I'll get right to the point; Turtles All the Way Down is fantastic. This book is something I'm thankful for—I'm thankful it exists, and I'm thankful it was published when it was, and I'm thankful it had a book tour that I was able to go to.
Without spoiling any major plot points, Turtles All the Way Down is a story about a teenager named Aza. She's a girl who is pretty absorbed in her own world, because she is constantly focused on the never-ending thoughts her OCD presents, but she still has a best friend named Daisy who is able to recognize when Aza is stuck in her "thought spirals" and offer brief distractions. Daisy finds out that the owner of a huge corporation in town disappeared overnight right before the FBI raided his house. She's automatically interested in the monetary reward for anyone who can offer information on his whereabouts. When Daisy remembers that Aza went to summer camp with the son, Davis, of the missing businessman, and that the two were close as little kids, she insists she and Aza go to his house in search of evidence on the property that the police might have missed. As Aza's connection to Davis reforms, though, and her mental health continues to decline, solving the case becomes more and more complicated.
This book wasn't the perfect novel by common definition. What does that even mean? Most people use it to mean a book without any flaws, but if that's their definition of "perfect," then the ideal novel doesn't exist. I prefer the term "perfect" to be relative. How did I feel as I made my way through this story? What did I think of the plot and characters, and the achievement of the author's main goal? What feeling was I left with when I closed the novel? I think that I could read a book at one point in my life and read it years later, and while it may be perfect one of those times, it wouldn't always have that same effect. I think that a book can miss a few marks and still be the perfect read for you, wherever you are at that moment. That's what this novel was for me.
I've never been well, of course, but I was going through a particularly rough patch around last October (when I read this book), and it was such a relief to feel even a bit of relation to someone, fictional or not. And here's the thing: I didn't entirely relate to Aza, and that's a good thing. Aza isn't supposed to represent everyone with OCD. She's just supposed to be a character with OCD, and her OCD affects her in a specific way, just like with any other real or fictitious person. I related to a lot of Aza's experiences, but I didn't relate to everything, and that's wonderful, because that is real life. I got to feel connected to someone, albeit a fictional character, through our similar experiences. The keyword, however, is "similar," and it's a word I quite like. It elaborates both on the common links between humanity that breed empathy and on the divides that we will be the sole ones to experience (but that we don't need to experience entirely alone).
I'm thankful this book was published when it was. I'm glad it was created during a unique time where I wasn't flooded with schoolwork. (Or, for the sake of honesty, I could afford to postpone working on assignments in order to read, because they weren't due immediately.) I'm thankful my brain fog cooperated enough that I was able to actually read again, and that even though there were a handful of times I found myself re-reading the same line, I was able to work past it.
I'm thankful I was able to go to the book tour for Turtles All the Way Down. Books about mental illness are either wonderful and relatable and help me feel less isolated, or I find them triggering and inaccurate and isolating. There is no in-between. I feel that this novel could have easily gone the other way, the more negative one, if I hadn't gotten to go to its tour. I love book tours. I love hearing authors speak. I love the camaraderie of so many nerds together in one place. I especially loved that this tour contained a lot of humor and a lot of seriousness. It talked about mental illness, and it talked about what John and Hank Green would do if they were turned into hamsters for a day, and it talked about hopelessness, and it included a sing along to "All Star." I can't express how great a balance there was between the topics that I so desperately wanted to be discussed, but that can be hard to handle when discusses for long periods of time, and the lighthearted moments I will never forget.
The background that the tour offered to the novel was what was key for me, though. John Green told the audience that he didn't want to write a novel solely about a girl and her OCD; he wanted to write a book where the protagonist has OCD, and where its effects on her are mentioned, but where the illness isn't the sole plot of the novel. The topic of mental health is almost always there in this novel, but it isn't all that's there. I also learned the Green utilized a lot of metaphors and symbols to describe mental illness, because pain is so abstract that it is incredibly difficult to describe using language. Knowing what Green's goals were in writing this novel and getting some insight into his writing methods and the small details he incorporated that I was able to look for while reading the story gave me insight I really needed when reading this novel. It helped me see just how great a job Green did at achieving the type of novel he was aiming for. (I mean, this is John Green we're talking about, but still.)
This is definitely a book I would recommend. As with any book about mental health, I would advice anyone with a mental illness to be cautious while reading just in case anything in the novel addresses a sensitive topic, but it truly is a great read if it doesn't cause any increased anxiety. Like I've said far too many times, this book was relatable in many ways while also being incredibly different from my own experiences with OCD and anxiety, which is one of my favorite qualities in books about mental health. This book served its topic justice, and that's pretty perfect to me.