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Book Review #43: Turtles All The Way Down

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

Trigger Warnings: OCD, mental illness, anxiety, parental death, injury, self harm

I think all of us, as frequent readers of Young Adult fiction or audience of the Vlogbrothers and/or Crash Course, who are aware of John Green either adore him or despise him. I find I’m on the middle of the spectrum when it comes to both the author and YouTuber. I don’t hate him; I find him to be intelligent, a great writer, and I respect him. Though he can sometimes have this thing about him… I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s not that he’s exactly disingenous, is that sometimes he seems too smart for his own benefit. This, ultimately, gives him the air of self-importance, that if you don’t understand what he means, you’re not smart enough to. However, that is just my personal opinion on John Green, and I may be wrong about him. This post isn’t about John Green as an overall person, this is about his novel Turtles All The Way Down.

When I first heard John Green was finally publishing another novel, I was exstatic. I loved The Fault in Our Stars, which is argueably, according to me, one of his best works and his writing only seemed to get better comparing that novel to his previous works. When I finally snagged a copy, after hearing praise (albeit mixed praise) from those online and my boyfriend, I waited for the opportune moment to gobble this book up.

This book deals with a lot, mainly OCD, which Aza presumably has (it’s not explicitly stated in the novel), which John Green also has. Own-voices representation in fiction is important because we can get an accurate representation of someone’s experience. Though I do not have OCD, I felt like I could connect with Aza’s intrusive, anxious thoughts as I have experienced them through my battle with psychosis and anxiety. There were points throughout this novel where I teared up because although I did not have the same illness as Aza, nor shared her experience, I could relate to what she was feeling.

Some reviewers have said that there is not much of a story or plot to this novel other than the mystery that was advertised to be at the forefront of the plot. I think the blurb should have been focused more on the character’s journey rather than the mystery, as it was like a backdrop to the real story. Overall the story was well done, it kept me engaged.

Aza as a main character was a person I could relate to immensely, as mentioned above. I felt the secondary characters were good as well, although I wished they were fleshed out a bit more, especially Davis and Daisy. Davis was the son of Richard Pickett and I felt like there needed to be more substance to his character, because it seemed he had only a few aspects to him. I wanted to see a little more emotion on his part; his father was an estranged, selfish person in his life and how did that affect him? I guess his character was dialed down to focus on Aza.

Daisy I wished was fleshed out a bit more as well. Even though she was not the nicest person, she still stuck with Aza even though Aza didn’t support her in the ways that she needed. Most reviewers despised Daisy as a character, but I think she redeemed herself by the end, so I wished I could see more of that.

One of the things I was very against when hearing others thoughts about this novel was its negative attitude towards mental health treatment, especially medication. I’m probably going to make a separate longer post about this issue because it’s really important and it seems to be an unfortunate trend in Young Adult literature. At the beginning of the novel, Aza was not taking the required dosage of her medication as outlined by her therapist because she did not think it was helping. By the end of the novel, it wasn’t mentioned again nor her opinion of medication seemed to have changed.

Another thing that kind of bothered me was the abruptness of the ending. From my understanding, it seemed like her continued love for Davis was what kept her going, and there was no mention of her getting further mental health treatment for her OCD. Honestly, I am so done with narrative of significant others “fixing” people with mental health issues. It’s a trend that should end and I am tired of perpetuating this. After questions of mortality in The Fault in Our Stars, you would think Green would have learned that being in love can’t “fix” someone.

I hate to end this review on a bitter note as I enjoyed most aspects of this novel, but I could not ignore these issues that plagued it.

LOVE DOES NOT FIX MENTAL ILLNESS 2K18.

Three Stars

Three Stars

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Book Review #34: Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn

“When nearly killing a classmate gets seventeen-year-old Sadie Su kicked out of her third boarding school in four years, she returns to her family’s California vineyard estate. Here, she’s meant to stay out of trouble. Here, she’s meant to do a lot of things. But it’s hard. She’s bored. And when Sadie’s bored, the only thing she likes is trouble.

Emerson Tate’s a poor boy living a rich town with a widowed mother and strange, haunted little brother. All he wants his senior year is to play basketball and make something happen with the girl of his dreams. That’s why Emerson’s not happy Sadie’s back. An old childhood friend, she know his worst secrets. The thing he longs to forget. The things she won’t ever let him.

Haunted is a good word for fifteen-year-old Miles Tate. Miles can see the future, after all. And he knows his vision of tragic violence at his school will come true, because his visions always do. That’s what he tells the new girl in town. The one who listens to him. The one who recognizes the darkness in his past.

But can Miles stop the violence? Or has the future already been written? Maybe tragedy is his destiny. Maybe it’s all of theirs.”

Delicate Monsters is a book every teen should read. Raw and gritty, this tome packs a huge punch for its tiny size. Sadie, Emerson, and Miles are all unique in their own flawed way and make this story what it is. You don’t necessarily feel sorry for some of them, but you don’t feel triumphant at their pitfalls either. Every twist and turn you are more invested in this story. 

There isn’t really much more to say; this novel is great in its own right and you should stop reading this and go read this book.

Star_Rating_four and a half stars

My Rating

 

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