Reviews

Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green

hcnriettas's review against another edition

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5.0

this book DESTROYED me! i flew through it and could not put this down. this has to be one of, if not, my favourite standalone ever!!

brizreading's review against another edition

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3.0

So, I have OCD. I was diagnosed many years ago, after several years of suffering in shame and confusion, and it feels both (1) integral to my identity and (2) completely foreign from the "real" me. This book was actually recommended to me by my Expensive Professional OCD Whisperer (i.e. therapist), and - indeed - I was perversely THRILLED to learn that John Green - someone I've admired for many years - *also* suffers from OCD, and has it pretty bad, and still manages to produce such amazing work (Crash Course! famous books!). You go, John! My OCD is generally something I'm cagey and shy about - but if John Green can be open about it, and if Andrew Gelman can be open about his Tourette's, then I know I also shouldn't be embarrassed. (Still, it's so embarrassing...)

Also, I used to write moderately popular Star Wars fanfic.

All this to say that I felt a special kinship to this book, about a teenage girl suffering from some pretty bad OCD and her Star Wars fanfic-obsessed best friend.

First, I feel an enormous affection and gratitude for ANY cultural depiction of OCD that is vaguely accurate (hell, I even feel affection for the inaccurate portrayals, like As Good As It Gets or Monk). As Saul Tigh would say, "It's good to be seen."

This book offered, indeed, a VERY accurate portrayal - while the details of any OCD sufferer's obsessions and compulsions are unique to them, the nature of the disease is very predictable. The "meta-thoughts" are boringly standard.

I loved how Aza, the protagonist, acknowledged the existential doubt that having OCD gives you - OCD is egodystonic, meaning it feels foreign, you feel "not like yourself" when you're deep in it. This raises all sorts of difficulties though: Why should it take so much work to "feel like yourself", if your "natural" thoughts keep getting eaten by the OCD monster? Why does it feel like OCD is a separate entity living in your brain, something you have to outwit and bargain with and avoid and so on? Who's the true self in there?

I would hazard that ALL OCD sufferers absolutely loathe their OCD: they hate the intrusive, distressing thoughts, but they also hate what it turns them into - self-involved to the point of neglecting everything and everyone else around you. It can kinda turn you into a selfish asshole. I *loved* that John Green, speaking through Aza, acknowledges the bullshit of calling these mental illnesses "superpowers" - or the common cultural narrative of madness being akin to genius (Monk!). Oh, please. All this shit does is distract you by idiotic fears and then you get bad grades or forget your loved one's birthday, BELIEVE ME.

At the same time, this book actually helped me have MUCH better insight into the frustration of DEALING with someone with OCD. Every loved one who's had to deal with my OCD on a regular basis has, eventually, become incredibly frustrated and kind of thrown up their hands. Indeed, I lost patience with Aza immediately (sorry, Aza). When the sufferer's fears are so clearly absurd to you (Aza, for example, worries chronically that she'll catch a deadly bacterial infection), you quickly lose patience. "Omg this again?! JUST STOP." Naturally, the sufferer is JUST AS frustrated, JUST AS out of patience, and is ALSO begging their brain to "JUST STOP" - but they can't. Anyway, this was helpful to feel - it gave me a lot of sympathy (and awe!) for people who love someone with OCD. Cuz it's hard! What a pain in the ass! This was handled very well in the book - e.g. Aza's best friend, Daisy, and her fanfic as an outlet.

Okay, anyway. This book is ALSO about a disappearance mystery (which feels totally unnecessary) and a teen romance. It's set in present day Indianapolis, and features John Green's habitually overwritten teenagers. It has waaaay too many references to high poetry and fine literature. Are all of these people reading Yeats?! Who ARE these people!? The tone is very one-note. Everyone is basically a mini John Green.

So that's just okay. But you still gobble the book down. Like The Fault in Our Stars, there's one (kinda gimmicky) hook - there, cancer; here, OCD - that keeps you reading. But remove the Horrible Illness, and you're left with kids that are, oof, pretty insufferable. I definitely liked, on a "hey we should be friends!" level, Starr from The Hate U Give more. I definitely like-hated, on a "omg hilariously awful teens from hell!", the kids from MT Anderson's books more.

Henyway. So it's an okay book, with a heart - nay, a nutty imprisoned brain - of SPARKLY GOLD. I certainly wish I had found this when I was an obsession-addled teen, and I think John Green has, indeed, done something important by potentially offering succor and understanding to (quick google) ~2.3% people out there.

