up in the fantasy of his stories, but Turtles All the Way Down hit closer to home for me than the rest. As someone who has struggled with OCD for years, I saw some of myself in the main character. But more than anything, this book struck close to home due to the intriguing character of Davis.

“Never has a book been able to capture so well what it is like to live in the shadow of someone else’s legacy. This story shows how Davis struggled to find his own identity outside of his father’s fame and wealth. Although we have very different relationships with our dads, I recognized his struggle, which also plays into my own life as I find my way in this world. This read was captivating like none other I have read before.”

Phoebe is much closer to John’s intended demographic than I am, but I think readers of all ages will enjoy Turtles All the Way Down. It’s a fun, moving story filled with quirky but relatable characters. Paper Towns is still my favorite John Green book—but my family loved talking about Turtles at the dinner table, and I think yours will, too.
Profile Image for Warda.
1,208 reviews19.7k followers
February 15, 2018
Edit: Well, I cannot stop thinking about this book, and it's been a few weeks, so that deserves me upping my rating to 5 stars. It has resonated with me more than I thought it would.

“Your now is not your forever.”
― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

Wow. This book was stunning. Hard to read (trigger warnings for OCD and anxiety), but Jesus, did it feel healing at the same time.

John Green wrote the shit out of this book. The way mental health was portrayed through Aza was excruciating, harrowing and educational to read about and it still made me feel that though the stigma might have lessened a bit, the understanding of this subject is narrow.

I felt this book to my core. I was there with Aza when she was spiralling out of control, her mind constantly pulling her in different directions, finding no centre, the constant doubt hurling you further into finding no fixed point, so that you may breathe and focus.

I've so much admiration for Green for writing so openly in this book. It was so raw and bleak and the ugly side of mental health truly came to live, because that's how it is and what it can manifest into.
And though, it may seem difficult to find hope, a way to see the light at the end of the tunnel that seems never-reaching, it is there. It is tangible and can be found.
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 6 books13.7k followers
December 2, 2020
“You're the narrator, the protagonist, and the sidekick. You're the storyteller and the story told. You are somebody's something, but you are also your you.”

I went into this with a bowl full of low expectations but with a side of high expectations. And it tasted good.

It's been a while since John wrote a book. The first John Green book I ever read was TFIOS, which I loved. During the time that passed until the release of Turtles All the Way Down I caught up with most of his other books, apart from An Abundance of Katherines. Will Grayson, Will Grayson was meh but Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska straight up sucked. It made sense that I was torn whether I wanted to read TALWD or not. But I'm glad I did.

The plot wasn't all the exciting. I saw lots of people complain about an absence of plot, but some stories are more character-driven than others, as in this case. Apart from this, there were lots of subplots that I loved - Daisy's relationship with Mychal for once, or the disappearance of Pickett Senior.

The characters were fantastic. First and foremost there is Aza, a teenage girl battling with anxiety. While she did not say much, I enjoyed her narratorial point of view. She was a fleshed out character with lots of depth, which is such an improvement to John's previous main characters that were part boring and part even more boring. Now, I don't struggle with an anxiety disorder. I can't possibly judge this novel from that perspective because I never experienced anything similar to what Aza struggles with on a daily basis. But this book managed to make me feel what a person with an anxiety disorder might possibly have to go through - so much that I could only skim the parts where the main character's anxiety surfaces and takes over all her thoughts and actions.
With Daisy, Aza's best friend, it was love at first sight. This girl is precious. I loved everything about her.
I never warmed up Davis, Aza's love interest, if that is what you want to call him. I don't think that I fully got him and I'm not entirely sure why Aza was drawn to him. On one hand, their relationship lacked romance, on the other hand, I'm glad that this was not one big love story. It would not have fit into the story.

Overall I simply liked this novel. Money was one of the story's central themes, and while I'm both uncomfortable with and in awe of this unfathomable wealth depicted in it, I also deeply connected with Daisy, when she talked about what being poor can be like. Of course, wealth and poverty are extremely subjective topics and people hate to talk about money, but I think John Green managed to find a good balance.

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Profile Image for booksnpenguins (wingspan matters).
796 reviews2,873 followers
February 21, 2023
No one ever says goodbye unless they want to see you again.

I must admit that never in a million years, would have expected to find myself in a situation like this, one where I'd end up completely put off guard by a book I'd never even considered reading in the first place.
I'm not a huge John Green fan. I've read his previous works and, even if I didn't completely despise them, the whole JG phenomenon never really felt to me like a complete mind-blowing experience that I absolutely had to be part of.

