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Turtles All The Way Down


Turtles All the Way Down

By John Green


If I could write a letter to John Green, I would thank him for having the courage to share his story of obsessive-compulsive disorder through the character of Aza.  Imagine what it feels like to be inside a mind and body controlled by thoughts that are not your own. Imagine being unable to master your compulsions, knowing that they are irrational while simultaneously feeling compelled to act them out.  Green brings this feeling of panic to life so realistically that I felt uncomfortable at times.  


Anyone who has suffered from mental illness can recognize the feeling of loneliness and helplessness described by Aza.  Knowing that there is something wrong, being deeply ashamed of that wrongness and not being able to talk about it are all part of the scenario.  Green brings these issues to light, offering us a sympathetic main character, a rather less sympathetic BFF and a wonderful love interest, in the form of a young boy, whose father has gone missing.


Aza’s friends and family accept her to varying degrees as she struggles to convey her experience; trapped in a vortex of irrational fears, being controlled by a monster and simultaneously feeling that she is the monster.  Green does not trivialize this illness by wrapping it up with a tidy bow at the end.  Rather, his epilogue offers the prospect of further struggles tempered with hope and compassion.  Mental illness is something the character, and the author, must learn to live with, much like a diabetic must learn to accommodate his/her disease.  It may be part of you, but it should never become your defining characteristic.


For those directly affected by mental health issues, this book will allow them to heave a sigh of relief, reaffirming that they are not alone.  I honour John Green for his willingness to be vulnerable; he makes us all stronger in the process.


People are bound to ask if this book is as good as The Fault in Our Stars, and the answer is yes.  Absolutely, yes.


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