Monday, October 23, 2017

"Turtles All the Way Down" by John Green

Full disclosure: The Fault in Our Stars is one of my DNF (did not finish) books. So I probably wasn't the best candidate to read John Green's new novel, Turtles All the Way Down. But I saw it on the new release shelf at my local library and snagged it. I mean, how could I not? With so many book lovers so excited for its release, I thought I should give Mr. Green another chance.

It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of
Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

Turtles All the Way Down has left me with some seriously mixed feelings. It's a quick read, and I finished it in just a few hours. It has several interesting characters, including Davis Pickett, who I could not get enough of. I was fascinated by the story of Davis's missing father ... and I was puzzled when it really just became an afterthought/subplot to Aza's ongoing anxiety and OCD issues.

Green spends so much time in Aza's head dealing with her anxiety and OCD issues, and the novel is so philosophical (clear down to the title, which is explained near the end of the novel and basically left me going, "huh ...") that I found myself skimming large portions to try to get back to the action. Only there is no action. It's just tons of dialog mixed with tons of time in Aza's head.

I do think that Green did a good job of portraying Aza's anxiety disorder. At least it felt real to me, though I don't have first-hand knowledge. But had I known that it would have been basically all about Aza's issues and not really at all about the mystery, I would've given it a pass.

(Also, that ending? I wanted to throw something. In the last chapters, there's a shift from the first person that was present throughout the novel to second person and back to first person, I assume to denote what's happening with Aza's illness. But I hated it ... and then I hated how it "ended.")

I have a feeling that Green's die-hard fans will love this novel. But if you, like me, couldn't get through The Fault in Our Stars, go ahead and give this one a pass. 2-1/2 stars.

Note: While this doesn't contain nearly as much language as many YA novels, there are probably 15-20 instances of the "f-word." One character receives an explicit text that is described in detail, and there is some discussion of what is and is not bestiality (in relation to Star Wars characters). All in all, I wouldn't recommend this to teens.

Buy the book.

John Green's first novel, Looking for Alaska, won the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award presented by the American Library Association. His second novel, An Abundance of Katherines, was a 2007 Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His next novel, Paper Towns, is a New York Times bestseller and won the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best YA Mystery. In January 2012, his most recent novel, The Fault in Our Stars, was met with wide critical acclaim, unprecedented in Green's career. The praise included rave reviews in Time Magazine and The New York Times, on NPR, and from award-winning author Markus Zusak. The book also topped the New York Times Children's Paperback Bestseller list for several weeks. Green has also coauthored a book with David Levithan called Will Grayson, Will Grayson, published in 2010. The film rights for all his books, with the exception of Will Grayson Will Grayson, have been optioned to major Hollywood Studios.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book myself and chose to review it. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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