Then why does this book changes the entire game, you might ask?
Well, first of all, there was a lot to relate to. And I'm not only talking about all those pop-culture references and the exquisitely colloquial writings. I mean, yes, they're quite necessary if you look at it from a certain angle, and they serve their filling purpose greatly, but it's something else, really.
As simple as it sounds, I found myself utterly and painfully represented by the issues this book portraits, and I couldn't help but see my own fight against the same angsty and suffocating thoughts the main character, Aza, has to struggle with on a daily basis, as well.
It's really something that doesn't happen everyday.
Aza is a complex and damaged character, one of those charries I usually am drawn to, only this time it was because her character sometimes appeared very adult-coded, so it was a case of mutual and shared vision of life.
Through the pages, you get to see her journey, in and outside her head, and, I don't know if it's just me being me, but some of the things she does and says are things I thought I was the only one doing.
Talk about relatable MC's! I like her, so so so so much.
Green's characters once again fall a bit on the cliché side, but I got to give it to him. When they start throwing tantrums, I don't blame them, because they're young and immature, just like they should be.
And when they learn from their mistakes, is even better.
Aza's mum is probably the purest character I've seen in years. She's adorable. I respect the shit out of that woman, I admire her for being so strong and for keeping herself together for her daughter's sake even when things are shitty. She's a good mum and a good role model.
Love interests aren't usually a problem for me, except for when they become love-interests-period. This time around, it was Davis' turn and, I've got to say it, I adore the guy.
Just like Aza, he's walking a wire, with one foot dangling from the edge of the darker side, constrantly fighting to live up to a family name he didn't choose himself.
And he's so... Likeable, you know? At least for me.
I mean, he's got this whole Gansey thing going on (cute and nerdy rich boy, wears khakis and polo shirts, has a frigging diary) and he loves poetry. No, let me rephrase that: he loves and writes poetry.
*sticks gold star on davis forehead*

Back to us...
So, reason #3 this book is the best I've read this month: the plot is so blunt and easy to follow, that it flows perfectly with whatever mood you might be in that moment. Sure, it's not the thriller of the year nor the best contemporary that deals with heavy themes, but if you put all the elements together and follow the recipe step by step, you're in for an adventure.
The quotes sprinkled all over the book, in a certified Green fashion, the very same quotes I've always found a bit pretentious in the other books, add a sense of poetry (as if there was little of it already! *puts another gold star on davis forehead*), a sense of being known.

The romance is light but at the same time very intense. It's not even that much eye-rolling, if you know what I mean.
Some Davis/Aza scenes really left me out of breath, not gonna lie, but I really did like Aza and Daisy's interactions just as much. I speak from personal experience when I say it's not easy being friends with people who have social anxiety and/or ocd (especially since they, we, take a little more than others to open up to people and let them in), so I appreciate the author's effort of showing how relationships and dynamics can work out with a little help from both sides. And it's not always sunshine and rainbows, that be clear. I also think Green does an amazing job at presenting you both sides of the medal, backstabbing and wishful thinking included.

I think this was the first time in ages I had to physically keep myself from reading an entire novel in one day, because I didn't want it to end too soon.
I'm glad I found, in this unexpected surprise of a book, a story that made me feel a little less alone in the world.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,535 reviews9,951 followers
October 20, 2017
I thought I would fall in love with this book but I just didn't. 😕

Now I give all of the stars to Aza, Davis and Noah.

I loved Aza so much and as I have mental disorders I can totally relate to her. She's a wonderful character.

Davis is her boy ish friend and he's awesome too. Noah is his brother. They are totally rich and their father is missing. So this is about finding each other and finding a missing father. A few other things thrown into the mix.

I think what kept this from being a 5 star was Daisy. I just didn't like her at all. She was Aza's best friend. I just couldn't handle her.

So, on to the next!

Happy Reading!

Mel ❤️
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
701 reviews3,354 followers
November 8, 2017
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

Turtles All the Way Down is quintessential John Green - exceedingly eloquent teens with advanced vocabularies ponder existential questions - but, much like its protagonist, the book suffers from a confused sense of identity, trying to be too many things at once. It subsequently lacks focus and offers weak emotional impact.
Profile Image for chan ☆.
1,072 reviews51.4k followers
January 12, 2022
i'm going to keep this book on my physical bookshelf in case my future kid ever wants to learn about mommy's brand of crazy. but as a novel? i can't say i'd recommend it.

i'm going to echo other reviewers here and say that this story was kinda boring but had good representation. this book doesn't really illustrate my own experiences with OCD but it does illustrate someone's experience with OCD and that's pretty cool. i like that this book exists and that it can validate people's experiences and feel commiserative in some way. but i think maybe because of the way this book was written (i.e. there being a lot of emphasis on the manifestations of OCD/anxiety in Aza rather than any discernible personality beyond mental illness) and the half baked mystery it just kind of fell short for me.
Profile Image for NickReads.
461 reviews1,195 followers
September 23, 2020
“no one ever says good-bye unless they want to see you again. aa”

ever since I finished this book, this sentence has been in my mind, and I've been going over it, again and again, trying to grasp its full meaning. I found out that there's a Japanese word "Sayonara" which means final good-bye. It's not something that you say to someone you are sure you're gonna see again. From my understanding, it also means that if we meet again, we'll be different people, I'll be a different person. And it makes sense, it makes so much sense.

“Your now is not your forever.”
Profile Image for Natalie.
567 reviews3,196 followers
June 5, 2020
“If only I were as good at life as I am at the internet.”

I was so overly eager for any new John Green book related content that I made the mistake of reading the excerpt shared on Buzzfeed last month. I say mistake because when I opened up the book weeks after having read the first two chapters, I only had this vague recollection that certainly wouldn't help to continue from where I'd started. Rereading was key.

To give you a bit more background on why I was so eager: Back in 2014, John Green was one of the first authors I'd read that introduced me to the magic of books. I owe a lot to his writing that sucked me in so completely, only to leave me craving for more by the last page, which then led me to look up what next book would satisfy that particular hunger. And here we are today.

