Review: John Green novel explores mental illness



John Green’s newest novel, “Turtles All the Way Down,” was released Oct. 10. It comes six years after his last novel, the bestselling “The Fault in Our Stars.”

The book tells the story of Aza Holmes, a teenage girl struggling with obessive compulsive disorder and depression. In particular, she worries so much about the possibility of getting an infection that she falls into “thought spirals” that prevent her from thinking about anything or anyone else. Through all of this, however, she tries to live a normal life as a high schooler, daughter, and friend.

The book is a candid look at the reality of what mental illness can be—Aza does not gain special powers or brilliant creative skill because of it, but her life isn’t only despair either. Green wrote the story using his own experiences with mental illness as inspiration. This is the first time he has written about his struggles, and while the story is fictional, it is also very personal.

Although the book is classified as young adult fiction, the story can resonate with people of any age. For people who live with mental illness, it can be reassuring to feel represented and seen in a nuanced and realistic way. For people who know someone living with mental illness, it can be helpful as a way into the conversation about understanding the particularly enigmatic difficulties of mental illness.

The book is fast-paced but poignant, and reminds readers that real life is complicated. ◼︎

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