8amtrain's review against another edition

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3.0

maybe an unpopular opinion but i really thought this read mostly as a "problem" novel..... like neurotypical people are gonna read this and cry about how much they #relate and how hard it is! personally i had a tough time with this because i kept getting distracted by the super/detailed graphic descriptions of aza's ocd, because she obsesses about things that i also really obsess about --> actively triggered intrusive thoughts, which makes me wonder again who this was written for ??

waste_cup's review against another edition

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emotional hopeful lighthearted medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0


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teenage_reads's review against another edition

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4.0

Plot:
Clostridium difficile, something most people have never heard of. Shorten to C. diff, it is a bacterium that can cause systems from anything normal to death. That is what Aza Holmes is constantly worrying about. During lunch, watching television, driving, all she can think about is how many bacteria are entering her body. Thus, her OCD, which is why she goes to her doctors and sometimes take pills that do not work. Her best friend Daisy, who is queen on writing Star Wars fanfictions, does her homework on her phone faster than Aza can on her laptop, and could “literally die” working her Chucky Cheese job. Best friends since childhood, they do pretty much everything together. When media strikes of missing Russell Pickett with a one hundred-thousand-dollar reward for any information, Daisy see this as a chance. Aza knowing his son, Davis, as they attended Camp Spero, for kids who lost a parent (Aza her dad, Davis his mom), and were childhood friends also due to the fact they were neighbors. Reaching out, Aza finds there more to Davis than she remembers, and even though he is not missing his father, his little brother Noah is. Asked by Noah, Aza cannot stop thinking of Russell Pickett, and where he was. Plus, the fact her body is trying to protect her from not getting C. diff, she cannot even kiss Davis without thinking of what his bacteria would do inside her. Aza is in for the long haul, as her thoughts would not leave her alone, she begins to spiral into herself.
Thoughts:
This is different than the other books that John Green writes. He deals with teen issues all the time, relationships, but even for him this is different. As someone who has OCD, Green made this book harder to write, because he did not want to over or under-do OCD. Thus, why it took him forever and everyone was super pumped about its released. Aza, the main girl, is not someone who is easily liked. For the other characters Aza has been always inside her own head, making her self-centered, and not really care about the people around her. It was really nice to see the fight between Daisy and Aza, where Aza reveals that she is not inside her own head, but trapped using the words: “but imagine being actually stuck inside my head with no way out, with no way to ever take a break from it, because that’s my life” (217).While reading her thoughts, and the one that Aza cannot control, she is not a bad person, but the fact that she does not pay any attention to what is going on in Daisy’s life also hurt. Some may criticize Green for explaining the title of his book, but it was kind of nice knowing why he chose it. After all, Turtles All the Way Down, is a different title. It goes with the World Turtle theory, of the fact earth is suspended on a giant turtle back, in which that turtle is standing on another turtle’s back, and so on and so forth; thus, it is turtles all the way down to infinity. With Green writing this book has a lot of analogies in it, which is a great way to explain things, but also a little overdone in most parts. Yet, his writing is compelling as every making this story very fast pace. The relationship between Davis and Aza is hard though, because you want it to work, but also, she how difficult it is on both sides. The ending has a real shocking twist in a way, but then ends like what you expected, as Green does not write fairy tale endings, but realistic ones that have both their good and their bad. Aza may not be the most beloved character, but she is a hero in some way, and wins her battle day by day, and earns her spot on the John Green’s heroes list.

jortiz3's review against another edition

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medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0

lyssdello's review against another edition

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4.0

4.5/5. so different from other john green books, but in a good way.

bridgetotherapia's review against another edition

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5.0

To be honest, Turtles All the Way Down theory gave me more anxiety when I first read it. It's like, where do those turtles actually stop existing? Is there no end?
This book surprised me. It has all typical John Green stuff in it, yet the way that Aza's anxiety was described was so close to my disorder. I thought "Someone actually wrote this down, someone actually felt this." Being exposed to invasives and feeling that spiral tightening around are very real and it was disturbing to read them, yet it was also good to read them. Because I knew that I was not alone. Also the ending for Aza was very real and accurate in my opinion. There is no magical cure to anxiety, depression and (for me) OCD. You just keep on going and meanwhile try to live your life. As it was once said by Rae Earl on My Mad Fat Diary (the television show, not in the books), that travels with you.

zagoraca's review against another edition

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2.0

Spoiler Rant Review.

Spoiler
turtles was lame it was so boring

like she went into the tunnel and was like "yeah bet there's a dead body there"
and she didn't care?????

it was just like yep brushed aside they got their closure but that's it
WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM

i mean, it was an easy fun read i guess but when i think about it its like this was bad
yeah their dad was literally just found in a tunnel where they had the art show
i'm so confused

and his notes lead them to it... like did he kill himself? WHAT HAPPENED
how did the dad know where he was gonna die


Idk guys, it was boring and although I appreciate the anxiety disorder rep, it didn't do much for me!!

ash_bibliophile's review against another edition

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2.0

Having read all of John Green's previous books I did go in with a few expectations. Which in typical John Green's style of wanting to do something new with this book didn't meet but his potrayal of a protagonist that suffers from OCD and is socially awkward was beautiful captured. The teen angst and clumsiness of first romance was fun to read . All in all a good book for a light read or if you want to go back to the days of being a teen in your head by reading some YA fiction.