How is it that a middle-aged man is able to express the inner workings of an anxious teenage girl so well? The only writing I know is to “write what you know”, so it always blows me away when authors are able to so skilfully step into the shoes of the unfamiliar.
In “Turtles All The Way Down”, John Green has captured my heart again. Reading this novel is like stepping into a time machine: when your Mom is like a loving but frustrating alien, your best friend is your universe, and the boy you like is simultaneously enchanting and terrifying.
The novel follows the exploits of anxious teenager Aza. And I don’t mean “anxious” as in ruminating on whether or not she passed her latest maths exam. I’m talking the full-blown debilitating clinical anxiety that will take over her life before she realises she’s lost control.
John Green surrounds his central character with the usual endearingly flawed side-characters, one of whom is Davis, an extremely wealthy boy Aza reconnects with after his father goes missing. That is the mystery that lies at the heart of Turtles All The Way Down but, really, this story is about finding ways to cope when your own brain and body are not safe. It is also a beautiful portrayal of a friendship that must overcome the walls created by Aza’s mental health. Aza and her best friend Daisy have a wonderfully complex and realistic friendship, where Aza is mired in her inner anxiety prison and Daisy is left peering through the bars, struggling to grasp why her friend (who has so much comparative privilege) is still so damaged.
I could draw a number of parallels between this novel and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, another YA fiction novel that manages to competently capture what it feels like to be a teenager trapped within yourself. I’ve no desire to relive my own teenage years, but I thoroughly enjoy the reflective experience of looking back through portals created by talented novelists like John Green.
5 hand-sanitizers out of 5.