Entertainment Reviews

Book Review: Turtles All the Way Down

By Idan Mor ‘21, Opinion Editor

The stories that stick with readers are the ones that leave an emotional stamp. A book that you remember isn’t just read— it’s felt. And that is precisely why John Green’s novel Turtles All the Way Down is so powerful.

The story follows Aza Holmes, a 16-year-old who struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and severe anxiety. The book showcases her struggles with her conditions and how they affect her everyday life, as well as featuring a captivating side-plot about Aza’s encounter with an old childhood friend and her search for his missing father. Themes like romance, friendship, loss, and mystery enrich the story. 

I appreciate many elements of this book, like the flawed but surprisingly lovable cast of characters and the beautiful and unique writing style. But what makes this book stand out is its portrayal of mental illness. Throughout the novel, Aza’s disorders tempt her to make some wildly illogical decisions, but I was able to understand them and even relate to them. The novel helped me empathize with people who experience OCD.

The book does not just present Aza’s experience; it makes you feel as if you are experiencing her disorders yourself. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I felt like I was reliving my condition through Aza’s. The book does not compel the reader to pity people with mental illnesses, but rather spreads hope that the people can overcome difficulties.

In addition, Turtles All the Way Down vividly conveys the experience of a panic attack, and for people who do not face anxiety conditions, the novel could be very eye-opening. Green’s authentic writing style helps readers understand mental illness from a new perspective. Especially considering how many people deal with mental illness, the novel could be key in building empathy for those afflicted.

I think that everyone who struggles with mental illness or wants to understand it better should read this book. But even if you only want an emotional story with beautiful writing and an intriguing plot, Turtles All the Way Down is the book for you.

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