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Turtles All The Way Down: A Journey into the Spiral of Anxiety

book review

John Green’s “Turtles All The Way Down” is a lyrical testament to the often engulfing nature of mental illness, specifically obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). His intimate portrayal of the protagonist’s struggles posed persuasive conversations about anxiety and mental health that resonate whether you’ve tangled with it yourself or tried to understand someone who has.


Aza Holmes, a sixteen-year-old with severe anxiety and OCD, and her best friend Daisy Ramirez, an exuberant and creative Star Wars fan-fiction writer, become entangled in the mystery of a missing multimillionaire — Russell Pickett. Aza’s childhood friend Davis happens to be the son of the vanished magnate. As Aza grapples with the spiraling thoughts threatening to consume her, she navigates first love, friendship, loss, and the nagging question- are we ever in control of our own selves?

Notable Quotes:

“Anybody can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.”

“Your now is not your forever.”

“We never really talked much or even looked at each other, but it didn’t matter because we were looking at the same sky together, which is maybe even more intimate than eye contact anyway. I mean, anybody can look at you; it’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.”


If Exley could out-Nabokov Nabokov, John Green gave a whole new meaning to capturing and living through Aza’s incessant thought spirals. As an anxious reader, you’d feel heard, understood without judgment. There’s a kind of brutal honesty residing in Green’s treatment of mental health that brings a painful sort of comfort. It’s not a sugar-coated book about teenagers saving the day amidst their individual battles, but the simple act of living despite them.

This isn’t just another boilerplate YA novel with an attractive love interest and an enigmatic missing person. Green’s exploration of thought spirals is reminiscent of Descartes and the whole wax analogy. You’re your thoughts, but how much can you trust your thoughts if they can betray you any instant? While the narrative gets exceptionally up close and personal with Aza’s mind, you can’t help feeling detached, helpless wanting merely to reach out and reassure: Your now isn’t your forever.

Rating: 4.5/5

Given Green’s unflinching depiction of the invasive nature of OCD and anxiety, and its paradoxical detachment, I give it a 4.5. This is a heart-wrenching but crucial tale for our times, one that refuses to brush the dust of mental illness under the carpet of misinterpretation.

Author Bio

John Green, born August 24, 1977, is an American author and YouTuber. He’s recognized for his notable works in young adult fiction, including The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska. John’s exploration of emotional and psychological struggles in his novels has brought mental health discussions to the broader platform.

FAQ or Book Club Questions

  1. How does Green’s portrayal of Aza’s thoughts contribute to the understanding of mental illness?
  2. How do you feel the relationship between Aza and Davis was affected by her mental health?
  3. What does the title “Turtles All The Way Down” signify in the context of the narrative?

Where to buy

Grab your copy of this remarkable novel here.

HBO Max Adaptation

Excitingly, “Turtles All The Way Down,” is currently in post-production and set to be a new addition to the adaptations of John Green’s compelling tales on HBO Max, possibly in 2023. Tackling the intimate portrayal of mental illness, the adaptation promises an emotional rollercoaster entailing the life of our protagonist struggling with acute anxiety, Aza Holmes.

With mental health at its core plot, the series sets on Aza’s reconnection with her childhood crush, Davis. Together, they venture to solve the enigmatic case related to a fugitive billionaire. As circumstances unfold, Aza finds herself grappling with the concept of ‘normal,’ questioning her ability to surmount or succumb to her mental health.

The portrayal of these young characters in their full depth and resilience comes to life with Isabela Merced, known for her roles in “Instant Family” and “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” embodying Aza’s character. Moving away from the cliched boy next door, Felix Mallard, famed for his debut in “Neighbors,” steps into Davis’ shoes, bringing about a compassionate and understanding portrayal of a young man dealing with his own complexities.

This adaptation holds promise to accentuate not just the struggles of the individuals living with mental illness, but also the people that surround them, accepting and working through these struggles together. It resonates with the message that though difficult times may seem like an unending spiral, they are, after all, not our forever. Keep an eye out for this heartening rendition on HBO Max in the time to come.

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