Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

A review of the Young Adult literary novel Turtles All the Way Down by John Green.

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Turtles All the Way Down is the story of Aza. She’s a teenager struggling with her mental health while trying to track down a fugitive billionaire for the huge-ass reward, while also navigating a romance with the fugitive billionaire’s son and re-evaluating her relationship with her best friend Daisy.

Aza has a lot going on, basically.

I’ve a hunch my thoughts about this book may change over time, but for now, in 2018, my thoughts are that I like this book a lot, but I do not quite love it.

I’m not sure yet why I don’t love it. It’s very John Green – philosophical thoughts, big-picture wonderings, characters gazing inwards to introspect about the nature of self and then outwards to introspect about the nature of the universe. It’s like Paper Towns and An Abundance of Katherines in that it lacks the massive emotional punches of Looking For Alaska and The Fault In Our Stars, but unlike Paper Towns and Katherines, it has a steady thread of emotional disturbance all the way through. It’s not a comfortable book to read. I’ve known a few thought-spirals of my own, but nothing to compare to Aza’s, which made me feel anxious and suffocated just reading them.

There’s not a lot of plot; it’s a pretty calm meander from event to event, with some more remarkable happenings sprinkled here and there, but that’s the point. The book talks a lot about This Mess We Call Life, how hard and basically boring a lot of it is, that there aren’t massive epiphanies that fix things or tidal waves of emotion that take us over, that it is basically a plod from one thing to the next. There’s a line between fiction being realistic and boring; I think Turtles All The Way Down managed to dance it well, but your mileage may vary on this one.

Alice Olivia Scarlett is a freelance editor. She lives in Thanet with the seagulls and parakeets.

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