John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down allows readers to experience unexpected love, true friendship, a billionaire's disappearance, and the realities of dealing with mental illness. Aza Holmes, known to her best friend Daisy as ”Holmsey," is a 16-year-old high school student who is often finding herself unable to escape her spiraling thoughts. Aza is constantly fighting her own mind and at often moments in the book it feels as though the narrator isn’t truly Aza herself but instead her own intrusive thoughts. John Green does a great job of highlighting what it’s really like to have to battle your own thoughts constantly; he does not sugar-coat Aza’s mental health and writes the reality of her condition.
Aza reunites with an old friend, Davis, from a summer camp for children with late parents. A flame of attraction is lit and burns rapidly as Aza and Davis begin to fall for each other. Davis, the son of a billionaire has to deal with the disappearance of his father, while Aza helps to try and locate him. Aside from trying to solve this mystery Davis shows Aza young love. He proves to her that she can be loved, that she is in fact worthy of it even though she doesn’t believe she is. Aza has a hard time being in what she considers a “normal” relationship due to her anxiety and OCD but Davis helps her realize there is no “normal”, only the true connection two people are able to share, which proves to be stronger than being a conventional normal.
Turtles All the Way Down will make you feel the joy of a new and fresh love, the anger of conflicts in a friendship, but also the torture that can be mental health. “’Actually, the problem is that I can’t lose my mind,’ I said. ‘It’s inescapable.’” (120) Aza continuously attempts to slay the demon in her head who tells her that nothing is okay, that she will die, that she will never get better, but as Aza progresses through life and experience, she realizes there is a better, maybe not the best, maybe not even great, but a better. “Spirals grow infinitely small the farther you follow them inward, but they also grow infinitely large the farther you follow them out.” (284)
This is a great novel for teens and young-adults struggling to find the silver-linings. It highlights all the ways mental illnesses can destroy you but also how you can escape it, how you can feel alive despite it. Personally, I related to Aza on not being able to control some actions but rather feeling so compelled to do them you have to and it made me feel less alone; like I’m not the only one who feels this way. It’s also a great novel for people who aren’t battling mental health, but people that can resonate with Aza’s best friend Daisy. Daisy cannot and will probably never be able to understand why Aza does the things she does or thinks the things she thinks, Daisy built up so much resentment towards Aza because Aza couldn’t get outside of her head. However, she begins to understand her, she takes the effort required to try and adapt, and that is most important thing: effort. For people like Daisy this is a great book to learn what may be going on inside a loved one’s head; why you shouldn’t pressure them to pretend to be someone they're not, and especially why you shouldn’t make them feel alone. The best thing to do is just be present.
This book reminds you that everyone is fighting their own battles but in spite of it love is all around even if you don’t acknowledge it. Bonus points if you love Star Wars because Daisy definitely does and lets everyone know it. If not Star Wars, then maybe astronomy as Davis and Aza stargaze and learn about the stars, “We never really talked much or even looked at each other, but it didn't matter because we were looking at the same sky together, which is maybe even more intimate than eye contact anyway. I mean, anybody can look at you. It's quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.” (242)