Review: Turtles all the way down by John Green

Turtles Kopie

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CW’s: Death, Self-Harm, Anxiety/Panic Attacks


Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.


“You’re both the fire and the water that extinguishes it. You’re the narrator, the protagonist, and the sidekick. You’re the storyteller and the story told. You are somebody’s something, but you are also your you.” 

Wooh it has finally happened – I read John Green’s new book! I wasn’t even sure when I would get to this, because when it came out last October, I was way past my intense John Green phase. However, when I heard many good Reviews, I wished for the book for Christmas and got it. Luckily I read it at just the right time and ended up really loving it. It’s not my favorite book by him and didn’t quite reach 5 stars, but 4.5 stars is a very good rating and makes it my fourth favorite book by him! (after TFIOS, Looking for Alaska and Will Grayson, Will Grayson)

🐢 I liked reading about Aza and her mental health. Beforehand I had heard a lot about the mental health rep that everyone really liked. I have to say that I liked seeing how John Green portrayed OCD (that Aza has OCD was I think clear from the promo, but it’s not mentioned in the book), especially as this is an ownvoices portrayal. I cannot speak on how accurate this portrayal was, but I have heard many reviewers say they really connected to this rep. I could connect to Aza at times as well, especially when she mentioned not talking a lot around other people and feeling the tightening spiral of her thoughts. Overall, I really liked reading about what OCD felt like for her and I think it’s worth mentioning that we also see Aza go to therapy in a few scenes, which I think is important to be portrayed. Generally, I had no troubled connecting to Aza and liking her, she’s a pretty quiet girl and she has a kind heart. The only issue I had was that I didn’t really know much about her interests. We find out that she is a good student, likes reading and watching TV with her mother and loves her car ‘Harold’. What I wanted to know was: what books does she like? What interests her? We know Davis likes poetry and superheroes, we know Daisy likes Star Wars, but what about Aza? I wanted to know more details about her!

🐢 Davis was an absolute sweetheart. I loved him so very much, because he’s a poor cinnamon roll with a really shitty father, who has abandoned him and his younger brother. Sometimes, I just wanted to give Davis a hug, because he has such pressure on him with his father on the run and his brother, who still hasn’t given up hope and is not doing well. He is expected to be like a parent, because his brother Noah needs someone, which is hard since he is just a kid and not really and adult himself. I really felt for his situation, because he doesn’t have a lot of people to rely on and always has to question if they are there for the reward and his money. Not to mention that his father doesn’t leave him and his brother any of the money. Some might call Davis a bit pretentious, but I liked the way he was. He’s really interested in astronomy and likes reading as well as coming up with poems. Davis has a secret blog where he can share his thoughts and I liked seeing that, because it gave me a good idea about what he was like. Overall, he is a character that is sympathetic and easy to like.

🐢 I really liked Davis and Aza’s growing friendship and feelings for each other. Both know each other since they were kids and played together but weren’t like best friends, I would say. I loved seeing them reconnect and get closer again, because they had a good dynamic. Like I already mentioned I liked Davis and therefore, I also liked seeing him with Aza and watching them carefully navigate the path between friendship and romantic feelings. Things developed quietly between them, just perfect given both of their circumstances. I also liked that there was no ‘cure’ involved and that Aza’s mental health is addressed when it comes to kissing and what being in a relationship means for her. Both understood each other, while also facing their individual problems, making me really root for them and like their interactions. I was also quite content where they ended up, because it made sense. Not everyone will like the ending, but I thought that it was realistic.

🐢 Aza’s mom was really nice. She doesn’t have a huge part in the book, but I loved that we finally got a parent in YA that was present, as we don’t see much of Daisy’s parents and Davis’ are obviously absent. Aza’s mom is a teacher at the same school her daughter goes to and she is still trying to figure out how to help Aza with her mental health. I loved seeing their interactions because they were so nuanced and you could really see that Aza’s mom cared about her daughter and just wanted to protect her, even when she sometimes didn’t know how. I’m all here for seeing books depict a close mother-daughter bond, because in my opinion we don’t see nearly enough of that!

🐢 The ending was really good and realistic. It made me emotional and I would have liked a few more additional pages, because with 288 pages the book is on the shorter side. Still, the ending didn’t feel rushed but instead offered a loose but good conclusion to the events of Turtles all the way down. I liked that not everything is perfect and that it reflects how life really is: not everything is always what you want, not everything is tied up the way you would have wished. But you see that the story left an impact on the characters, who have grown and changed. Some people are passengers in your life for a short while and I loved that the book reflected that, it made it hit closer to home and feel more realistic. To sum it up, the ending was the best it could have been.

