Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Reviewed by Anne-Sophie Olsen

(Dutton Books)

In his latest young adult novel, John Green has painted a brutal and unrelenting image of mental illness. Aza Holmes suffers from anxiety and intrusive thoughts that draw her into an ever-tightening spiral of self-absorption, and Green depicts in no sugar-coated terms how this affliction wears on both Aza herself and those around her. Though the narrative follows its characters through the triumphs and setbacks of a unusually adventuresome high school life, its primary concern is Azas mind. Green writes this personally and compellingly vivid analogies and descriptions pull the reader into a mind and body that are constantly under strain. Green sets out to give Aza the opportunity to find her sense of self and insofar as he allows her to realize that there is more to life than her own preoccupations, he succeeds. In this respect the novel certainly has merit, despite its failure (which is arguably secondary) to ultimately break free of the self-perpetuating and self-focused spiral which is the detriment of those with mental illness. As a picture of mental illness, it is visceral and sympathetic. As an attempt to offer a picture of realistic hope, it is a good start.

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