When Melinda and I did an event with John Green in New York a couple years ago, we knew we had to bring our youngest daughter, Phoebe, along. He is one of her favorite authors, and she’s converted our entire family to fans of his books.
Before we went on stage, John pulled Phoebe aside to share a secret with her: the plot of his new book. He made her promise not to share it with anyone, and she stayed true to her word for nearly two years. She wouldn’t even tell Melinda and me!
Phoebe doesn’t have to keep the secret any longer, because that book—Turtles All the Way Down—was released late last year.
I’ve read a couple of John’s books and enjoyed each one, and his latest is no exception. Turtles All the Way Down tells the story of Aza Holmes, a high school student from Indianapolis. When a local billionaire goes missing and a $100,000 reward is offered for information about his disappearance, she and her best friend decide to track him down.
Aza’s quest is complicated by the fact that she has obsessive compulsive disorder and severe anxiety. Her struggles are a huge part of the book, as her compulsions constantly get in the way of her social life. John’s writing feels almost claustrophobic when describing Aza’s mental swirl. Some people might find those parts difficult to read, but he really gives you a sense of what it feels like to live with OCD.
Because this is a John Green novel, romance must factor into the equation. Aza begins to develop feelings for Davis, the son of missing billionaire Russell Pickett. He is initially skeptical about her intentions, because he’s used to people sucking up to him to get close to his dad. While I hope I’m nothing like the morally bankrupt Russell—he wants to give all of his money to his pet lizard and was under investigation for fraud and bribery—I think my own kids can relate to some of Davis’ experiences.
John actually talked to Phoebe in New York about what it was like growing up with me as her dad. I asked her to write up her own mini-review now that’s she had a chance to read the book. Here’s what Phoebe had to say:
“For years I have been a loyal John Green fan—devouring his novels in the back of coffee shops, while traveling, and curled up on my couch. Something about the imagery of his books makes me get caught up in the fantasy of his stories, but Turtles All the Way Down hit closer to home for me than the rest. As someone who has struggled with OCD for years, I saw some of myself in the main character. But more than anything, this book struck close to home due to the intriguing character of Davis.
“Never has a book been able to capture so well what it is like to live in the shadow of someone else’s legacy. This story shows how Davis struggled to find his own identity outside of his father’s fame and wealth. Although we have very different relationships with our dads, I recognized his struggle, which also plays into my own life as I find my way in this world. This read was captivating like none other I have read before.”
Phoebe is much closer to John’s intended demographic than I am, but I think readers of all ages will enjoy Turtles All the Way Down. It’s a fun, moving story filled with quirky but relatable characters. Paper Towns is still my favorite John Green book—but my family loved talking about Turtles at the dinner table, and I think yours will, too.