“All men are ordinary men; the extraordinary men are the ones who know it,”
John Green’s latest novel sounds like a mystery inside of a drama, the story of a girl who reunites with her billionaire friend as his father disappears, but reads like a raw human-interest story. The story revolves around Aza, an anxiety-run junior whose mind quickly becomes preoccupied with what she calls “invasives,” hypochondriac-like thoughts that prevent her from living life as a normal teen.
Turtles All the Way Down was certainly an enjoyable read. I finished it within the day and found myself wanting to read more fiction afterwards. I wanted more from secondary characters like Daisy, however, her relationship with Aza, riddled with complexities and insecurities on either side, was enlightening as a representation of what it is like to be involved with someone who struggles with mental illness.
As a lover of philosophy myself, I appreciate John Green’s incorporation of themes and tropes such as infinite regress (i.e. the title) that he seems to be establishing as a characteristic of his writing style. Although it can seem like an unnatural leap at times (why is everyone suddenly talking about spirals), you can clearly tell he is trying to be educational on more than one front.
I have been critical in the past of authors like Green for exploiting the “YA demographic” and writing within a marketing category rather than a genre. And to a certain extent this still rings true for Turtles All the Way Down, with references to obscure fan-fiction worlds and complaints about the cost of tuition that are sure to be quoted and used over and again by students across America. However, while it was clear in my reading of this novel that it was written for “people like me” (that is, American teenage girls and the generation right after the Millennials), the novel was genuinely interesting and was even able to broaden my horizons past my demographic, especially when it came to my understanding of anxiety and mental illness.
And of course this is the point of fiction- to use something familiar, whether that be archetypes, plot-lines, or pop-culture, to bring a reader into consider a perspective or an idea they may not have had the opportunity to have otherwise.
Although it is not my usual go-to novel, I still would recommend it as a gift, a casual holiday read, or as rainy day entertainment. Turtles All the Way Down was a book written for the masses, but sometimes even pop-culture gets it right.
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