Turtles All the Way Down and Thumbs All the Way Up

Felicity Abbott, Scoop Writer

 John Green is an established author and scholar, having previously written Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars and other award-winning titles. His latest novel, Turtles All the Way Down was written in 2017 and does not fall short of his prestigious reputation.

     A young girl, Aza, and her best friend, Daisy, set out to try to find a rich wanted man that mysteriously disappeared one night. The man turned out to be Aza’s old friend, Davis Picket’s father. Davis Picket and Aza were the best of friends when they were younger since they only lived down the river from one another. As they grew older, they grew apart and haven’t spoken in years. As Aza thought about where Davis’ father might be, she remembered a camera that is hidden in the forest outside of Davis’ mansion that might give her a clue. From when they have played as children, Aza recalls the hunting camera that was tucked away in the forest. Aza shared the information with Daisy and they decided it would be beneficial to check it out. In order for Aza and Daisy to check the camera, they had to trespass onto Davis’ property and were spotted by a caretaker. The caretaker brought Aza and Daisy to Davis, whom she hasn’t seen in many years, and they started to rekindle their friendship, but this time with a hint of romance. Once Aza became romantically involved with Davis, she was hesitant to continue the search for his father in the case she would find something unpleasant. 

     As their relationship developed, Aza was fighting an internal war: Is she an actual person, or is she just billions of organisms without any thoughts of her own. As she stated in the novel, her thoughts continued in a downward spiral that tightens with every thought. Her thoughts were tightening around one thing: C Diff. Aza was deathly afraid of falling ill with C Diff. even though the chances were very slim. C Diff. (Clostridium Difficile) is developed in hospitals and by taking antibiotics, so Aza’s fear extends to all germs in an attempt to protect her from a hospital visit. Another one of her fears that is caused by cells and bacteria is if she is a real person or a parasite driven organism. Aza had a scar on her thumb from where she constantly pressed to remind herself that she is there. She constantly reopened it with the fear that it is infected and sterilizes it. Aza’s life was taken over by her numerous fears. Aza’s fears got in the way of having strong relationships with other people. Aza pushed away her mom, her only parental figure, and will not open up to her about her feelings. Aza also pushed away her best friend Daisy. Aza did not realize how much of an impact Daisy had on her life until they got in a fight and were not on speaking terms. Aza had a difficult time living without Daisy and she soon learned to let people into her life including Daisy, Davis and her mother, but with much difficulty. Will she overcome her germaphobic fears, or will they overcome her?

     Turtles All the Way Down is a very well-written novel. Green, who also suffers from a similar mental disorder like Aza, gives us a taste of what life is like with OCD, allowing the reader to empathize and understand those with similar issues. While at times it might be uncomfortable to read about Aza and her problems, it teaches the world a lesson on how we should treat people that have similar disorders. 

     Green makes it obvious that he writes from experience when Aza has a breakdown. Her character is so well written it feels as if the reader is Aza, and relates to her experiences. Green’s writing style shows Aza’s emotions through her thoughts. While other characters did not understand Aza’s emotions because of her communication issues the reader can read her emotions and understand her motivations. Green did an excellent job showing us this side of him through a very relatable character.

     With the power to create empathy in readers through understandable characters. Turtles All the Way Down has surely lived up to its reviews. It teaches life lessons while making humans more sympathetic. Turtles All the Way Down is a must-read for anyone that wishes to expand their knowledge of human behavior or anyone who just wants a good read.