Review: “Turtles All the Way Down” by John Green

4.5 stars

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.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & NoblesArrow

Turtles All the Way Down

Trigger Warnings: OCD (obsessive thought spirals specifically)

Turtles All the Way Down is a hard book to read. It feels very personal in a way only an #ownvoices book can feel. The antagonist in this book is Aza’s own thoughts and Aza goes through a constant struggle of trying not to let her OCD get the better of her but is sometimes forced to comply with her thoughts anyway.

The book does not glorify mental illness. Aza isn’t a great detective because of her mental health issue but the opposite to where her mental wellness often gets in the way of her goals. She is selfish without meaning to be, she is always stuck in her own head so she often overlooks other people’s problems. This isn’t intentional on her part, it’s just something she isn’t aware of for a long time. But she tries to do well and to be well and I was rooting for her the entire book.

One of my favorite things to find in a YA book is female friendships and Aza and her best friend Daisy have a great one. They have their ups and downs but when it comes to it, they try to understand each other and are there for each other when it counts.

The romance is not a big part of the plot and is more of a side story which is different from a typical John Green book and I liked it. Davis is the son of a billionaire who goes missing and there’s a reward for finding him. Aza and Davis used to go to camp together so Aza’s friend Daisy thinks that could help them solve the case. Davis is a sweetheart, he is witty and smart and like all other John Green love interests, deeply philosophical.

Turtles mentions a lot of artwork and artists and incorporates that into the story. I’m not someone who knows a lot about art but I did end up looking up some of the art that are mentioned. Aza describes her thought process by comparing it to a particular art piece of a spiral and how it goes on and on without stopping.

Technology use is also portrayed really well and that’s so rare! The characters used Google Maps to get to places, they texted each other constantly, their phones didn’t suddenly run out of battery. It was relatable and normal.

Mini spoiler for the ending ahead, skip if you hate spoilers!

Ultimately, the mental health portrayal felt real and debilitating but not hopeless and untreatable. Aza gets help from her therapist. She continues to struggle with it her entire life. She has her ups and downs, she gets better and she gets worse. There is no sudden treatment, she doesn’t sporadically “get well” but she learns to deal with it.

Have you read this one? What’s your favorite John Green book?


17 thoughts on “Review: “Turtles All the Way Down” by John Green

  1. This was a great review! I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed this book so much – I agree that it felt very personal in a way only an #ownvoices book can be. I loved following Aza as she had her ups and downs and especially liked that there was no magical cure or happy ending. It was just… well, life, realistic and everything else. So happy you liked it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent review Shouni! I’m glad the book was enjoyable and relatable. I do like the use of technology because my phone is also glued to my eyes haha. Were you able to solve the mystery yourself as you read?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jasmine! Right! We use our phones so much nowadays it feels unrealistic when characters in the contemporary world don’t use their phones. I didn’t actually, it caught me by surprise which is surprising because I usually see plot twists coming. Are you planning on reading this?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Since it’s a mystery kind of read rather than cry me a river, I may read it 😊 I started The Fault in our Stars but it’s cancer and I didn’t continue.. just to make sure, do you cry reading this book? 😊

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Sorry, I’m so late! The mystery isn’t actually a huge part of the plot because the book focuses mostly on Aza and her mental health. I did cry a lot actually but I’m a crier and I cry at everything 😀

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I think I will cry too because mental illness is not my preference to read. It’s important to be aware but it’s too sad. Thanks for getting back to me 🙂


  3. I’m so happy this book is on my TBR you make it sound SO AWESOME! I like that there is art and artists! and that the romance is not the main issue. And the normalcy of how well described technology is!


    1. It’s great! I hope you like it when you get to it! If you’ve read other John Green books, you would know what kind of prose to expect but the story was different for this one and I really enjoyed it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I actually have yet to read a John Green book that I’ve liked… which is a really unpopular opinion! But this one sounds like it may be better than the two I read? I especially like that it doesn’t glorify mental illness, but instead shows and tells it as it is. I am glad you could enjoy his book, seeing as it has been quite a while since he released one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know a lot of people who don’t like John Green books and it’s understandable. Most of his books are similar to each other so if you don’t like one, chances are, you won’t like another. Turtles was different though, I would say it was a lot darker and not as plot heavy because the major conflict is just Aza against herself. You should try!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have only read The Fault in Our Stars, but I really enjoyed it. I am anxious that if I pick up another John Green book I won’t like it as much as that one! I don’t want to ruin the memory! That said, this definitely piques my interest. Is this really more of a detective novel than a contemporary?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’ll enjoy this one too if you give it a try! The detective plot line actually isn’t that heavy in the book because it focuses so much on Aza and her mental health so to me it’s more contemporary than mystery.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s