Just over two weeks ago, John Green released his seventh novel, six years after the number one best seller “The Fault Our Stars.” Critics are calling Green’s new novel, titled “Turtles All the Way Down,” “A new modern classic,” “A wrenching and reve- latory novel” and “A tender story about learning to cope when the world feels out of control” by the Guardian, The New York Times and People Magazine, re- spectively. “Turtles All the Way Down” is about a 16-year-old girl named Aza who struggles with being a good friend, daugh- ter and even detective, all while dealing with a mental illness (OCD) that lets her thoughts spin out of control and stops her from finding her sense of self. Green’s novel expresses an understanding of what it means to struggle to define oneself as well as explain what it is like to have a mental illness, as Green himself struggles with OCD. Al- though Green created a charac- ter who struggles with her men- tal health, it is not hard to relate to Aza, as it is easy to be lost in thought. Green shows that with life comes struggle, and that struggle comes in many differ- ent forms. However, like Aza, one must work with what they are given.
On his YouTube channel, Vlogbrothers, Green explains that oftentimes mental health can be romanticized. Characters in a novel or movie end up using their mental health as a kind of “superpower” that makes them a good detective. While others may have had this experience, this has not been the experience that Green has had when dealing with OCD. He wanted to make sure that mental health was represented in its true form. In an interview for the Guardian, Green explains how he wants to fight against the stigmas and the idea that mental health can be romanticized. When reading “Turtles All the Way Down,” the reader experiences first-hand what it is like to be in the mind of someone with a mental illness. Not only does Green show a character who struggles with her thoughts, he also brings in char- acters who want nothing more than to take away the pain Aza deals with. On Good Morning America, Green explained how, as a father himself, he knows oftentimes all parents want to do is take away the pain of their children. Thus, he wanted to have characters who struggle to watch Aza handle her OCD. In “Turtles All the Way Down,” readers gain an understand- ing of what it is like to watch someone struggle as well as un- derstanding the struggle itself. Aza is a character who wants to be close to people, but because of her spiraling thoughts does not know how. Her OCD often makes her look as though she is pushing her friends and mother away, when in reality she does not know how to connect with them.
Aza fears that because her thoughts are uncontrollable she has no control over how the rest of the world portrays her. For some, it is not the struggle that defines them, but how they overcome the struggle. Aza does not know if she can over- come her spiraling thoughts and Green’s novel exceeds expecta- tions by putting the reader in- side someone else’s shoes, show- ing them that some difficulties feel as though they can never be overcome. “Turtles All the Way Down” is a novel that shows how everyone experiences the world differently and that sometimes what’s needed the most is not understanding, but compassion.
“Turtles All the Way Down” can be found alongside Green’s other novels in local bookstores or online, including Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. It is also found at Target or Walmart.