It felt like everyone in the world was talking about Turtles All The Way Down before it’s very dramatic release recently. Without a doubt, it was one of the biggest things to happen in YA in the last few months, and everyone seemed to be picking it up as soon as it hit the shelves.
As a very big John Green fan myself (two of my favourite novels are The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns), i knew that i’d want to pick up a copy as soon as possible and get it read. What was different about this release was that very little information was given about this story before it landed in our hands. There was no general jist of plot or even a cover until pretty late in the game. It was a free-for-all on if we’d enjoy it or not.
I left it until some of my friends started to read it to know what the story was about. I caught back-ended conversations of ‘mental health’ and ‘she went on a date’ in our group chat, but other than that, i wanted to leave it as a surprise. I thought about doing a full review for this book, but i quickly realised i didn’t think my thoughts would be constructive in a review. So i’m going to discuss what i thought was done well, and what wasn’t done so well in the story.
First of all, i found John Green’s venture in to mental health quite interesting. I’m not entirely sure if this was a serious effort at a relateable mental health novel, or he jumped on the bandwagon of mental health novels at the moment, but i don’t think it was pulled off as well as it could have been. I think this is my main reason for disliking the story. Aza very clearly has OCD and some other forms of mental health disorder in this story, which made for a pretty interesting story. However, it felt like the writing of the mental health disorder popped up when it was relevant or was used as a filler when there was a lull in the story. It’s very clear that this was supposed to be a prominent part of the story, however that didn’t come across at all and became a very mixed piece of work of a backstory (which turned out to be irrelevant) and the mental health writing.
I also found Davis (the love interest) very hard to connect to. His lavish life-style, whereas interesting, was very unrealistic and not something that pops up often in young adult. It was written very dramatically, and therefore you completely saw Davis at face-value instead of finding out anything deeper about his character.
One major negative point i had about this story was that the relationship aspects seemed quite damaging. I’ve always thought that John Green either writes women and relationships very well, or quite badly. I had such hope for Turtles All The Way Down to be such a well written book, this didn’t quite turn out the way i hoped. The relationship between Davis and Aza seemed unhealthy occasionally, especially with regards to Davis’ respect of her mental illness.
All these points along with the pretty recycled John Green characters made for a pretty disappointing read for me. Although i found it entertaining and enjoyable in some parts (some of the mental health chapters were written very well and were interesting to read), i found it difficult to concentrate through the more pointless parts to the story.
I really wanted to be in the minority that didn’t love this novel, however it seems to be quite a popular view that this is not John Green’s best work by far. I really hope that he releases something else pretty soon that can stand up to Turtles All The Way Down.