Despite all the above, I still went into Turtles All the Way Down with little to no expectations as to what was to come. I knew that though I had history with TFIOS, when I look back on certain scenes, I can't help but feel shivers of disgust (like when the "two very privileged caucasian Americans who have never known starvation, genocide, or physical abuse" kissed in the Anne Frank house, which Ariane tells like it is in this article). So if anything, I was apprehensive as to what this newest work would contain.

It all begins with a fugitive billionaire and the promise of a cash reward. Turtles All the Way Down is about lifelong friendship, the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, Star Wars fan fiction, and tuatara. But at its heart is Aza Holmes, a young woman navigating daily existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

I feel like the only way I can accurately describe the heart of the book is by borrowing this phrase: Captures the everyday moments of teens' lives and then sets fire to those moments, heightening them until they become metaphor.

“True terror isn’t being scared; it’s not having a choice in the matter.”

I have so much my mind is eager to spit out, so I think a list is in order (mild spoilers ahead):

• Let's start with Aza, who surprised me so much with her strong will and great depth of character. Her thought process and spirals gave me a keen insight into the works of the mind and expanding my view on things. What I wasn't expecting, however, was having my own thoughts staring back at me from the page. From staring down the rabbit hole that is social media stalking your crush (#exposed), to vocalizing my exact fears on the reality of dating:

“I’m really not looking to date anyone.” I know people often say that when secretly looking for a romantic partner, but I meant it. I definitely felt attracted to some people, and I liked the idea of being with someone, but the actual mechanics of it didn’t much suit my talents. Like, parts of typical romantic relationships that made me anxious included 1. Kissing; 2. Having to say the right things to avoid hurt feelings; 3. Saying more wrong things while trying to apologize; 4. Being at a movie theater together and feeling obligated to hold hands even after your hands become sweaty and the sweat starts mixing together; and 5. The part where they say, “What are you thinking about?” And they want you to be, like, “I’m thinking about you, darling,” but you’re actually thinking about how cows literally could not survive if it weren’t for the bacteria in their guts, and how that sort of means that cows do not exist as independent life-forms, but that’s not really something you can say out loud, so you’re ultimately forced to choose between lying and seeming weird.”

• Green’s style has grown and matured a lot for me with his newest work. It’s equal parts dark, hilarious, and achingly real. Plus, the dialogue is amazing. Speaking of the latter, the main reason why is thanks to the effervescent Daisy, who's a force to be reckoned with, from writing her own Rey/ Chewbacca fanfiction to her inspiring directness.

“Have you ever gotten a dick pic?” she asked in lieu of saying hello.

I feel like she and Ilana Wexler would get along perfectly. Actually, I've never been surer of something.

“I mean, how am I supposed to react to a semi-erect penis as fan mail? Am I supposed to feel intrigued?”
“He probably thinks it’ll end in marriage. You’ll meet IRL and fall in love and someday tell your kids that it all started with a picture of a disembodied penis.”

John Green isn’t afraid to let loose with his newest work. And I’m digging it.

• Speaking of which, the direction the author took with Aza's mental illness felt like the most honest portrayal I'd read in ages.

“I wanted to tell her that I was getting better, because that was supposed to be the narrative of illness: It was a hurdle you jumped over, or a battle you won. Illness is a story told in the past tense.”
“I would always be like this, always have this within me. There was no beating it. I would never slay the dragon, because the dragon was also me. My self and the disease were knotted together for life.”

• I got educated on such a vast array of topics, without ever feeling like I was lectured. The random history and science lessons really give away who the author of this novel is. From the history of Indianapolis (the setting of the book), to the genetically distinct creature called tuatara, to this weird parasite called Diplostomum pseudospathaceum. I can't deny how utterly fascinating John Green made all of his swift lessons.

“What I love about science is that as you learn, you don’t really get answers. You just get better questions.”

• The bits of romance seemed slightly off-kilter with the flow of the story at first, but it just so happened that I was in the rare mood for a budding romance to indulge in. Actually, it turned out to be quite nice, since it first and foremost focused on two teens taking comfort in talking with someone that gets them to a whole new level.

“In the best conversations, you don’t even remember what you talked about, only how it felt.”

• The fact that we get to read inserts from Davis's blog post & poetry entries, and Daisy's successful fanfiction. The particular Davis piece below rang in my ear for a very long time.

“The next one stopped me cold:

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”

I don’t know what superpower William James enjoyed, but I can no more choose my thoughts than choose my name.

The way he talked about thoughts was the way I experienced them—not as a choice but as a destiny. Not a catalog of my consciousness, but a refutation of it.
When I was little, I used to tell Mom about my invasives, and she would always say, “Just don’t think about that stuff, Aza.” But Davis got it. You can’t choose. That’s the problem.”

• On a totally separate note, I couldn't help but think of Richard Campbell Gansey III from The Raven Boys when Davis was first introduced, thanks to his obscene amount of family money.

“You mean, when a movie comes out in theaters, it . . . also comes out at your house?”

I never thought we’d have someone upstage Gansey... And yet here we are.

• But what came quite unexpectedly was how connected I felt to Noah, who's the 13-year-old brother. We see him truly struggle with the fact that his dad up-and-left with no clue of his whereabouts. But what hit most was the fact that Noah had no one to cry out to. Davis is barely getting by on his own, so his younger brother has to figure things out mainly by himself. And reading that just took a piece right off me.

