Living with the Invasives - A Review of "Turtles All the Way Down"


I've had the opportunity to read John Green's book Turtles All the Way Down this last week. This has been on my reading to-do list ever since it was first published last year. I've been a fan of Green's work for awhile. One of my favorite memories is reading his book A Fault in Our Stars out loud with my family during a road trip a handful of years ago. Additionally, he's one of the Vlogbrothers whose YouTube channel (and community of Nerdfighters) are a force of positivity in a platform which is often fraught with divisiveness. 

Turtles All the Way Down follows the adventures of Aza, a 16yr old girl living in Indianapolis with her mom, her beloved car Harold, and her best friend Daisy. On Daisy's urging, Aza decides to reconnect with past-friend Davis Pickett when his billionaire father goes missing. Originally motivated by the potential reward for locating the vanished industrialist, Aza begins to fall for Davis, whose vast wealth can't change his own isolation. 

Key to this young-adult story is Aza's challenges in dealing with life, school, family, and teenage romance while trying to manage anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. At any time throughout the day, intrusive thoughts can hound Aza, creating thought spirals that force her to repeatedly wash her hands, obsess on potential infections, and panic, often at the worst of times. Green, who suffers from the same affliction, has stated in interviews that he wished to show a main character who suffered from a realistic interpretation of OCD, which is neither helpful or quirky, but often maddening and terrifying to both the afflicted and those who love them. In writing a character of Aza, Green paints a sometimes disturbing but ultimately humanizing portrayal of a person living with mental illness.