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Author: John Green
Genres: YA fiction
Published: October 10, 2017 by Dutton Books for Young Readers
Length: 286 pages
More info on Goodreads
Available on Amazon
"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."
John Green is back after 5 years (The Fault in Our Stars was published in 2012) and boy is it a great feeling. I think I am not alone when I share the sentiment that I feel as if I have grown up with Green as a mentor or some other comforting presence in my life. Young readers and adult readers alike have loved the novels Green puts out; TFiOS was "chosen as TIME Magazine’s #1 Fiction Book of 2012" (www.johngreenbooks.com). Turtles All the Way Down definitely does not disappoint.
As the blurb tells us, Aza struggles with OCD. At times, it's painful to read how she copes. It's painful to read about her inner torture...
That said, Green's voice is ever more consistent and intimate. While reading, I feel like I am friends with his characters, like I have known them my whole life but yet they are always surprising me and teaching me new things. Green introduces a lot of (random) facts about things I did not ever expect to know - like the tuatara, a lizard-like animal (but not a lizard at all) native to New Zealand.
TAtWD has everything I look for in a great YA novel. The story is not childish in subject matter, but rather a very mature, realistic, and positive representation of mental health issues today. I'm like a proud parent of Green when it comes to how eloquently he can discuss tough topics without seeming arrogant or uninformed. He comes from a personal place when he writes about OCD, although his experiences with it are not the same as Aza's. The ending was so lovely and absolutely not cheesy. I didn't expect it to be (I mean, come on, it's John Green) but I am always nervous about YA endings. Although Aza and her BFF Daisy are high school students, they are not portrayed as the conceited, inflated, and selfish kids/millennials/youngins/etc. that many "older adults" like to say all younger adults are. They are knowledgable, fun, caring, and not-so-perfect-but-still-really-awesome people. I was happy with the characters for this reason. I was even more happy with the ending for this reason.
Overall, this is a solid 5 stars from me. THANK YOU, JOHN GREEN. For giving us this amazing story. Yes.
My favorite quote:
"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 and worry you live with," (89).
SIDENOTE: I attended the Cincinnati, Ohio event for the Turtles All the Way Down book tour with John and his brother Hank. It was a blast! John did a reading (but since it was a few days after the book release, of course I had already read it and now I have TWO signed copies!) from TAtWD and shared some really personal anecdotes about his life and experience with OCD. Dr. Larry Turtleman (LOL Hank) did a fabulous presentation on the tuatara, Hank played some original music, there was a Dear John and Hank segment, and then John shared a poem that is a personal favorite of his and we sang We're Here Because We're Here to the tune of Auld Lang Syne (amazing) and ended the night with a special rendition of Sweet Caroline which included some moments of total silence (even more amazing). I smiled so much my cheeks hurt. I cried a little too but, as my fellow HP fans know, "to suffer is as human as to breathe."