Aza Holmes is a little bit insufferable, but don’t we all have quirks that are frustrating to the people we love most?
JOHN GREEN’S newest protagonist, a 17-year-old self-proclaimed obsessive depressive, is just as complex as you or I. In his latest best-selling young adult novel, “TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN,” Green introduces the reader to Aza as she embarks upon her senior year.
She and her best friend, Daisy, discover a missing person ad for her childhood friend’s very wealthy father. In an attempt to raise funds for college and financial stability thanks to a $100,000 reward, Daisy, with the help of a reluctant Aza, launches a search.
As part of their search efforts, Aza stumbles into a new but familiar friendship with her childhood friend and missing father’s son, Davis. After years of suffering with spiraling and debilitating thoughts related to her OCD, depression and anxiety, Aza finally finds some comfort in the equally intrusive and depressive Davis. But will their relationship be loud enough to quiet the obsessive thoughts roaring in her brain?
Aza’s story is multilayered, and the novel cannot be written off as either a teenage romance novel or an unrealistic detective novel in the vein of “Paper Towns” another John Green best-seller. The missing persons case threads the various pieces of the novel together, but this is a character-driven novel through and through.
Additionally, Green has been wrongly criticized as a creator of the manic-pixie-dream girl trope, but Aza is not that at all. Green’s story is one of a young woman learning to navigate relationships (both romantic and platonic), expectations and reality with a deafening mental illness roaring between her ears. Like any human being, particularly a malleable teenager, Aza often fails spectacularly. She pushes away people she loves and misses important pieces of other people’s stories.
Green excels in his craft here. The compelling and page-turning novel is based on Green’s own experiences with obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is likely why Aza feels so authentic. However, not everyone suffering from a mental illness is skilled enough to describe their thoughts and feelings with such precision and originality. When Aza falls into a self-described “thought spiral,” it feels as emotionally intense as the real thing.
Rest assured, this novel is not all doom and gloom; rather, Green’s latest might be described as realistically hopeful. Overall, I contend that “Turtles All the Way Down” is Green’s most perfect novel yet.