“It’s all right to be scared, Noah.” And then he turned his face away from me and started sobbing. “You’re okay,” I told him, lying. “You’re okay. He’ll come home.”
Though the premise is set to be about making “connections that crack open the long-dormant case of Russell Pickett’s disappearance,” Turtles All the Way Down is at its core a character-driven novel, favoring the development of the characters' relationships with one another, which is how I like 'em. All this to say: I'm beyond eager to see what Green has next in store for us.


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Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,986 followers
November 22, 2017
This book was a fun audiobook experience as my wife and I listened to about 45 minutes of it together every night. I think this is a great activity for book loving spouses!

Partway through this book I thought I was going to give it an "okay, but didn't really blow me away" 3 stars. However, I think that the last 3rd of the book really brought things together in an interesting way.

At first, the book seemed like it was trying to be too many things at once. Click here for a video from my Goodreads friend Hannah and go to 7:16 - she does a great job describing how this book is many different things. However, after finishing the book and showing the video to my wife, we agree that whether it is intentional or not, the many different directions this book goes is a great representation of the anxiety of the main character.

Another thing that really raised my enjoyment of this book is that the entirety of the events take place within about 20 minutes of my house. Also, almost every major landmark described in the book can be seen from my office window. When a book hits that close to home, it means a bit more.

A comparison - tell me if you agree. A John Green teenage conversation:

Girl: My heart is torn asunder with thoughts of my most eloquent yet deeply morose love interest. He is so elegantly handsome, but very humble because:

A. He is an artist
B. He is extremely wealthy but loves the simple things like fast food and independent rock music
C. He is misunderstood
D. Or, because every JG novel has lists!

Boy: You can overcome yourself with my constant caring. I immediately like you and would die for you even though we have nothing in common. Look up into the sky and behold Ursa Major, Casseopea, and Polaris as they cross the zenith of Saturn. Later I will read you the poem I wrote about this inspired by the works of William Shakespeare.

A teenage conversation when I was a teenager.

Girl: 'Sup?

Boy: 'Sup? Wanna go out?

Girl: Ewww!

Boy: 'Kay, whatever!

The End

Last, but not least, the Tuatara (read the book, it will make sense)

Profile Image for Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥.
547 reviews34.7k followers
February 17, 2020
”One of the challenges with pain – physical or psychic – is that we can really only approach it through metaphor. It can’t be represented the way a table or a body can. In some ways, pain is the opposite of language.”

Those words rang so true and I think this is my favourite quote from the entire book. Because yes, I’ve been there and done that and in all honesty I can’t tell you what was worse. Physical or psychic? In both cases I couldn’t find my voice. For different reasons but the outcome was the same. So I totally agree with this statement. Pain IS the opposite of language and if you want to work through it you’ve to learn to express yourself.

Which is exactly what Aza is doing in this book. Or to be completely honest: This is what everyone is trying to do in this book. No matter if it’s Davis, Aza’s mom or her best friend Daisy. They all hurt, in different ways, for different reasons, but they feel pain and they really try their best to deal with it. With varying success, but they are fighting and this is always good because this means that none of them gave up yet.

“Turtles All the Way Down” is no fast read, it’s neither suspenseful nor easy, but it’s real and true and this makes all the difference. You won’t find action scenes or plot twists in here, you’ll find real people with real problems and the will to work through them. No supernatural obstacles, just ordinary life and its challenges. Which, truth be told are sometimes even worse than everything a superhero has to put up with. ;-) This said, let’s head to my character section and go into more detail.

The characters:

This is my characters section so this means that you’ll be spoiled relentlessly if you decide to continue to read. It’s your choice and up to you, but if you didn’t read the book yet and begin to regret your own curiosity: Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Because, well, I just officially did! ;-P


”And if you can’t pick what you do or think about, then maybe you aren’t really real, you know? Maybe I’m just a lie that I’m whispering to myself.”

Oh, how I felt with Aza when I read this book. She knows she has a problem and she’s doing her best to work through it but she just can’t escape what she thinks or who she truly is. There’s always something gnawing at the back of her mind and even though she’s living an ordinary life and doing homework etc. there’s still something that’s holding her back. I have to admit, sometimes it was really tough to read Aza’s POV because her spirals were pretty intense. There were moments I had to close the book and put it aside… a privilege Aza didn’t have because it was her own mind and her own thoughts that haunted her. Yet despite everything she was going to school and trying to fit into our world. And sometimes she even succeeded to live in the moment. I can’t even fathom how difficult this must have been but I’m kind of proud of Aza because she never gave up. =)

”You don’t actually want to do this; it’s just an invasive. Everyone has them. But you can’t shut yours up. Since you’ve had a reasonable amount of cognitive behavioral therapy, you tell yourself, I am not my thoughts, even though deep down you’re not sure what exactly that makes you.”


”But a human woman falling in love with a Wookie, God forbid. I mean, I know I’m just feeding the trolls here, Holmesy, but I can’t stand for it.”

Haha! Okay, the idea of Rey/Chewie fanfic is still something I have to get used to, but in general I got the gist of what Daisy meant. *lol* I liked Aza’s best friend and it was great to see how they worked together. Daisy was definitely the outgoing and honest kind of type and I really appreciated that about her. She didn’t mince her words and never beat about the bush and this was really refreshing. I can understand why some people might think that Daisy was selfish and self-centred, but I think that she only wanted the best for Aza and really loved her. If you don’t have OCD it’s hard to understand the actions of people that have it, but Daisy tried and that has to count for something!

