John Green is a magician. I can’t properly express my love for this man I’ve never met but Turtles All The Way Down may be his masterpiece.
“The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.”
Aza suffers from severe anxiety, particularly a fear of contracting C. diff., and lives most of her life inside her own head. Luckily her best friend, Daisy (side bar, John Green continues to write the best best friends in fiction), talks enough for the two of them.
Years ago Aza went to ‘sad camp’ and met a boy named Davis Pickett; in the present day his billionaire father has disappeared following an investigation into his white collar crime activities and there is a $100,000 reward for information that leads to his return. Daisy convinces Aza to use the connection she has with Davis to gain access and solve the mystery of the disappearing billionaire. Aza is hesitant but eventually goes along with the plan.
All the women in my family suffer from various levels of anxiety and this is one of the most realistic depictions of anxiety disorders I’ve read in a long time. I saw an article that John Green used his own battle with OCD as the jumping off point for Aza and his familiarity with anxiety lends an authenticity to his protagonist that is hard to come by. Aza has a particular quirk where she continually reapplies band-aids to a cut on her finger. Before she changes the band-aid she cleans the wound out with hand sanitizer and then fixates on the pain, particularly how the amount of stinging relates to the amount of bacteria in her cut. From ages 16 to 20 I was in my worse mental state and regrettably I self harmed; similarly to Aza I would constantly clean my cuts out with hydrogen peroxide because I feared contracting MRSA. It’s a strange connection to have with a fictional character but it made Aza very real to me.
But this isn’t just a story about a young girl striving to live in the real world instead of inside her head. The mystery of Mr. Pickett’s disappearance is skillfully woven throughout the rest of the story and, like most Green novels, there is a budding romance and a few gut punches. Like The Fault in Our Stars, this one will stick with you for a long time. You don’t need to be a YA or John Green fan to appreciate this story.
“Spirals grow infinitely small the farther you follow them inward, but they also grow infinitely large the farther you follow them out.”