Why Turtles All the Way Down is John Green's Best Book Yet

After the international success of his novel The Fault in Our Stars, fans have been eagerly awaiting a new book from John Green. After more than five years, their pleas were finally answered with Turtles All the Way Down. This oddly titled book was very emotional for Green to write, and readers can tell he was passionate about the story. Turtles All the Way Down has been well-received by critics, and I believe it is the best novel John Green has written.

John Green currently has six novels under his belt, all of which have been New York Times Best Sellers. Two of his novels, Paper Towns and The Fault in Our Stars, have been made into movies, and an adaptation of his first novel, Looking for Alaska, is reportedly in the works. Despite the massive success of these novels, Turtles All the Way Down offers something that they do not. It is extremely personal to Green, who has long been outspoken about his mental illnesses.

Turtles All the Way Down centers on Aza Holmes, a high schooler who lost her father when she was young, and who also suffers from severe OCD. John Green suffers from OCD and anxiety, something that almost prevented him from continuing to write. At one point in the writing process for this novel, Green felt so much pressure and scrutiny to write a book better than his last that he almost decided to stop writing altogether.

Much like Aza, Green’s OCD is less focused towards compulsions and more towards the obsessive aspect. Aza is constantly filled with worry, intrusive thoughts, and the idea that she has been infected with a rare bacteria. She gets caught in “thought spirals,” represented by the cover of the book, where she has bouts of panic and thought she cannot control. She constantly researches the symptoms of being exposed to bacteria, despite the fact that she can recite the Wikipedia article nearly from memory. She worries herself into having physical symptoms, sweating and nausea that only make her more convinced she is infected with the bacteria c. diff (Clostridium difficile).

John Green’s novels have all focused on high schoolers who may be considered misfits and outcasts, but Aza is a new type of character in his work. She is not perfect, but her friends love her because of that, not in spite of it. Her illness is never glorified- it is portrayed in all its raw details, from her continuously opening and draining a wound on her finger to drinking hand sanitizer after kissing a boy. Her OCD is not something romantic or poetic, it is something that she struggles with every day. The fact that this hits very close to home for John Green is clear, and it is what sets this novel apart from his other works.

 

About The Author

Sophomore at Augustana College. Biochemistry Major. Proud Feminist. First Time Writer for Her Campus