Turtles All the Way Down – a book review

I recently completed reading the latest John Green novel, Turtles All the Way Down. I saw an ad for my local DeKalb Book World saying they had a limited amount of author signed copies. I had seen John speak several years ago in support of The Fault in our Stars and thought, hey, I saw him, he signed this book, it’s like he signed it for me, counts.

Since this purchase, the Book World franchise has announced the closing of all of it’s stores. Not only is it heartbreaking (they carried my novel, Pocket Money, at both the Freeport and DeKalb locations) but it’s also indicative of my feelings towards this book.

I loved The Fault in our Stars. I laughed, I cried, I devoured that story in a matter of days, which says a lot for me. I then read several other titles by John Green, none of which came even close to my adoration for TFIOS. Two titles I found so ludicrous in premise and/or inability to engage I didn’t even finish. That also says a lot for me.

I wasn’t completely surprised by the lack of plot in Turtles. His books are definitely character driven and Turtles has some interesting characters. I said to a friend, “I’m literally halfway through this book and I have no idea what it’s about.” Her response was, “It’s about a girl with OCD.” Exactly. All character, no plot.

And, duh, I knew that.

I am familiar with OCD and other anxiety disorders. I am sympathetic and even a little empathetic. John Green has been very open and forthcoming about his own illness. I think Aza Holmes (the main character) is very well written. Frighteningly so. I worry that her affliction will alienate some readers. I worry that her spiral will trigger others. I think his descriptions, comparisons, and metaphors regarding anxiety disorders are very well done. I was reading about Aza’s compulsions thinking, oh god, don’t do that at the same time I was understanding why she had to do that. That’s a reaction not every author could impel.

I didn’t like this book. It was a challenge to read because of what the main character experiences and her inability to just do things better or differently. It was kind of boring since nothing really happens and the stuff that does is kind of unbelievable…up till the last 20 pages or so where I found the ending to be quite satisfying. And overall, I believe the POINT of the book is to be confounding. I didn’t think The Fault in our Stars was a novel about kids with cancer, I thought it was about so much more. Turtles All the Way Down IS a novel about a kid with OCD, and although not my favorite read, it may be a more important one.

About Mary Fran Says

I am an artist, crafter, designer and writer. I enjoy working with mixed media-- applying visual and tactile manipulations to telling a story. Not a lot of market for that, though, :), so I'm focusing on short story submissions and novel completions. Yes, plural. Lots of beginnings, too many ideas, not enough focus.
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