Sure, everybody’s teen years are confusing and difficult, but Aza’s life is not so bad. Her single mother is also her history teacher, but she’s a great mom. Daisy, her BFF, has an endless supply of coupons for Applebee’s, so they eat free every week, and the boy she is crushing on even seems to return her affections. It’s just that Aza can’t get past the suspicion that she is a fictional character.
When the feeling becomes oppressive, Aza drives her nail into her finger, and the pain of the split skin reassures her that she is real. This relief is quickly replaced by the fear of infection, so Aza has to remove the ever-present Band-Aid, washing and disinfecting the open wound. And then there are the Wikipedia articles that she feels compelled to read over and over, describing the symptoms of the most dreaded diseases and causing her to live in constant revulsion over all of the bacteria dwelling in her healthy human body.
Daisy lives life out loud. She works at Chucky Cheese, writes fan fiction, and chatters through all of Aza’s silence. When Daisy finds out that they could win $100,000 by finding a missing millionaire, she jumps right in—which means that Aza has to play, too, since she is the one with the wheels.
Bestselling author John Green has described this novel as his most personal work yet. The theme of mental illness has become a growing trend in young adult fiction over the last few years, and often, the main characters are good kids in solid homes with loving parents, which helps to erase the stereotypes in older works. Turtles All the Way Down features Green’s signature witty and precocious teens, with one strong girl just trying to get through high school while drowning in her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Aza is a thoroughly relatable character who is caught up in the tightening spiral of her own thoughts, someone who would like to focus more on other people, but who cannot escape the fears that consume her every waking moment.
Very highly recommended.
Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book, since there will probably never be another galley of a John Green book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not express those of my employer or anyone else.