I’m still forcing foreign lumps back in my throat after reading Turtles All the Way Down. It feels like an epiphanic moment for me to finally figure out why Mr. Green used that title and damn, I’m still sniffing thinking about it. Sure, The Fault In Our Stars made me cry eight years ago but back then that book felt like its very sole mission is to make me cry and honestly I resented that story a bit (or a lot to be truthful), that tragic twist in the end. Ugh!
But this book, it’s so genuine and relatable and emotional, and just a fair warning to readers, it could trigger so many emotions possibly including anxiety so please do read it with caution.
“Well, everyone’s crazy these days, Dr. Singh. Adolescent sanity is so twentieth century.”
“It’s so weird, to know you’re crazy and not be able to do something about it, you know? It’s not like you believe yourself to be normal. You know there is a problem. But you can’t figure a way through to fixing it. Because you can’t be sure, you know? “
Nobody died (at least not amongst the major characters] but I find myself often tearing up quietly from time to time while reading the book. It’s a very beautifully written, honest story about what it really means to have anxiety that the word anxiety couldn’t even begin to really describe that particular condition that starts mentally and pushes its way out physically.
“But you give your thoughts too much power, Aza. Thoughts are only thoughts. They are not you. You do belong to yourself , even when your thoughts don’t.”
“You’re both the fire and the water that extinguishes it. You’re the narrator, the protagonist, and the sidekick. You’re the storyteller and the story told. You are somebody’s something, but you are also you.”
“Dr. Singh liked to say that an unwanted thought was like a car driving past you when you’re standing on the side of the road, and I told myself I didn’t have to get into that car, that my moment of choice was not whether to have the thought, but whether to be carried away by it.”
Of all John Green characters, Aza might yet by my favorite to date. She’s a believable, genuine character with plausible mental health concerns and I just want to encase her in a place of safety if there is such a thing so she wouldn’t spiral into those evil, nagging thoughts threatening her very life. But the story is also very honest and direct that this condition is “not uncommon” as Dr. Singh put it as a gentle reminder, and hopefully and encouragement that anyone who has anxiety or other mental health problems is never alone.