Expectations are high for Turtles all the Way Down–John Green’s comeback novel is full of pain and love

After five years from making The Fault in Our Stars John Green has written another young adult novel which is inspiring for younger teens that can relate to this character’s lifestyle.


Turtles all the Way Down by John Green not only pulls the heartstrings, but also looks deeper into life and what goes on in a teenage girl’s brain. John Green is the well-known author of bestseller The Fault in Our Stars as well as other books such as Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska. Green was named one of the top 100 influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2014. Since The Fault in Our Stars reached one million copies sold and was eventually made into a film, Turtles All The Way Down had high expectations.

The book follows 16-year-old Aza Holmes on a mystery as she and her best friend Daisy set out to find billionaire Russell Pickett. Whoever ends up finding him will get a reward of $100,000.

To anyone, Aza would look like any normal teenager, but that is not the case. What makes her such an interesting character is that she has multiple anxiety disorders that result in her thoughts spiraling out of control. The book starts off extremely slowly, as Aza struggles with everyday life due to her mental disorder and the fear of human microbiome. She is deadly terrified of infections and throughout the book she re-opens a callous in her finger. She then cleans it out to reassure herself it is not getting infected.

In the start of their search Aza starts to fall for the billionaire’s son, Davis Pickett. This brings more of a storyline to the book besides just the search for Russell Pickett himself. I find the fact that Davis and Aza are building a stronger relationship makes more to the story besides just the worry of finding Russell Pickett.

After arriving at his mansion it becomes clear that Davis and Aza come from very different worlds. Davis lives in a mansion with seven butlers, a movie theatre, a heated pool, and all the money in the world. Aza lives in a small old house with her mom constantly working just to pay her medical bills. However, coming from opposite worlds they are similar in many ways. They both feel alone and as if nobody understands them. Aza struggles with her mental health and she constantly brings up how alone she feels. Davis has been abandoned by his criminal father and even though he is surrounded by many that take care of him, he often wonders if they actually care, or they are just there because he is paying them.

The idea of money and was brought up many times throughout the book and drives at the idea that money does not equal happiness. Aza’s mom says to her one night, “Sometimes you think you are spending money, when it is actually spending you. But that is only if you worship it. You serve whatever you worship.” She is saying that people worship the money they own so they let it take control of them. Davis is the richest boy in Indianapolis but he stresses about his family and who he can trust. He worries he won’t go far in the future and will be a failure. His worries are not that different than a normal 17 year old, despite the addition of the mystery plot. He is still dealing with the loss of his mother who had died nine years ago and now suddenly has to deal with his father’s disappearance.

In the first half of the book, it seems as though this could be about a mystery due to its focus on the hunt for the billionaire but this is not only a story about finding Russell Pickett; it also includes the different emotions and feelings that Aza goes through in her daily life. When I read this book I found that John Green’s purpose in this story is to focus more on Aza’s mental health and how other teens might relate to her struggle in their own lives. He seems to show the insecurities of certain youth that might be dealing with similar problems as Aza. When people are dealing with problems in their lives, and then find someone who they can talk to, it makes them feel that comfort to be able to express their feelings, know the other will listen.

Aza’s condition can take a toll on her relations with others and make her head spin. All the bad ideas can end up preventing her from being with certain people as well as making decisions she might want to make. Davis and Aza start to get to know each other despite their personal problems and over time their relationship starts to grow. As they are about to kiss Aza pulls slightly away from Davis because of her mindset that when you kiss, “over eighty million microbes are exchanged”.

Even though Aza struggles with mental health, most of the things she worries about are not because of her condition, but normal thoughts that can be common amongst teenagers. You don’t need a mental health problem to worry about who your friends are in high school or what your life will turn out to be. When I read her thinking, I felt more at ease knowing I wasn’t the only one that worried about these things.

Aza starts to find herself in part through her friend, Daisy’s help. Daisy uses the analogy of the story, “Turtles All the Way Down,” to explain Aza’s thinking patterns. From the beginning of the story, Aza talks about how she doesnt know who she is. She keeps looking and looking but it just keeps getting deeper and deeper with no answer. Daisy explains to her a story of a woman and a scientist. The woman tells the scientist that the “Earth is a flat plane resting on the back of a giant turtle”. “Well, what is that turtle standing upon?” he replies. She answers, “you don’t understand sir, it’s turtles all the way down.” Aza then realizes she is looking for something within her thoughts that she will never find, because it is turtles all the way down.

As the book gets closer to the end, Davis has something to tell Aza that does not end up leaving her very happy. When I read this part of the book I knew I had to read the rest no matter what other things I had to do because my curiosity and interest began to rise. The main reason I enjoyed this part is because it made my emotions fly as to what occurred and what the outcome would end up being. Although the book already was coming to an end, I knew that what just happened would not make a lot of readers happy because it is not the normal happy ending that I was hoping for myself.

At one point, Aza asks why Davis to so interested in astronomy as they look up at the stars. He explains that the reason he is so interested is because it makes him feel smaller and that his problems are tiny when he looks at the bigger picture.

I believe this was the most powerful part of the whole book and this is something humans struggle with. They are so occupied with themselves that they forget there are larger and worse problems in the world. Aza connects what Davis says about the stars to her spiralling. She says “Spirals grow infinitely small the further you follow them inward, but they also grow infinitely large the farther you follow them out.” She is saying that if you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, you are a small person in a big world. I believe that if everyone had this mindset, the world could be a more positive place and we could work together to help those in need.

Turtles All the Way Down was nothing compared to the spectacular The Fault in Our Stars. Romance is what John Green is best at but the main relationship Green focused on here was between Aza and Daisy. Still, I liked what he was trying to teach the reader about finding yourself. Turtles All the Way Down is definitely worth reading.

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