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The Walter Times

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The Walter Times

Book Review: Turtles All the Way Down

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green was published first October 10, 2017 but gained popularity when a movie adaptation idea was proposed in 2020.

Very few books tackle the existential struggles of living with a mental illness while navigating the trials of teenage life as “Turtles All the Way Down” does. Written by John Green, this piece of young adult contemporary fiction tells the trying tale of an adolescent girl, Aza Holmes, who lives with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

“Dr. Karen Singh liked to say that an unwanted thought was like a car driving past you when you’re standing on the side of the road, and I told myself I didn’t have to get into that car, that my moment of choice was not whether to have the thought, but whether to be carried away by it. And then I got in the car.”

Aza could not control her thoughts, but rather her thoughts controlled her. I feel as though that’s how it is with everyone, just in different extremes. She had a paralyzing fear of bacteria and once she got it in her mind that something had infiltrated her system, there was no end. It was a spiral; it was turtles all the way down

“The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.”

As teenagers, we are constantly plagued with the overwhelming feeling of an inescapable event. Perhaps not in the literal sense as Aza did, but maybe with SATs and ACTs, college applications, dual enrollment, jobs, or demanding extracurriculars. The hardest part of being scared is not being able to pinpoint that fear, thus living with the lingering dread for whatever has yet to come. 

“You never really find answers, just new and deeper questions.”

What “Turtles All the Way Down” excels at is hitting the nail on the head on what it is like in the life of a troubled, flawed adolescent. Aza wasn’t perfect. She wasn’t Homecoming Queen or valedictorian. She only had a couple of friends, and there was always drama between them. She put herself first. But that was what made the story real. 

“I was so good at being a kid, and so terrible at being whatever I was now.”

John Green captures exactly the feeling of leaving behind childhood while handling the oppressive weight of a future riding on your current decisions. But, no matter what happens, the moral of the story is that we’re never alone. The only way to evade spiraling thoughts is to grasp onto something– someone– solid. Someone who may not understand the gravity of a given situation, but stays by your side nonetheless. 

“I would’ve told her that Davis and I never talked much, or even looked at each other, but it didn’t matter, because we were looking at the same sky together, which is maybe more intimate than eye contact anyway. Anybody can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.”

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About the Contributor
Layla Hubler, Senior Staff
Layla Hubler is a high school senior, and she is the Editor-in-Chief of the Lion's Pride Yearbook Team. She has been attending OSOTA for ten years, and loves reading, writing, and science. Layla hopes to pursue a career in STEM as an Astrophysicist.
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