Review: John Green’s “Turtles All the Way Down”

October 24, 2017

John Green is back after a five-year hiatus from published works. His new novel “Turtles All the Way Down” is one you won’t want to miss. Keep reading to find out what Reading Whale thought of Green’s new book.

It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.

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.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.


Wow. Through the beginning, middle, and end that was my prevailing thought while reading this novel. For 24 hours, I could not put Turtles All the Way Down down–not even to do homework (which really wasn’t a hard choice to make, but maybe you still see the point).


John Green’s long-awaited new novel is a masterpiece of honesty and personality. And it is entirely different and unique from anything he has written before. Truthfully, that was my original hesitancy about buying the book, and it is why I didn’t preorder it. In the past, Green has had a habit of creating similar plots across different stories. There’s a girl and a boy, there’s an adventure, there’s heartache (someone probably dies), and there’s eloquent language. Oh, and an absence of typical parental figures. I’m not knocking his writing, I love all of Green’s books, and his style of writing is amazing. I’m just noting this habit of his, which most of his readers are probably familiar with.


But while all of those things do still exist in this novel, the story is so much more than those basic concepts. There’s a boy, a girl, a best friend, and an adventure, but there is so, so much more. I encourage you, if you aren’t typically a fan of Green, don’t nix this book just because of previous opinions. If you’ve seen anything from Green himself about this novel, or another review, you might know about the personal connection he has with this novel, even more so than he has with his others. In his life, John Green has struggled with OCD and anxiety disorders, and Aza, the main character in Turtles All the Way Down, does too.


With this in mind, of course this novel is more personal to Green, but it also becomes more personal to the reader. Most of the book is centered around Aza’s mind, her compulsive thought spirals, and how those thoughts affect her everyday life. Because of this, the book is less about the adventure mentioned in the summary, and more about the internal adventure and growth Aza has as her life changes. In fact, I think the summary isn’t entirely truthful to all this book is.


I think this novel is going to be so important for teenagers to read because in today’s world it is really easy to feel insecure or uncomfortable with addressing mental health. And this book discusses it head on. Not only is it good for awareness about OCD and anxiety disorders in teenagers, but this book is also great for those reading it that have the same daily battle as Aza, and who may face the same disorders. This novel, as many novels do, gives a community to those reading it. It lets others struggling with similar disorders know that they aren’t alone, and it helps other readers recognize and become aware of those who live with OCD or anxiety.


The characters in Turtles All the Way Down, though not always likable  and though not always strong, are real and honest. John Green hit the nail on the head with this one, and it is a novel fans of young adult literature should definitely read. It faces loss, controversy, and friendship in a meaningful way that is sure to get you right in the feels. Just remember, it’s okay to cry and throw the book at the wall. Think of it as therapy. But most of all, what this book does (at least, what it did to me) is make you think about the way you think–about others, about yourself–and it makes you want to do better, but still to be happy with yourself and all you are.


“You’re the fire and the water that extinguishes it. You’re the narrator, the protagonist, and the sidekick. You’re the storyteller and the story told. You are somebody’s something, but you are also your you.”

  1. Loved the JG quote – fascinating use of words!

    Book review well written.

    What age is to old to enjoy a young adult book? Sounded like a great book but I am far from being young adult…

    1. You can read any book at any age, really! It just depends on what you like. YA lit is just written for younger readers, and deals with situations that teens will encounter more so than adults. But that doesn’t mean you can’t read it or like it. This book would be a great one to try out 🙂

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