Davis Pickett:

”I don’t know what superpower William James enjoyed, but I can no more choose my thoughts than choose my name.”

Where to start with Davis? What a pure and tortured soul! T_T I really loved that boy! In the eyes of others he might have had everything he wished for but Davis was aware that he didn’t have the one thing that truly counts: A loving father who took care of his sons. After his father’s disappearance he was left to his own devices and even though it seemed like everything was secured – at least legally – this didn’t change anything about the fact that he had a hard fate. Without their father and without a mother he was the only one his younger brother could rely on and this was a lot of responsibility for such a young boy. The scene where Aza’s mother confronted him and told him that she only wants the best for her daughter was so sad to read. No wonder Davis cried. If his father would have only cared about him half as much… >_< Davis is such a precious bean and he deserves the world! I really hope he was able to start a new life and that he got everything he wanted and more! <333

”At this point I don’t care why someone likes me. I’m just so goddamned lonely. I know that’s pathetic. But yeah.”

He started to say something, but then had to stop, because his eyes were welling up with tears. “Davis, are you all right?” my mom asked. He tried to speak again but it devolved into a choked sob.
“Davis, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize….”
Blushing, he said, “I’m sorry.”

”I guess at some point, you realize that whoever takes care of you is just a person, and that they have no superpowers and can’t actually protect you from getting hurt. Which is one thing. But Noah is starting to understand that maybe the person he thought was a superhero turns out sort of to be the villain. And that really sucks.”

”The worst part of being truly alone is you think about all the times you wished that everyone would just leave you be. Then they do, and you are left being, and you turn out to be terrible company.”

The relationships & ships:

Aza & Davis:

”Him: And the thing is, when you lose someone, you realize you’ll eventually lose everyone.
Me: True. And once you know that, you can never forget it.”

*sighs* Those two. They would have been good for each other but their circumstances made it so difficult to be together. Aza was fighting hard against her growing OCD and Davis was kind of fighting for his and his brother’s existence. So definitely not the right time to start a relationship. Still, I liked that they were there for each other whenever things got tough and in their own way they understood and respected each other more than anyone else would have been able to. Their deep conversations were definitely the highlight of this book and I felt really sorry for both of them. It didn’t surprise me that Davis was hurt when Aza decided to break up with him, but considering their circumstances it was the sensible thing to do. This said my heart will always bleed for those two and I don’t think it will ever stop! >_<

”I’m not gonna un-have this is what I mean. I’ve had it since I can remember and it’s not getting better and I can’t have a normal life if I can’t kiss someone without freaking out.”
“It’s okay, Aza. Really.”

”He kept saying what do I do, what do I do, his head on my shoulder. I wondered whether it was a mistake to tell him. What do I do? He asked it again and again, pleading.”

Daisy & Aza:

”I don’t mean that you’re a bad friend or anything. But you’re slightly tortured, and the way you’re tortured is sometimes also painful for, like, everyone around you.”

Now that was quite a friendship and I could relate to it from Daisy’s POV. I have a few friends that have OCD and even though I’m trying to understand them it’s not always easy. If you don’t have OCD it’s kinda tough to understand why people would do certain things and I think John Green portrayed this incomprehension quite well. Daisy loved Aza and this was more than just obvious, yet she still had troubles to maintain their friendship. I think most of that is due to the fact that the most ordinary things (in our eyes ordinary, mind you) become a challenge for people with OCD. We can’t even fathom what it means to go out into the world and to live with that voice in the back of your mind. So at times this makes it hard to comprehend Aza’s actions. Despite all that Daisy did everything she could. She tried to understand Aza and she accepted her the way she was. If you ask me this is what true friendship is about and in my eyes they were perfect! =)

”What are their jobs? When was the last time you were at my apartment – five years ago? We’re supposed to be best friends, Holmesy, and you don’t even know if I have any fucking pets. You have no idea what it’s like for me, and you’re so like, pathologically uncurious that you don’t even know what you don’t know.”

Aza & her mom:

”You feeling scared?”
“Of what?”
“It’s not like that. The sentence doesn’t have, like, an object. I’m just scared.”
“I don’t know what to say, Aza. I see the pain on your face and I want to take it from you.”

Aza’s mom was so great! She was a single mom and tried her best to give Aza everything she needed. There was no doubt that she loved her daughter dearly and it was so good to see that she always managed to engage Aza in dialogue. Of course this wasn’t always welcome from Aza’s side but I guess that’s a typical teen trait. Regardless of their troubles and fears, no teen seems to be keen on the idea of talking with their parents about the real important things. *lol* I think that if she would have wanted to, Aza knew that she could always confide in her mother though. And last but not least her mom’s words resonated so much with me. It’s so hard to see your kid in pain and not to be able to do anything against it and if I could, I would do everything possible to take away my child’s pain. No matter if it’s heartache or a flu. XD

”You seemed locked inside of your mind, and I can’t know what’s going on in there, and it scares me.” I pressed my thumbnail against my fingertip through the Band-Aid, thinking it would scare her a lot more if she could see what was going on in there.

The OCD rep:

”The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.”

