Today Mental Health Day is celebrated worldwide, and that is why I wanted to share with you on this day my review of “Turtles All the Way Down” byJohn Green.
I acquired this book sometime after it was published, and although it seems incredible, the only thing I had read of or heard about the story was that it was about a millionaire man that went missing and that the protagonist fell in love with this man’s eldest son. With that in mind as my only reference, I was encouraged to read it because I thought it would be like the other works of this author. However, I got a huge surprise; and a very pleasant one.
Green had received some criticism before because in his works he always portrays upper-middle-class characters, and above all, female characters whose role is to encourage their male peers to undertake some kind of self-discovery and inner-exploration; in this last work, we no longer see that
On this occasion, the protagonist and storyteller is Aza, a high school girl whose father suddenly died of a heart attack. Her mother is a teacher at the same school she attends and they both live in a modest but cozy home. Aza’s main problem is that she suffers from severe anxiety, which prevents her from having the normal life of a teenager her age. Her greatest obsession is intestinal bacteria, so much, that on more than one occasion she ingests hand sanitizer.
On the other hand, we have Davis, whose father flees after being accused of fraud; so he must now look after the welfare of his younger brother; and Daysi, Aza’s greatest support and best friend, who with her good spirit and charisma always tries to motivate her; moreover, she convinces Aza to solve the mystery of Davis’s father whereabouts in order to obtain the reward offered and share it between the two.
The novel unfolds a variety of themes that are a new territory for Green, for example, the fact that Davis and Aza belong to different social classes, the issues of fraud by a big company that has everything monopolized, the role of social media in our lives today; to name a few. However, all these points remain in the background of the story because what the author seeks and expects from us is that we focus on Aza and her anxiety disorder. During the course of the story we can see on different occasions the inner struggle that Aza fights on her daily basis: knowing that it is your thoughts that prevent you from acting as you would like but no matter how conscious you are of it, you cannot control it.
The way Green tells the story really gets the reader to understand what it’s like to live that way; it puts us in Aza’s shoes. In one of Aza’s sessions with her psychiatrist, we notice that her thoughts spin and spin in an endless spiral; moreover, at a given moment Aza asks whoever is controlling her to release her from that sensation. We can also appreciate that Aza questions her own existence, being something, having an essence.
Before writing this review, I had the opportunity to read a comment from a reader in which she expressed her disappointment with this book because in the end Aza and Davis don’t stay together. However, I believe that what Green was looking for with this story was not to leave us the typical happy ending but to raise awareness about anxiety disorder. In addition, the end is an open-ended one, Aza is beginning her recovery, and Davis and his brother needed a fresh start, so none of them were ready to be in a relationship.
Give this book a chance, you will see the change that John Green’s narration has undergone, but above all, you will have an idea of what it is to live with anxiety.