Turtles All the Way Down
by John Green
Age: Young Adult
Contains: Cursing, death, mental illness, mentions of underage drinking
You remember your first love because they show you, prove to you, that you can love and be loved, that nothing in this world is deserved except for love, that love is both how you become a person and why.
So I adore John Green, I mean who doesn’t? He just seems so genuine and nice, and I remember when he revealed his own mental health issues how much more real it made him seem. I’m a proud Nerdfighter and love watching Vlogbrothers videos (even if I don’t catch all of them). But that still doesn’t mean I’ll automatically like a book written by either of them (looking at you An Absolutely Remarkable Thing–you better be good) even if I did enjoy the last one (looking at you TFIOS). But even though this one wasn’t a page-turner, and it took me a while to finish, I still feel thoroughly satisfied with the read. I think because it was so…nuanced that I wanted to take my time and not miss anything.
That and having a toddler.
So Aza is a girl with some issues (she’s obsessed with thinking bacteria are going to get her) and a crazy-but-fun, Star-Wars-obsessed best friend, Daisy. Together they decide to see if they can track down the father of Aza’s childhood friend because there’s a reward on his head. (Dude was CRAZY loaded. Like, could afford to hide $100k in multiple locations around his house and not miss it. Not broken up, DIFFERENT bundles of $100k in cash around the house….)
What I liked about Turtles:
I found I could actually identify with Aza’s thought spirals. I don’t suffer from mental illness, but I’ve definitely had thought patterns that feel so impossible to break out of, even though it’s the only thing in the world I want. It’s nowhere near as bad as her, but I still felt like I got it somewhat.
I like that we see that even though people love her and want to understand and help, her mental illness can be tiresome for those around her as well as for her. I have family members and even some friends that have mental health problems and it can be really hard when you don’t know how to make it better. Especially when they relapse and though you know they maybe can’t help it, it’s so hard not to blame them.
None of the relationships in the book were idealized, and that’s nice. It didn’t feel like her anxiety was going to be fixed by whoever figured her out first.
The romance was not the point of the book, only an aspect of it.
The point was not Aza getting cured. It wasn’t about perfecting her. John Green wouldn’t do that to us. The point is her coming to terms with some things and finding better ways to try to manage them.
Things I didn’t like:
Daisy’s kind of a brat. But the thing is, she’s supposed to be. Because someone has to both love Aza despite her flaws, but also be annoyed with her that she can’t work around them more. Daisy often frustrated me, but then again she’s supposed to.
That Mom wasn’t more involved in what was going on with her daughter’s medication sooner. I can’t judge too harshly here, but if you can ask your daughter all the time how she’s doing, you can find time to check if she’s taking her meds. Because her doctor can’t help her if she can’t tell if the meds are working or not. Often with mental health your body can only do so much of the work, it needs outside help just like a person with diabetes or a heart condition. If you don’t take the meds then you put yourself at risk.
The boys’ uber-rich dad. Again, though, you’re not supposed to like the d-bag that is leaving all his wealth and fortune to a freaking lizard instead of his kids, so…
My original plan was to read this one and Challenger Deep back to back, but a few of the recent books I’ve read have had people talking to shrinks, and I started getting some of the things between them confused at the beginning of this, so maybe I’ll hold off, read a couple others, then come back to that one. We’ll see.
I would definitely say, though, that I could see this book being triggering for people dealing with germ or bacteria related phobias so be aware of that before picking it up or handing it off to someone. Sometimes managing the thing is by avoiding things that set it off 🙂
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And don’t forget to check out some other books that deal with mental health!