I don’t have OCD so you have to take my words with a grain of salt. I do think that the rep was done very well in this book though. As I mentioned before, I have a couple of friends that suffer from OCD and before I read this book I was trying to understand them but never truly did. I think to read “Turtles All the Way Down” gave me a better understanding of their troubles and fears. Of course there are different types of OCD and there was only one part of it represented in here, the “thought spiral” is something that all of my friends seem to have in common though. I can’t even imagine how tough it must be to get out of bed and to live your life with thoughts like that always spinning in the back of your mind. To read about it made it so palpable and real. It’s one thing if people try to explain it to you, it’s an entirely different thing if you’re in their head and experience those things exactly like they do. Some of those book scenes were pretty intense and yes, I admit it, I sometimes found myself closing the book because I couldn’t take the repetitive thoughts and the spiral downwards any longer. When I needed a break I could close the book, but people who have OCD can’t just close a book, they have to live through their thoughts and that’s actually pretty scary. I think I finally got how scary it actually is! So thank you John Green for giving us this rep and for helping us to understand the people we love and care about! If not entirely, at least a little bit better.

”True terror isn’t being scared; it’s not having a choice in the matter.”


“Turtles All the Way Down” was a fairly slow-paced and somehow gentle book. John Green dealt with quite a few sensitive topics yet always tackled them in a careful manner. Whilst it can be argued that the plot around the missing billionaire is only background music, there is no doubt that Green used it as a device in order to focus on the important things. The things that have moved our world for centuries. Love, hope, fear, anger, frustration, despair and the entire bandwidth of human emotions. If you’re looking for one or all of those things you’ll certainly gain something from reading this book! Happy reading!

I thought long and hard about which book should be the last one I start in 2019 and I eventually decided for this one.

Many of my friends loved it and others, well…they gave it 3 stars so I guess they weren't really persuaded by it. *lol*
Since I love to form my own opinion I’m always ready to read a controversial book though.

Let’s find out if I’ll like it or not. ;-)
Profile Image for Sara ➽ Ink Is My Sword.
569 reviews438 followers
March 29, 2018
1.5 “John Green is definitely a miss for me” Stars

“Reading someone’s poetry is like seeing them naked”

UHU. I just bumped to 2 stars because I am reading a 1-star book right now and this is not at that level. I can truly appreciate the OCD representation in Aza so yeah let's leave it at 1.5 near 2.


My problem was expectations. I thought I would relate, I didn’t. My problem was feeling. I thought I would feel, I couldn't.

JG fans please don't throw tomatoes at me. Although if you throw them with parmesan cheese or mozzarella cheese, I may, just may be okay with it.

Do I think everyone will hate this book? Hell, no.
I for sure know many people will be able to relate and enjoy this book. So don’t feel discouraged to pick this up if you want to. There was nothing wrong, yet everything was wrong for me as a reader.
Do I recommend it? Yes, if you are a usual JG fan and if you are interested in reading more OCD representation.

OCD representation, yes hell yes, I am glad his book exists. Many people could relate, many had this book piercing their heart, so yes I currently think what the hell is wrong with me. I have the theory that I am a robot. So if you have a solution for me please send it my way.

Mr. Green can definitely write and he obviously is very well received by the audiences, if not how will he be a bestseller author, two movies produced based on his books already, heck they are probably even producing this one while I am writing this review. I don’t think there is anything atrocious, I just can’t connect and I feel very much bored while reading his stories. My only exception has been The Fault In Our Stars and his history youtube channel, he has seriously saved me some grades. But anyways let’s not make this personal.


Not consistent. It felt like a random stuff put together, finally distracting you from the actual point. I mean this would have been best if we were totally focused on the mental health aspect of the story, but suddenly this bounty hunter stuff was thrown at us, and it didn’t even have a worthy climax or anything. It felt dull.


Couldn’t connect with anybody. As a teenager, I always end up with the sensation that I am reading adults (like not only in this book, but pretty much everything John Green has written), and it bothers me.

Aza: I think people who have OCD could relate a lot to her and this whole book, I just couldn’t. But for that, I give 1,000 kudos, the representation a mental illness, but this just doesn't mean I loved this book. I really wanted more than just Aza’s perspective because I felt I couldn’t get anything from the book. Maybe this was the intention, but I basically hated it, because it felt like there was nothing going on or important to remember. She also made me realize I am really getting tired of the whole “psychologist suck they are just pricks who fake listening to us” because fuck I am freaking tired of all YA books not having good mental health help.

Davis: Why did he even exist? I mean I felt he was the manic pixie dream character we always found in John Green’s characters. I liked he liked poetry, that’s about it. I honestly couldn’t even feel sorry for him and his dad plot. Yes, I have an ice heart.

Daisy: Mmmmm…. How can I say this? Oh yeah, I didn’t like her. Again, she just was a terrible friend? As bad as Aza was to her, the fanfic part was too low my dear. Also, I haven’t watch star wars I don’t plan to watch it ever, and I was not the even minimum interested in her freaking Chubaka stories.


Why did it exist? H-O-N-E-S-T-L-Y. Please, someone, explain to me. There wasn’t even palpable attraction to start with, I couldn’t. I don’t even have words because there is basically nothing to talk about.


Yeah some cool quotes, but I don’t emotionally connect, I felt bored.I really struggled, 258 pages felt like 1576868 pages.

To not make this review completely negative here are some quotes I will keep. Just know I still regret physically highlighting this book, I want my money back, sigh. If the books were just this quotes it would have probably been 5 stars.

“But I was beginning to learn that your life is a story told.”

“It’s a weird phrase in English, in love, like it’s a sea you drown in or a town you live in. You don’t get to be anything else-in friendship or in anger or in hope. All you can be is in love.”

