Thursday 13 September 2018

#CBR10 Book 79: "Turtles All the Way Down" by John Green

Page count: 304 pages
Audio book length: 7hrs 12 mins

Aza Holmes doesn't have a lot of friends, and her best friend Daisy, a gregarious and outgoing fan fiction writer, sometimes finds her a bit exhausting. This is not surprising, as Aza struggles with anxiety and OCD. When local billionaire Russell Davis Picket goes missing and there is a reward offered for news of his whereabouts, Daisy remembers that Aza knows his son. Daisy orchestrates a scenario so that Aza can reconnect with Davis, who she hasn't seen for a few years.

Aza and Davis met at a camp for children who'd lost parents. Aza's father died, as did Davis' mother. With his father missing, Davis and his younger brother are pretty much orphans. There's a housekeeper who cooks for them, but they are left to their own devices in a huge and lonely house, and when Daisy and Aza suddenly show up, Davis is naturally suspicious about their motives.

The book is told from Aza's perspective, and I found it rather difficult to read on occasion, as Aza's mental illness keeps spiralling out of control more and more as the book progresses. She is terrified of disease, and uses tons of hand sanitizer. She has a tiny wound on her hand that she keeps reopening, while at the same time being super paranoid about infection. She doesn't take her meds like she's supposed to, and as the story progresses, she even begins to drink the hand sanitizer.

While Daisy comes across as an impatient and somewhat oblivious friend on occasion, but I had a lot of sympathy for her. As someone who knows a lot of people with degrees of debilitating mental illness - it can be very frustrating to be the one on the other side.

When promoting this book, John Green admitted that he too struggles with anxiety, which is why it's probably described so very vividly. I listened to the audio book, where the narrator gives Aza's inner thoughts a very commanding tone, making it all the more understandable that she has trouble resisting, even when she's being told to do frankly insane and unhealthy things. It's exhausting and scary to read about, it must be absolute hell on earth to live through. I kept internally yelling at Aza whenever she failed to take her meds. One thing I have realised, knowing many people who suffer from mental illness, is just how important it is to keep taking your meds regularly, and to speak to a doctor if the meds no longer work for you.

I think The Fault in Our Stars is still my favourite John Green book and it probably doesn't help that I was a bit distracted and not necessarily in a good head space when listening to this book. It's a good and important YA book, but Aza's illness just freaked me out too much.

Judging a book by its cover: There's a lot of spiral imagery throughout the novel, so I suppose an orange spiral drawing the eye was a perfectly good design to choose for the otherwise rather plain cover. I suppose John Green doesn't really need elaborate or especially ornate covers, his name is enough to sell bucket loads, especially when he hasn't released a book in years. I still think it's one of the most boring of all of his book covers.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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