I’ve been waiting for John Green’s new book, Turtles All the Way Down, for a long time. Like everyone else on earth, I fell in love with his wonderful, exhausting previous book, The Fault in Our Stars, and then went back and read everything he’s ever managed to put down on paper prior to that. He is a beautiful writer and it was my mistake, not his that I decided to read Fault on a plane to Toronto instead of in the privacy of my own home, terrifying everyone around me with audible guttural sobs for five hours straight. Besides his lovely writing and ability to make me feel stuff I don’t want to feel, John Green is also an all-around great guy and a self-proclaimed Nerdfighter who works to make the world a better place. Also, he’s pretty funny on Twitter.
All of this is to say… that I wanted to love Turtles All the Way Down a bit more than I actually did love it. It wasn’t that it was bad, but it was a bit slow and yet again my expectations are probably not realistic, though they took less of a hit with Andy Weir and Philip Pullman. So, two out of three ain’t bad I guess, which is why I’ve waited to write this review so I could gush about Pullman, tell you how much I was amused by Weir and now here we are.
Like all of Green’s books, Turtles is classified as Young Adult, and is focused on Aza, a sixteen year old girl growing up with some severe OCD issues. This isn’t the crux of the plot, but it probably should have been, because it was very strong and impactful, and the other side stories were much less so. Green has shared while talking about this book that he suffers from the same issues that he gave to Aza and even without that knowledge I found this to be very realistic and intense. Possibly too intense. The form that Aza’s OCD takes and the intensity to which she feels it is rough, and I had a bit of a hard time with it, probably because the form that my OCD takes is a complete inability to listen to or think about other people’s bodily functions. I mean, close enough.
So a very quick synopsis would be to say that Aza is struggling with basic teenager-y issues that are exacerbated by her mental health and the absence of her late father; she has normal-ish friends with normal issues; and then there’s a side story about a fugitive billionaire and his children, and very little to nothing about turtles, in case that’s your concern. I mean… very standard John Green stuff here. I enjoyed reading it when I was in the middle of it, but it has been a few weeks, and I remember almost nothing about it. This is a stark contrast to The Book of Dust, whose world I angrily and reluctantly pulled myself out of, blinking and confused, only because there did not seem to be any more pages to read. And it’s probably not fair to compare these two, but I’m human and I am. There are tons of great reviews out there for Turtles, so let’s just say it wasn’t my thing, or my expectations were too high, or I shouldn’t have read these things in this order, or I am just wrong, but this one wasn’t for me. Also, there are no turtles.
Turtles All the Way Down – Grade C+