“I wanted to tell her that I was getting better because that was supposed to be the narrative of the illness: It was a hurdle you jumped over or a battle you won. Illness is a story told in the past.”

“And we’re such language-based creatures that to some extent we cannot know what we cannot name. And so we assume it isn’t real. We refer to it with catch-all terms, like crazy or chronic pain, terms that both ostracize and minimize. The term chronic pain captures nothing of the grinding, constant, ceaseless, inescapable hurt. And the term crazy arrives at us with none of the terror or worry you live with. Nor do either of those terms connote the courage people in such pains exemplify, which is why I’d ask you to frame your mental health around a word other than crazy.”

This book may have worked if my mental health was horrible, which I don't even know it means something good.
Profile Image for Josu Diamond.
Author 8 books33.2k followers
November 10, 2017
Estoy sorprendido.

Si me seguís sabréis que no soy el mayor fan de John Green. Sin duda, es un autor que me gusta leer porque sus historias tienen un algo que me gusta, pero hay historias que me han gustado muchísimo y otras que no me han gustado absolutamente nada.

Mil veces hasta siempre pasa al top, a ser una de las mejores. Le habría dado cinco estrellas pero me ha faltado un poquito para eso, el dejarme destrozado o flipando. Sin embargo, ha sido un buen viaje en conjunto y ahora os explico por qué. Por cierto, os iré poniendo frases que he subrayado de la novela porque hay algunas maravillosas.

En esta novela de John Green nos encontramos a un personaje que sufre de diversos problemas de salud mental, que hacen que la novela en ciertos momentos pare la narración de la trama para mostrarnos lo mal que está. Páginas enteras de pensamientos en bucle, de sensaciones que solo la protagonista entiende, y que consiguen que el lector se agobie mientras lo lea. Well done. Ese detalle me ha gustado mucho.

Tengo espirales de pensamientos, y no puedo salir de ellas.

Un detalle que al contrario no me ha gustado (y tenía que mencionarlo) es ser tan... ¿pesado? con Star Wars. Que entiendo que forma parte de la personalidad de Daisy, la mejor amiga de la protagonista, y que sirve para avanzar determinadas tramas durante la novela, pero llega a haber tres páginas enteras contando una historia del universo de George Lucas y oye, me aburro.

Por otro lado, las partes en las que Aza hablaba sin parar sobre microbios y enfermedades infecciosas me ha parecido increíble. Eran super interesantes y encajaban perfectamente con los momentos nerviosos de ella.

Me gustaba estar con él en aquel espacio no físico, pero también sentía la necesidad de cerrar las ventanas de mi yo.

En esta novela John Green da una lección sobre el amor que me tengo que poner de rodillas para agradecerle. No lo romantiza como en otras de sus novelas, ni lo convierte como en algo esencial. La relación romántica de esta novela rompe muchos tabúes y barreras y considero que es super importante que también se muestren relaciones así.

El final -que no spoilearé pero que tiene algo de relación con esto que comento- me ha parecido el justo y necesario para la novela y no podría haber sido mejor. No es sorprendente, ni me ha dejado por los suelos, pero sí creo que se ajusta a la trama y tono, y sobre todo, al personaje de Aza.

Las mejores conversaciones son aquellas en las que ni siquiera recuerdas de qué hablasteis, solo recuerdas cómo te sentías.

El personaje de Davis y todo lo que le rodea (el misterio de su padre, Noah...) han sido una parte interesante de la novela, aunque creo que podría haber tenido más momentos de misterio donde descubriéramos qué pasó realmente con su padre. Es decir: al principio de la novela es la trama, pero se va convirtiendo poco a poco en algo secundario hasta prácticamente olvidarlo.

Es una pena que en una novela con elementos interesantes sobre la protagonista al final la historia abandone esa trama. Entiendo que es una novela de personaje y no de trama, pero habría sido muy interesante continuar con eso al mismo nivel durante toda la novela. He echado en falta un poco más de misterio. Llegada a un punto, la novela parece divagar, aunque el personaje de Aza hace que sea entretenido del mismo modo.

Nadie se despide de ti si no quiere volver a verte.

En definitiva: la recomiendo un montón. Estoy super contento de que John Green me haya conquistado con esta novela. No me esperaba una historia así para nada. Está increíblemente bien narrada, el tema de salud mental tratado desde el respeto en todo momento (y se nota que documentado) y en general, una novela que releería y recomendaré sin parar.
Profile Image for ✨    jami   ✨.
680 reviews3,948 followers
March 12, 2018
“It's turtles all the way fucking down, Holmesy. You're trying to find the turtle at the bottom of the pile, but that's not how it works."

"Because it's turtles all the way down," I said again, feeling something akin to a spiritual revelation.”

my relationship with john green is hit and miss and whether our relationship would end or continue all hinged on this book. folks, I'm pleased to say he's not cancelled yet.

Honestly, this book almost didn't feel like John Green. It does have staple John Green aspects, but at the same time it's very thoughtful, very cohesive, and overall feels more mature. I don't know what's changed between this book and TFIOS, but I really enjoyed the John Green we get in this book. Don't get me wrong: there's still a ridiculous amount of metaphor, simple, hyperbole, analogies, symbolism ect. I just think I happen to like those things. And metaphor is actually one of the only ways to describe what having a mental illness FEELS like.

