‘Turtles All The Way Down’: A Psychologist’s Review
I first discovered John Green in 2013 while I was recovering from having my first child. I watched the entire Crash Course World History Part 1 in one week. I soon found the Vlogbrothers and became a nerd fighter. Then when I learned John Green was an author I read his books.
I preordered Turtles All the Way Down, John Green’s newest novel, after I saw his Vlogbrothers announcement that there were signed copies of the first edition. My signed copy arrived Tuesday night, and I wasted no time in reading it.
Turtles All The Way Down is a well told and deeply honest look at mental illness and the struggles to be ‘better.’
The story is about a teenage girl named Aza, who struggles with mental illness. She describes her mental illness as feeling trapped in her own mind. She talks about feeling as though she is along for the journey of her life, a journey that others have decided how her life will go.
Throughout the book, we can feel the pain of Aza’s psychological problems. We experience her thought spirals that derail her from enjoying her life. We know the pain of having her own mind torment her and disrupt her ability to enjoy those around her and to be fully engaged. In short, this story gives one a preview of mental illness
As I was reading this book I found it painful to read at times, not because it was bad, but because John Green did such a good job of getting the reader to see the world as Aza experienced it. She experienced her mind as a painful place to be. As you read the book you feel the pain and self-hatred that Aza experiences. Though it was painful, it was important.
As a psychologist, I found this book to be important. It was an important reminder of the struggles of those I work with. How painful anxiety, depression, and obsessions can be. It is a reminder to have compassion and patience.
This book, while showing mental illness as a central feature, did not romanticize having a mental illness.
I greatly appreciate that John Green was not afraid to show the pain of illness. I’m glad his publisher trusted him enough to let a book show an honest experience of anxiety. The book is not without hope. The end of the book is a reminder that there is hope. Turtles All the Way Down ends much as John Green’s other books end, with the promise of hope, the promise that life goes on and that you will continue.
I think this is a wonderful book. I would encourage anyone to read it. I especially would encourage parents of teens struggling with their own thought spirals to read this book. It might give you a better glimpse into your teen’s internal world. It can also be a great tool to start conversations about how they experience the world.