John Green returns to writing emotional stories with ‘Turtles All the Way Down’

Five years after the release of the extremely popular The Fault in Our Stars, author John Green is back with another heart-wrenching release, Turtles All the Way Down. Featuring a teenage girl named Aza Holmes and her adventures navigating high school while also falling for her childhood best friend Davis Pickett, at first glance, Turtles All the Way Down sounds like just another average young adult novel. However, with Green’s mesmerizing prose and ability to write unflinchingly real characters, this novel is even more impactful than The Fault in Our Stars, and any other of his novels as well. For those that haven’t enjoyed Green’s previous works, this book will change your opinion on him.

The novel has multiple interwoven plots, each undeniably interesting and unique, including a missing person mystery Aza and her Star-Wars-loving best friend Daisy Ramirez are trying to find in order to win the cash prize, as well as a tuatara, a lizard looking animal considered a direct descendent of dinosaurs that can live 150 years and may just be the cure to human mortality.

However, what makes this book so emotionally jarring is Green’s focus on mental health. Admitting to suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder himself, Green explores this mental health issue through his main character Aza, his writing impeccably submerging the reader into Aza’s head. With the use of long, increasingly anxious sentences, Green imitates the invading thought spirals ever present in OCD. This aspect of the novel makes it such an amazing and enthralling read, overshadowing Aza’s relationship with Daisy and Davis, much as Aza’s mental health disorder overshadows most aspects of her life.

The interpretation of mental health makes you feel frustrated, emotional, yet not without                        a glimmer of hope, much as someone suffering with OCD would feel. He teaches those that don’t suffer with mental health problems the burden of having it, much more than reading a factual paper on it ever will. Moreover, Green also succeeds in creating a relatable character for those who do suffer from any mental health disorders, consoling them in their everyday struggle.

I also appreciated Aza’s struggles that aren’t mental health related. They make her extremely relatable, especially her fear as well as aspirations towards college, and her revelations on wealth and its negative effects on those who attain it.

The only minor issues that I have with this novel is that, at times, it isn’t truly realistic, as the characters are only 16 years old yet converse elegantly with each other. Additionally, a problem prevalent in Turtles All the Way Down as well as Green’s past works, such as Paper Towns, is that his mysteries are never what you’d expect of a mystery, making them slightly disappointing. There are no intricate clues, revelatory puzzles, or surprise twists. Instead, Green focuses on his characters and their emotional journeys rather than the mystery itself, which is pushed in the background.

Still, these are minor quibbles with what is a powerfully written story. Turtles All the Way Down is an emotionally impactful novel with a focus on mental health, friendships, the constructs of wealth, and the unforeseeable future. But mostly, it states that life can be difficult, but we can all get through it. Perfect for any lover of Star Wars, John Green, or any other young adult contemporary novels, Turtles All the Way Down is a must-read.