After John Green’s 2012 young adult mega-hit “The Fault in Our Stars,” I fully expected to find another conventional teen novel in Green’s latest book, “Turtles All the Way Down.” The raw, unflinching narrative surrounding main character Aza’s mental illness in “Turtles,” however, transcends the pseudo-deep catchphrases I had grown to expect from Green’s fiction.
Unfortunately, the book also features a number of unsatisfying elements, from an unrealistic mystery subplot to painfully contrived romances. Green’s predictable attempts to cling on to well-worn formulas drags “Turtles” all the way down, stifling his unique and painfully honest depiction of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The incongruous plot device of a missing billionaire, whose son miraculously happens to be Aza’s childhood crush, fails to evoke any emotions from me beyond confusion and annoyance. The resulting romantic subplot is cringe worthy and poorly written, featuring laughable lines like “
Worst of all, Green tosses philosophical pretension into the book at random via the couple’s conversations, a staple of the Green canon and an insult to some genuinely emotional moments throughout the book.
Aza’s relationships with her friends, while slightly more tolerable, have a tinge of flatness to them. Green seems desperate to flesh out Aza’s best friend, Daisy, in particular, endowing her with irritating quirks and offering cutesy escapade scenes between Daisy and Aza. Like many of the cookie-cutter elements in “Turtles All the Way Down,” occasionally it works—but most of the time it does not, only serving to intensify Daisy’s secondary-character lifelessness.
While I admire Green’s effort to shed light on an important mental health issue, ultimately, the white noise surrounding the book’s core made the experience less enjoyable. Still—as is the case with most of his irritatingly addictive novels—I will not hesitate to read the next one that comes out.