Book Reviews

Book Review: Turtles All the Way Down

I got Turtles All The Way Down with a discount code from Book Depository that only gave me a few books to choose from. I ended up giving John Green another chance and was pleasantly surprised.

Banner for John Greens Turtles All the Way Down

Before reviewing the book I need to explain why I was hesitant to read something by John Green.

The first John Green book I read was the Fault in Our Stars, I thought it was a bit pretentious but I put that down to Gus and Hazel being a bit pretentious. Then I read an Abundance of Katherine’s, Looking for Alaska, and Paper Towns. I hated an Abundance of Katherine’s because I predicted what would happen straight away and why would you feel the need to put maths into it? Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska we’re almost the same, and even an Abundance of Katherine’s was similar. They all had pretty different plots but John Green has a monomyth and if The Fault in Our Stars was narrated by Gus instead of Hazel it would be the exact same.

The John Green monomyth:

  • Pretentious male lead, has own little “uncool” group of friends
  • Really smart but has some weird quirk
  • Speaks like a pretentious English lecturer and not like an actual teenager to show off his large vocabulary
  • Wants to do something amazing with their life and be remembered forever, gets the girl -either for good or for a little bit – and it replaces the desire to do great things
  • Something sad happens


The first and maybe second time was good but it got old really fast

It’s like my concern I expressed about Louise O’Neill in The Surface Breaks, people will get bored if you only know how to write one character and then place them in different stories with a different name.

Turtles All The Way Down broke the pattern.

John Green Turtles All The Way Down book coverThe story followed 16-year-old Aza Holmes as her and her best friend Daisy as they try to solve the mystery of what happened to her childhood friend’s dad. However, this isn’t a happy go lucky mystery story or reminiscent of Sherlock – despite sharing the same last name – or Nancy Drew.

Aza struggles with mental illness making her worst enemy herself, and how can you solve a mystery, date, and be in a relationship when you can’t function?

I related so much to Aza, it was nearly like I was reading a story about myself. I loved how Green cut the crap of creating pretentious characters, and made new people. I saw a lot of myself in her best friend Daisy – except I was in different fandoms – but I haven’t related to a character as much as I did with Aza in a long time

I’m also glad he didn’t follow the “tragic depressed teen” route or the “angsty no-one-understands-me” teen.  I’m also glad she wasn’t miraculously cured as well, and that mental illness wasn’t romanticised either. It was gritty, and realistic. The reality for Aza and many others is that you’re always going to suffer from your mental illness, you just learn how to live with it.

I was also glad I didn’t predict the ending straight away which I’ve experienced in the past with Green.

Turtles All The Way Down was a refreshing change and I wish I’d read it sooner. I flew though the book because I didn’t want to stop reading and was so sad to have finished.

I absolutely recommend it.

19 thoughts on “Book Review: Turtles All the Way Down

  1. Amazing review. It’s nice to see that a book is not romanticising mental illnesses. There is no need for romantic flourishes. Mental illnesses are not flowery or pretty. I need to read this!
    Although, I have to disagree with Paper Towns because I found it genuinely enjoyable and it’s one of my favourite YA books. Margot was pretty relatable other than the whole living by herself but I do see a lot of people who go through similar familial issues like Margot who feel a little alienated and unsettled. TFIOUS is sweet and romantic and realistic. You do see Hazel and Gus’s in real life. It’s good but not great because it bordered on the cringe at times because of how intense it got.


    1. It’s so frustrating when people romanticise mental illness, like I don’t want mine at all! I was happy he wasn’t overly bleak about it too, the 13 Reasons Why book had no hope and I worry that people who are vulnerable might take “why bother trying to get better” as the message. It was a perfect balance!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly! Nobody wants to have a mental illness!
        I do feel with 13 Reasons Why, because Hannah had already decided to commit suicide, it would make the idea of hope a distant and non-existent dream. The show definitely offered hope with their Reasons Why Not To approach.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There was a scene in the book where she put her last ounce of hope into a teacher and he let her down, and I think that was a bit reckless of the author. I know people do look for signs to do something/not to do something – I’ve even looked for signs not to do something and ended up getting a sign to do it! But in real life, teachers are supposed to be trained to know how to handle students telling them or implying they want to hurt themselves/take their own life

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I don’t think all teachers do, a bit confused that the Guidance Counsellor of all people was reckless. It makes me wonder if this is really the case across the globe but I don’t know, I doubt it.
        I guess when you’re really set, you want all the signs to make sense so it makes it easier. I don’t know, you can never know unless you see someone who’s attempted but survived. Sorry you had to go through that though. I hope you are okay, and if you ever need to talk just send me a message (I know you barely know me but you know).

        Liked by 1 person

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