It all begins with a fugitive billionaire and the promise of a cash reward. Turtles All the Way Down is about lifelong friendship, the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, Star Wars fan fiction, and tuatara. But at its heart is Aza Holmes, a young woman navigating daily existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.
In his long-awaited return, John Green shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity.
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Turtles All the Way Down is likely the least depressing novel by John Green and therefore I highly recommend that you start with it if you are new to his novels. It is a fictional YA novel, featuring a teenage girl struggling to maintain her friendships, excel at school and manage mental illness that is at times, utterly debilitating.
The theme of mental health is prominent throughout the book and Green’s depiction of Aza’s internal downward spiral in the midst of a panic attack is all too accurate and familiar. In those moments, it is incredibly easy to step into the character’s shoes and feel her emotions just as deeply as she does. This is particularly true for readers who listen to the audiobook, narrated by Kate Rudd.
Despite this central theme, Turtles All The Way Down is not depressing and Aza’s mental illness is not depicted as ruining her life. It is a part of her and her relationships – inescapable – and yet it does not comprise her. She is still her own person, not consumed by illness. Throughout the novel, mystery and intrigue help drive the plot forward and encourages Aza to push through her difficulties to help her friend. In doing so, she begins to understand a lot about herself as well.
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