Turtles All the Way Up in reviews for John Green’s new novel
John Green’s newest novel, Turtles All the Way Down, is not the doomed love story we’ve come to expect from the Fault In Our Stars and Looking for Alaska author. Well, it is and it isn’t. No spoilers.
Turtles is less like the grand adventures of Green’s other novels in that it hardly leaves the mind of the main character. The very first line is the 16-year-old protagonist, Aza, explaining that she thinks she might be fictional. And yeah, the feeling that sentence gives you pretty much stands for the rest of the book.
There are interesting side plots, family drama, friendship drama, and evenStar Wars fanfiction. There are all the usual things to cross off the John Green Checklist: a chatty best friend, a weird art show, quirky habits and hobbies and an onslaught of beautiful lines that sneak up on you and won’t leave your head. But the strength of the book lies in Green’s ability to capture the mentality of a struggling teenager.
Much of the story centers around Aza’s mental health. She explains to the reader that she has intrusive thoughts, and that her psychiatrist tells her that she is not her thoughts. I was going to use some clever quip about how Aza turns Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am” on it’s head, but two sentences later the characters were talking about that very thing. So I’m barely clever.
There are pages that are so filled with anxiety I started to sweat. There was a point in the middle that I started crying because Aza’s mother was singing a lullaby, and Green had succeeded in making me feel what his characters were feeling. That, I think, is what brings us back to him every time he writes a new book. Not just that he treats his teenage characters like the intelligent people we know we were when we were teenagers, not even the beautiful language he uses to describe the thoughts of his characters. He is able to tap into something deep within us, something we all relate to, and that is probably more clear in Turtles than it’s ever been.
Green tried something different with Turtles All the Way Down. He decided to stay away from the desperate and passionate love stories he’s become known for, and I believe it paid off. This novel is a quick read, but a heavy one. I don’t suggest reading if you’ve still got midterms to take, because you won’t be able to put it down and it may or may not fill you with some existential dread. You’ve been both warned and encouraged. It’s worth it.
Julia Stevens, a senior, studies English and secondary education. She is a copy editor for Le Provocateur.