Turtles All the Way Down.
October 10, 2017.
Parading on several major successes, Turtles All the Way Down is the latest YA novel by John Green. In line with his true literary style, John does not talk about turtles here, as the title indicates. Instead, it highlights ideas such as perspective, existence, and thoughts that play around in this book. Though the YA novel carries and revolves around rich content, you will notice that it has immediate relevance to a teenager’s life. With an inclusion of a lifelong struggle of mental illness, tragedy, financial situations, and mystery – the title is apt for the story.
The Title’s Meaning
“Turtles all the way down” is a phrase used for expressing logical issues in cosmology, which is studying the origins of the universe. The famous Anecdote used for explaining this phrase includes a professor trying to explain about the solar system. Here the audience argues back in line with the ancient mythology to state that the earth is flat and is resting on the back of a huge World Turtle.
When the professor questions the audience on what the turtle is standing on, the audience replies, saying it stands on the back of another turtle, which stands on the next turtle. This depicts the logical problem of the myth. The anecdote ends with the humorous conclusion that it ‘turtles down’.
During an ‘Ask Me Anything’ session in 2015, John Green opened up about his personal experience and how he is compacting with severe anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. He said that he knew he has been tackling mental illness for quite a long time, and he has undergone numerous therapies and acquired various strategies for dealing with the condition. He went on to say that he understood the benefits of meditation, exercise, CBT strategies, medication, and so on.
Green revealed that the book ‘Turtles All the Way Down’ was his method of tackling his struggles with mental illness. Green said, “This is my first attempt to write directly about the kind of mental illness that has affected my life since childhood, so while the story is fictional, it is also quite personal,” in a statement from his publisher Dutton Books.
Though the title indicates hard-shelled creatures, the novel opens up with the portrayal of a fugitive billionaire and a cash award. It also pictures the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, lifelong comradeship, tuatara, and Star Wars fan fiction.
However, at the center of it lies a 16-year-old high school girl named Aza Holmes, who struggles to be a great student, good friend, and dutiful daughter. Here, the young protagonist tries to solve one of her greatest mysteries while tackling her own mental illness.
Struggling with overwhelming germ phobia and crippling anxiety for years, the plot begins with Aza investigating the billionaire’s disappearance. Aza has a best friend named Daisy, a hard-working employee of the food company, Chuck E. Cheese. Daisy stands as a loyal friend to Aza, irrespective of her weird and outlandish behavior, providing her support till the end.
One fine day, Aza wakes up to the breaking news that makes headlines that Russell Pickett, a billionaire and the father of Asa’s childhood buddy – Davis Pickett, is missing. With her fearless and best friend Daisy, Aza tries to figure out what happened to Russell Pickett and plans to collect the missing reward of $100,000 in the process.
Daisy then convinces Aza to go down the river that lies behind Aza’s house using a canoe to reach Davis Pickett’s mansion. She further encourages Aza to rekindle her friendship with Davis and try solving the mystery of his father’s disappearance for them to gain a huge reward.
Within the next few months, Aza and Davis end up falling in love and start dating. The girls fall for the large payday they longed for, next relationships are tested, and the journey becomes an illuminating and emotional one. As Aza tries to deal with her mental illness, her worries and compulsion start to unravel.
Despite the optimistic portrayal, Turtles All the Way Down gives off an astonishingly somber note. The novel revolves around Aza, a high schooler from a lower-middle-class family who suffers from an obsession with intestinal germs and profound anxiety. At times, you will find her even drinking hand sanitizer.
Though she receives psychiatric assistance, she thinks that she will never recover from this condition. You will find this young woman trying to navigate through the existence of life while gripping onto the suffocating spiral of her thoughts.
The story takes a deep plunge when Aza’s love interest Davis – a rich kid’s businessman father goes missing after being accused of fraudulent activities. Even though David and his brother Noah are unaware of what lies ahead, they have material comforts to suffice them for the time being. Next comes Aza’s best friend and upcoming Star Wars fan fiction author – Daisy. Though she appears to be overbearing and quite loud, she offers her best support to Aza by hatching a crazy plan to track down the missing billionaire’s whereabouts to share the reward money.
The author’s narration tries to portray the suffering caused by fiscal malfeasance and obsessive-compulsive disorder sensitively. Despite Green’s comic nerdiness, he showcases a serious side to himself through this novel.
With a focus on mental illness at the forefront, the novel gives you a glimpse of what it’s like to live with mental illness for those unaware of it. The character also helps identify with mental illness patients and brings out the struggles they face daily.
Turtles All the Way Down does not give the promise of a happy ending. The characters do not find love, and you won’t find any suggestion that says the young protagonist AzaWill never escape from an anxiety disorder. John Green keeps the eyes of the readers focused on the challenging issues of life!