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Turtles all the Way Down by John Green

Turtles All the Way Down is a story, I believe, that will resonate with many readers. I know that it has for me and I think that I will be thinking about it for a while yet. Turtles All the Way Down is about a young woman, Aza Holmes, who, with her best friend, pursues the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett. However, throughout the narrative, Aza is tormented by the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

Following the huge success of The Fault in Our Stars, John Green yet again shows the realities of what it is to be a teenager. Through Aza, we are shown a seemingly typical teenage life; she goes to school, has her best friend at her side, and falls in love with the boy she has known since childhood. Yet, beneath it all, Aza cannot escape herself and her mind.

Aza’s character was very realistic. She is continuously tormented by her anxiety and OCD, but the way it is portrayed is authentic and honest. I found myself often frustrated by Aza; she would have her good days and I began to believe that she might have been improving. But then she would slip back into the same torturous spiral of her mental illness. Here is where I found it believable because the continuous fall back is something that many people with mental illness face. It truly felt like John Green had lived these issues that Aza discussed in the narrative. This was where it was realistic to me. Because mental illness is frustrating, it is disturbing.

John Green brought these often stigmatised issues to light. Many people often do not understand mental illness as we cannot detect them with our senses. But Aza describes her anxiety in metaphors, making it something tangible and thus, something people can empathise with. She often describes them as spirals. “The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.”

What I really enjoyed about Turtles All the Way Down was that there were two plots. There was the external one, of Aza and Daisy, pursuing the billionaire and love. But there was also the internal one; Aza’s mental battle. The two plots were interwoven so cleverly that I often forgot that they were somewhat separate. This made Turtles All the Way Down more engaging and captivating.

John Green is an expert at crafting a story that is both relatable and thought-provoking. Aza’s predicament, though extreme, is something that many people will be able to connect with. Her anxiety left me wondering about how much control we have over our own thoughts, whether they are really us. “You do not get to choose your thoughts.” But despite the dark and disturbing nature of Aza’s thought spirals, which is at the heart of the book, there is also the theme of hope. John Green emphasises that although it can be difficult to get effective treatment, there is hope, even if your brain tells you there isn’t. I believe that Aza Holmes will be a comfort to many young people going through mental illnesses.

Turtles All the Way Down is a captivating novel, with Aza’s mental thought spirals at the heart of it. However, it is also a story about love, resilience and friendship. With it’s easy to read prose and deep, relatable characters, John Green’s latest novel will stick with many readers. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and I know that it will be just as successful as The Fault in Our Stars.

REVIEWER: Emma Jackson

TITLE: Turtles All the Way Down

AUTHOR(S): John Green

PUBLISHER: Penguin Random House

RRP: $30.00

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