🐢 I liked Daisy’s and Aza’s friendship at the beginning. I’m going to get deeper into what went down in the middle in the next part, because I’m very torn about their friendship. I do appreciate that we had a strong female friendship that was in the focus of the story and didn’t turn into jealousy or anything else. Daisy and Aza are very different and still go along and have gotten along since their childhood. However, the middle part of the book conjures up some problems that are magically solved for the ending, which leaves a bitter taste in my mouth when I think about their relationship. I wish there had been a real apology and resolve, because I did like how close both girls were and how they respected each other in the end. Because of what I mentioned I had a hard time liking Daisy as an individual character, but I appreciated that she was a Star Wars Nerd, who writes a lot of fanfiction.

The Thing that turned me off 5 Stars

🐢At times Daisy was acting really harmful towards Aza. Note that I said at times, because this wasn’t constantly. I liked their friendship at the beginning and end, but that doesn’t excuse the things that went down towards the middle of the book. It all starts when Daisy does something really cruel to mock Aza (I won’t tell you what, that would go into spoilers), that the latter only finds out about really late. You see – Aza isn’t a confrontational person and while she is angry, she quickly begins to feel really bad and blame herself. Daisy makes her seem like a horrible person, so that’s what Aza now begins to think of herself, showing what an impact her friends actions have on her.

My problem here was that the narrative doesn’t call out Daisy enough for how she acted  towards her friend.  Let me make this clear: Daisy tells Aza she is a bad friend, that she is self-absorbed and that it’s a burden to be friends with her because of her mental illness – and it rubbed me the wrong way that she never really apologized or got called out. I can’t really blame Aza for not calling her out more (it took way too long for her to finally snap at Daisy), because she was quick to feel like everything was her fault. But it made me so mad that the narrative didn’t show how horrible it was that Daisy said all these things for a long time behind her friend’s back. I don’t like this implication that being a friend with someone mentally ill is a burden that makes you some kind of hero for enduring. It’s a really harmful thing to tell and while things aren’t always easy, to call Aza a bad friend while Daisy can get away with mocking her and being an absentee friend once she gets a boyfriend is really unfair. What rubbed me the wrong way even more was that Aza was constantly apologizing and that Daisy was just like “well we’ll just make up later” instead of taking responsibility.

Not to mention that beforehand Daisy hasn’t been exactly been good either. Right before the fight she tells Aza that she should quit talking to Davis and trying to help him, because she has her money now and doesn’t care about the people who gave it to her anymore. It was totally not okay for her to try to control Aza, like if you don’t like to talk to them, fine, but don’t force your friend to do the same. She literally makes Aza say that she’s right and that Aza will let it go. In the end those issues were resolved, but the process was way too sudden and didn’t really include Daisy owning up, a few sentences are not enough for what she did at times.

IN CONCLUSION: Turtles all the way down was totally worth the wait! It sets the focus on mental health, friendships and a very realistic romance. The book made me emotional at many times and definitely gets you thinking. The only thing I disliked was how Daisy was acting really harmful towards Aza a few times – this wasn’t called out enough and ended with Aza taking all the blame instead of Daisy stepping up and admitting she had done wrong as well.

Have you read Turtles all the way down? What’s your fave John Green book? 🐢


3 thoughts on “Review: Turtles all the way down by John Green

  1. Yes! I love when someone gets it the same way I do!

    The friction between the two friends is realistic – mental health does impact on the people around you and it’s not always easy. As a teen, it is not totally strange that Daisy loses control of how it’s affecting her and it comes out in a bad way. BUT the author didn’t call it out or address it as the problem it was. Which is where the issue lies.

    I love that you illustrated this point!

    Also, super happy to see you highlight the positive therapy inclusion in the book! I think I missed this one in my review but it is so so true and should be included in way more mental health rep books than it actually is.

    Great review! Love your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s the best feeling 🙂

      You phrased it perfectly, I felt like the narrative didn’t call out her behavior or properly address it. I wanted a scene where the focus was on both of them truly talking about what happened and Daisy owning up for what happened.

      It’s definitely something, I was glad for and I’m happy to see therapy represented more and more in other books as well 🙂

      Thank you! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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