I Fell All The Way Down In Love With John Green's New Novel

John Green’s new book is terrifying.

Now, there’s no monsters under protagonist Aza Holmes’s bed. There’s no sounds going bump in the night. No dark shadows following her home.

Instead, Aza’s biggest adversary is simply herself– or rather, her obsessive compulsive disorder, otherwise known as OCD.

Turtles All the Way Down starts off with a simple enough premise. Aza and her Star Wars loving best friend, Daisy, are looking for a missing billionaire for a reward of $100,000. However, the man in question just so happens to be the father of Davis Pickett, Aza’s childhood friend. Throughout the story, friendships are tested, romances develop and clues are discovered.

However, I came to find that the mystery and the relationships were not what the story was about. Aza’s OCD weaves through the novel, affecting almost all aspects of her life– and that is what the story most beautifully encapsulates.

 

The best part of Green’s writing is the fact he never shies away or dumbs down the content for his younger audience. Just because Turtles All the Way Down is a young adult novel doesn’t mean teenagers can’t grasp the terror of mental illness and scientific metaphors about the earth’s position in space.

While it’s true most high schoolers don’t talk the way Green writes his characters’ dialogue, his lyrical capabilities are what make his book(s) so magical. Each line is a gem of it’s own, evoking strong emotions and making me think about the world a little differently.

While the dialogue is melodic and slightly unrealistic for everyday conversations, his characters are harsh and real– often times frustrating and confusing. But also, believable. Daisy’s annoying quips and the amount of time Davis’ brother Noah spends playing video games is authentic. Green encapsulates what it is to be a teenager, but more importantly, what it means to be human.

Mental illness in this day and age is romanticized, stigmatized and silenced. This novel doesn’t shy away from the hard truths. It shouts to the world what it means to have OCD. It’s not making your bed every morning or straightening out the pencils on your desk. Its harrowing and taxing and challenging. And if someone without OCD were to read this book, I’m sure that is what they would come out of this understanding.

 

I’d be lying if I said this book didn’t make me cry, stare at the ceiling and leave me with a smile on my face. I’ve never seen myself scattered on the pages of a book so succinctly before– in more characters than one.

Aza said, “Anybody can look at you. It's quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.”

I thought mental illness was something isolating. And John Green, the man with millions of readers and youtube subscribers, let his readers with mental illness know he sees the world the same as we do.

Photo Courtesy of Sidra Rashid