contemporary · review · young adult

Turtles All The Way Down – John Green

“We are about to live the American Dream, which is, to benefit from someone else’s misfortune.”

9780525555360

Blurb: “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. “

When a billionaire goes missing in her neighbourhood, Aza and her best friend Daisy decide that they are going to solve the mystery and get the hefty reward sum on offer. Aza used to know the billionaire’s son, Davies, and so their mission begins to uncover the truth.

John Green has been heavily criticised in the past for his portrayal of the manic pixie dream girl and mental illness in his books, but, Turtles All The Way Down really steers away from that perception. This book feels a lot more mature than his others, and I feel that is in part down to the inclusion of a character with a mental illness that John Green suffers from too. It felt very personal in places as Aza performs certain rituals which she believes are the key to staying alive along with “thought spirals” that hinder her throughout. It was really nice to see that shift from the manic pixie to a character really struggling with a mental illness, doing her best to live with it and also getting help; there are frequent scenes of Aza meeting with her therapist.

While the initial plot point is about the disappearance of a billionaire, that aspect quickly falls by the wayside and it becomes more about the characters. I’ll be honest, that really threw me off and there were times that I really just wanted there to be a breakthrough in the case rather than reading scenes between Aza and Davies.

There were some elements that were sadly predictable in a story about mental illness in terms of how characters reacted but it highlights just how much stigma there still is out there. It was nice, however, to see a character that was willing to sit, listen, learn and understand Aza’s needs without putting her under pressure or overwhelming her.

Turtles All The Way Down is a raw, ugly and honest insight into the struggles of mental illness packed full of characters you’ll remember for a while.

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