Note: This review contains spoilers from Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
I finished Turtles All the Way Down by John Green a few days ago, and let me just say, I love this book! Even though I happily call him one of my favourite authors and a pretty automatic buy, John Green is a bit hit and miss for me, for example, The Fault in Our Stars is one of my favourite books ever while others like Paper Towns and An Abundance of Katherine’s I didn’t get on so well with. But, thankfully, this was a big hit, so let’s get into some of the reasons why.
First for me is John Green’s writing. I am well aware that some people don’t like John Green’s writing style, and I can see why. But, for me personally, his writing feels really familiar and comforting. I haven’t read a new John Green book in the longest time and this novel just felt very warming.
On the subject of John Green’s writing, one are where Green is sometimes criticised is in his extensive use of metaphors. I found it really interesting then, that this novel actually explicitly discussed metaphors and some of the reasons why they’re used. Dr Singh suggests to Aza that we can only approach pain through metaphor, which I think is a really interesting and accurate observation.
Still sticking with John Green’s writing style, I felt the sections where Aza battled with herself worked really well. The most noteable occasion where this happened was probably near the end of the novel when Aza ends up drinking hand sanitizer in the hospital. Here there is a whole page dedicated towards Aza’s inner voice and for me it really captured how Aza must be feeling. Just reading the words I felt uncomfortable and panicky and had to take a moment to regather myself before I carried on reading. I think this is a really good example of where an uncomfortable reading experience is a positive thing, because it helped me understand just a tiny fraction of what Aza was going through.
Another aspect of this novel I found unique was the occasional meta aspect to the novel. At one point Aza says ‘whoever is authoring me, let me out of this’. When I first read this line, I got quite excited because, because of course, Green is the one authoring the character. Then, later on in the novel, we get the revelation that Aza is in fact authoring her own story so it has a double layer of meaning. Of course, we see at the end of the novel that Aza never truly does get out of ‘this’, but it does get better.
I’m not going to lie, I was very excited that it was an older Aza narrating the story. I think this might have something to do with the discussions about the framing of The Fault in Our Stars for example some people have suggested that the novel ends with Hazel making her vows at her wedding. I just found it really cool actually being pulled into the present. Of course, this also gave the novel it’s hopeful tone at the end, with Aza almost comforting her past self.
Another reason I really liked this novel was because love or a crush or a boy didn’t make Aza get ‘better’. I think it has been such a trope of YA, that young love can heal mental illness etc. etc. It was great to see this novel not perpetuating this. In terms of Davis and Aza, I really enjoyed their relationship and how it didn’t take away from the central friendship of Daisy and Aza at all. Can we also just talk about the end please, because despite what I mentioned earlier, the novel is left quite open ended. Grown up Aza tells us that she grows up and has children. Then, she points out that she and Davis say goodbye to each other and that ‘no one ever says good-bye unless they want to see you again.’ Could Davis and Aza have got married in the future? (Literally just me theorizing, feel free to shoot me down if you disagree or if there’s mention in the book of them not seeing each other again or something, I’m sorry, I don’t remember!)
As always with any John Green book, be it hit or miss there were some beautiful words and revelations. My favourite was one of Davis’ blog posts where he says:
We always say that we are beneath the stars. We aren’t of course – there is no up or down, and anyway the stars surround us. But we say we are beneath them, which is nice. So often English glorifies the human – we are whos, other animals are that’s – but English puts us beneath the stars at least.
I can’t articulate fantastically well why I love this passage so much (but I’m willing to give it a go!). I think firstly, because it discusses the stars. Now, I love any discussion of the stars and, of course, it also made me think back to The Fault in Our Stars. No matter how thin, it was really nice having this connection between these two novels. Secondly, I think it’s because it continues a theme explored in much of the book, that of the English language and it’s nature and specifically it’s limitations for example when Dr Singh points out that we have insufficient words for pain. Lastly, Green takes something so commonplace and technically common knowledge that I never thought of before and makes it profound. I’ve literally never before considered the fact that we do actually position ourselves beneath the stars when they actually surround us, and I think, like Davis, that this is something really beautiful.
So, there we have it. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. I know this has been a long post so thank you for sticking with me, I just had lots of feelings about this novel (the title of this post should probably have been lots of thoughts on…). To be honest, I think I will still be thinking about this novel for a while to come, something about it just got me. And I love it when books do that.
Have you read Turtles All the Way Down yet? Did you like it? Did you not like it?
As always, very happy reading.