Turtles All the Way Down follows Aza Holmes, a 16 year old girl who's thrown into the investigation to find a missing billionaire, and is also trying to deal with her OCD. The billionaire plot kind of takes a backseat to the character work - this mostly focusses on Aza's mental health and her struggle with it.

the representation was both the hardest and best thing about this book strong content warnings for this book because some things were kinda triggering, but at the same time the OCD rep is done .. really well. This is ownvoices representation and I think it's pretty clear how much John Green has put into putting forth an authentic and honest book about mental illness. John Green explores stigmatisation of MI, how it can become hard to balance your MI with your relationships, and the feeling of hopelessness when you're dealing with a mental illness that is spiralling out and out of control. I think it was great to see therapy, a positive discussion about medication and also the debunking of the "mentally ill people make better artists" trope thing (which sucks)

“Thoughts are only thoughts. They are not you, you belong to yourself even when your thoughts don't.”

I also liked the subplots: the romance was nice, and I liked the discussions about privilege/wealth that came up. My favourite subplot was the disappearance of Davies Pickett Senior and how it was affecting his family. Even though this was character driven i liked how these plots played into the story, and I also liked that it was happening and didn't leave Aza as the "character who IS their MI" character.

I also just liked how teenage-ery this was. I mean, Aza's best friend Daisy writes shippy Rey/Chewbaccaa star wars fanfiction on AO3 ? And also there's a line that literally says "he's probably some loser kylo ren stan" that's fucking hilarious and authentically teen. I really just enjoyed that there was so much fanfiction in this book.

“The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.”

I just .. really thought this was nice. I thought it was well done. The representation is so so important. Like, guys we don't get good authentic MI rep like this that often. I really enjoyed the characters, I liked the writing and there was some lines and bits I really related to (after a good conversation you don't remember what you talked about, only how it made you feel being one of my favourites)

There was also just ... none of the JG nonsense I didn't want. There was no dramatic romance with a nerd boy desperately trying to attain the girl. It was just .. good. I really enjoyed it so much more than I was expecting and I am going to gladly pick up more of this books in the future. YAY.

“You're both the fire and the water that extinguishes it. You're the narrator, the protagonist, and the sidekick. You're the storyteller and the story told. You are somebody's something, but you are also your you.”
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,513 reviews29.4k followers
October 17, 2017
From the outside looking in, Aza seems to have it all. She's smart and sensitive, and she tries hard to be a good daughter, a good student, and a good friend. But life for Aza isn't what it appears: she struggles every day with invasive thoughts, thoughts which at times leave her unable to focus on nothing but the fear and anxiety they cause.

"It's so weird, to know you're crazy and not be able to do anything about it, you know? It's not like you believe yourself to be normal. You know there is a problem. But you can't figure a way through to fixing it. Because you can't be sure, you know?"

When Aza and her best friend Daisy learn about the disappearance of the town's notorious billionaire, Russell Pickett, the father of one of Aza's childhood friends, they are intrigued by the mystery. And when Daisy learns that there is a $100,000 reward for information leading to Pickett's capture, she convinces Aza to help her investigate. While Aza honestly doesn't care about the money, she's doesn't mind that she gets to be reunited with Davis Pickett, on whom she had a crush when she was younger.

As Davis and Aza grow closer, both struggle with questions about the meaning of life and the true nature of existence. Aza tries to help Davis deal with his feelings of abandonment, whether he even wants his father to return, and what it will mean for him and his younger brother, Noah, since their mother died several years earlier. Davis tries to help Aza by understanding the intensity of her thought spirals, and helping her have the type of relationship she can handle, but as her problems deepen, no one can provide her any comfort.

Turtles All the Way Down is an unblinking look at living with mental illness. There's no candy-coating Aza's feelings, and how helpless and frustrating her illness is for her family and friends. It's also a poignant look at just how much we need love, friendship, acceptance, and understanding, and how debilitating it can be to try and understand the challenges that life throws at us.

There's a point in the book when Daisy tells Aza that someone once said she was like mustard, "great in small quantities, but then a lot of you is...a lot." To be honest, while I believe this is an important book, I found it was a little like mustard, and almost relentless. In his quest to give readers a you-are-there feeling where mental illness is concerned, I felt as if John Green sacrificed the book's humor and much of its heart. While Aza and Davis are fascinating characters, I found Daisy tremendously unlikable, while many of the other characters aren't well drawn.

As always, Green's teenage characters are wiser and more erudite than most adults. But that aside, he really shows his storytelling skills when describing Aza's anxiety. Here this paragraph, for example:

"I don't know, like, I'll be at the cafeteria and I'll start thinking about how, like, there are all these things living inside of me that eat my food for me, and how I sort of am them, in a way—like, I'm not a human person as much as this disgusting, teeming blob of bacteria, and there's not really any getting myself clean, you know, because the dirtiness goes all the way through me. Like, I can't find the deep down part of me that's pure or unsullied or whatever, the part of me where my soul is supposed to be. Which means that I have maybe, like, no more of a soul than the bacteria do."

I loved loved loved The Fault in Our Stars and really enjoyed Paper Towns , and I would be lying if I said I didn't hype this book up in my mind. As someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety in my life, and struggled to describe how they make me feel, this book is definitely helpful. I wish I liked it more, but I'm glad I read it. Now maybe I'll go back and read some of his older books.

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
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