Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Turtles All the Way Down - John Green

'I wanted to tell her that I was getting better, because that was supposed to be the narrative of illness: It was a hurdle you jumpted over, or a battle you won. Illness is a story told in the past tense.'


This is the first book John Green has written since The Fault in Our Stars came out five years ago, and obviously I wanted to check it out! I'm curious and a hipster like that. Gotta read it before the movie comes out. So I went to buy it from Waterstones the day it came out. I read it within a week or so, but... yeah, I've been quite busy with uni and when I have free time, I've been reading, not reviewing. Whoops. Apparently I've not reviewed any John Green books on this blog, but I've read The Fault in Our StarsPaper Towns and most of Looking For Alaska. Obviously, this book has the highest expectations of perhaps anything ever, coming after TFIOS, and while I don't think it was quite as 'good' (more on this later), it was still good.

Previously, I've said that John Green's books are these great epics and stories bigger than life, and that's why they appeal to teenagers who don't normally get to go on these grand adventures. Turtles All the Way Down is... not that. It's big and ambitious in the way life is while not being very grand at all.

Anyway, the basic idea is that sixteen-year old Aza accidentally stumbles upon the case of her childhood friend Davis's missing millionaire father. Aza and Davis reconnect more or less, but they're also both very caught up in their own lives. Aza's best friend Daisy really wants to pursue the missing millionaire part, and Aza finds a kindred soul in the son of the millionaire, whose little brother just wants dad to come back home. Aza herself is suffering from OCD, which is a tightening loop of intrusive thoughts (turtles all the way down) and makes even the smallest things all too difficult.

The biggest downfall of the book is that it just attempts at being way too much, It wants to be a realistic portrayal of OCD, love, friendship, class differences, grief, family and all these other things, but of course it makes the different parts all kind of flat. It's also full of John Green's signature super philosophical no teenager talks like that conversations that sound extremely awkward if you think about it too much. This is really how you'll decide if you'll love or hate John Green's works: do you get put off by teenagers texting about the difficulty of defining self at night?

'Our hearts were broken in the same places. That's something like love, but maybe not quite the thing itself.'

This book is a tricky thing to actually review, because I know all of my friends either really like or really don't like The Fault in Our Stars. And while I don't think John Green is the best author in existence or anything, I have to admit he simply must have done something right to get to where he is.

And I thought Turtles All the Way Down was quite good, really. Not quite Looking for Alaska good, but better than Paper Towns and somehow less annoying than TFIOS. The latter is very 'good' plot-wise but has these super unrealistic and annoying bits that really hindered my experience, while Turtles is almost the opposite.

Turtles is philosophical and wants to be vey mature and all those things, but it also has some moments of genuine wisdom and feelings. Also lots of points for the portrayal of OCD as something that's not nice and desirable. This book leaves a lot to be desired (and I think in some ways that's the point), but somehow I enjoyed it quite a lot, and after I put it down, I wanted to pick it up again immediately.

I ended up giving this a 4/5 on the former grounds, but I acknowledge that this book is defnitely not for everyone, so I didn't put it in my recommendations label. If you think you'd like it, you probably will, but it's weirdly different from John Green's previous works.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I couldn't shoehorn this in (again). By the way, I just found out what 'shoehorn' means (it's a kenkälusikka :D)


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