John Green’s ‘Turtles All the Way Down’ is Profound and Relatable, Yet Unoriginal


Following his 2012 hit novel The Fault in Our Stars can’t be easy for John Green. Almost all of his YA novels are praised and worshipped by readers. Green is famous for his romances in amusing settings, and his latest novel is no different.

This time, Green introduces Turtles All the Way Down, a witty, heartrending piece about Aza, a 16-year-old girl with crippling OCD. Aza often has ‘intrusive thoughts’ that spiral into panic as she imagines what bacteria is in her body and what kinds of fatal infections she could get if she doesn’t clean the cut on her finger. She joins her best friend Daisy on a quest to find the disappeared billionaire of their small town, tempted by a reward of $100,000. Along the way, Aza struggles with her mental health and her relationship with Daisy as she falls for the billionaire’s son Davis.

Even though I laughed with them, it felt like I was watching the whole thing from somewhere else, like I was watching a movie about my life instead of living it.”

— John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

Like all of Green’s books, Turtles All the Way Down is both witty and insightful. Aza has existential crisis-type thoughts that help the reader understand how much she overthinks, as well as giving the reader something to think about. As she spirals, the reader has the sensation of spiraling with her, showing Green’s writing prowess. The plot is not overly complicated, but the dialogue and writing is both frank and philosophical. Green has a way of presenting his ideas in a format that is both easy to read and slow in digesting. The reader will find themselves thinking about the ideas days after, and though Aza has a very obvious mental illness, she is still very relatable. Green’s characters always have certain quirks to them, and are always much too insightful to be believable teenagers, but despite their flaws I think any reader can understand where they are coming from. Green has a way of illustrating the difficulties of high school through profound comments and eccentric personalities.

The ending is just as any other John Green book is — thoroughly disappointing and deep at the same time. Like most of his stories, the romance never works out, and neither does the adventure, but the characters learn something about themselves. Though never satisfying, his books teach an important lesson to YA readers: every conflict is an opportunity to better yourself, and sometimes it’s okay to not be okay.

With a somewhat boring plotline and a title that directly references Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of TimeTurtles All the Way Down is a quick, insightful read about focusing on yourself and learning how to better those around you. I’d give this one 4/5 stars because it was kind of slow to begin with, but still an interesting experience.