Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Publication Date: 10 October 2017

Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult

Pages: 286

1.5 stars

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Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. 


I was so excited to read John Green’s highly anticipated new book! I purchased it on the day it came out and even paid full-price.

The first chapter was brilliant. I loved the way Green wrote about how Aza saw herself in school. She saw herself as the secondary character in someone else’s story; a character that no one really cared about. Check out the opening paragraph:

“At the time I first realized I might be fictional, my weekdays were spent at a publicly funded institution on the north side of Indianapolis called White River High School, where I was required to eat lunch at a particular time – between 12:37pm and 1:14pm – by forces so much larger than myself that I couldn’t even begin to identity them. If those forces had given me a different lunch period, or if the tablemates who helped author my fate had chosen a different topic of conversation that September day, I would’ve met a different end – or at least a different middle. But I was beginning to learn that your life is a story told about you, not one that you tell.”

The first chapter was written very well and I understood exactly what Aza was going through. One thing about Green’s writing that has been criticised is his inability to make his characters sound like teenagers. Read that quote above again and imagine a sixteen-year-old girl thinking that – it’s a little bit difficult. For example, when has anyone ever said “tablemates”? It did take me a while to read the book as though it was told by Aza rather than Green. But I do like the opening chapter a lot, even though the rest of his chapters read a bit differently.

The plot follows Aza very closely, and moves between her attempting to find a billionaire with her friend, Daisy, and her struggles with her mental illness. The plot with the billionaire is interesting at first and it draws you into the story. It leads Aza to reconnect with Davis, who is the billionaire’s son. There were several weird things surrounding that family – the most prominent, I think, being the tuatara. Something strange is revealed about the tuatara – which is a spoiler – and it is a very odd thing for a person to do. It seemed very unbelievable.

I think that Aza is supposed to have OCD and anxiety. While the readers learn about the development in finding the missing billionaire, they also get an insight into Aza’s mind.

“The way he talked about thoughts was the way i experienced them—not as a choice, but as a destiny. Not a catalog of my consciousness, but a refutation of it.”

Aza is constantly thinking throughout the novel. She worries about every little thing and analyses things as though they are life-threatening. The depiction of her mental health was the best part about the novel. Her thoughts were endless and they never had a solution. She just needed to try to live with them, which was a good message to send to the target audience.

Aza did something really gross in the novel that made my blood turn weak whenever I had to read it. She would pick at the skin on her thumb, and while Green made this image come to life in my head, it was disgusting. But the point I’m trying to get at is that the writing about Aza’s mental health was very vivid and done in an exceptional way.

I mostly enjoyed this novel. However, there were several things that I disliked about it.

Firstly, Daisy. In the beginning, I thought she was the typical best friend sort of character who was charismatic and someone whom everyone loved. She continuously called Aza “Holmesy”, which was confusing at first, but then I realised Aza’s last name was Holmsey. Her addiction to Star Wars was enduring. But there was something about her that was lacking. She was clearly not a good friend to Aza, and Aza was not a good friend to her. It was a strange, toxic friendship for a young adult novel. I also don’t think what Daisy did in the end was forgivable. She didn’t understand what Aza was going through at all.

Another thing I disliked about this novel was the plot. It was strong in the beginning: the readers knew the goal of the characters and could sense a romance between Aza and Davis. Mid-way, however, it was hard to know where the main focus would be. The focus moved off Aza and Daisy looking for where the billionaire was and then moved to Aza’s mental illness. This made it difficult for me to understand what I was wanting out of this novel.

The relationship between Aza and Davis was also not that great. I didn’t care about them being together at all. I more so cared about Aza being happy.

Finally (I know this is a lot to dislike but just one more thing), I don’t like the title. It’s a funny title, yes. The joke behind the title is really funny, I laughed at it a few weeks before I read the book. But throughout the entire novel I was anticipating when they would mention turtles being all the way down! And I guess it relates to how Aza’s thoughts are crazy and constant, but they mentioned it for only a second and it was the tiniest part of the story. And instead of a tuatara it could have been a turtle!

Aside from those things, I liked the book. I liked it more than Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska. I still think that The Fault in Our Stars is the best John Green book. Will Grayson Will Grayson is pretty good too.

Overall, Turtles All the Way Down is a poignant read, and for that I have rated it 4 stars. I would recommend it firstly to fans of John Green and then to those who enjoy reading young adult books.

See Turtles All the Way Down by John Green on Goodreads and purchase through Book Depository.


  • What did you think of Turtles All the Way Down?

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18 thoughts on “Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

  1. I finished this about 2 weeks ago or so, and still haven’t written a post about it. I think because I’m not even sure how I feel about it. There were parts I liked and some I was just kind of like….ok? I feel like the billionaire plot was just ridiculous and unbelievable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean. I had mixed feelings about it too. The billionaire plot was definitely ridiculous, especially as you read on and read motives and everything.


  2. Excellent review Charlotte! That’s cool that you have read all of his books. I have only read Looking for Alaska but didn’t enjoyed much. I’m glad you mentioned about your likes & dislikes of this book. Any chance of crying reading this book?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Omg I ADORE this novel so much!! I love how John Green writes and I actually think he does write realistic teenagers.😂 At least it resonated with me when I was a teen a lot (and even now that I’m in my early 20s). bUt I SO agree about Daisy. She was…toxic. Like the easy way she was forgiven at the end?? Um. Yeah I think she should’ve gotten a comeuppance for that. It was really bad. I love Davis so much though.❤️💔

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I adored it too!! ❤️ I think this book had a great realistic protagonist, Aza was such a great character 👍 Lol Daisy was so annoying though, that fight at the end was so weird and it was even weirder that Aza forgave her. I get why you love Davis, he was actually pretty sweet ❤️


  4. I totally understand all of these comments and felt a lot of the same things while reading the book (well, I listened to it). Believe it or not, this was my first John Green book and my fellow reader friend begged me to try it. I was totally not going to even pick t up because 1. I’m not a big contemporary fiction fan and 2. I don’t really like the idea of John Green’s books. I did end up quite liking it and giving it 3.5-4 stars and it was a really quick listen for me. I agree with everything abot Aza and Daisy and was very confused by their relationship. I think it was toxic and I don’t think anything was ever resolved between them. I understand the purpose in telling the story between someone who has anxiety/OCD and how crippling that can be to family and friends in their lives but it just feels like everything was just kind of left untouched in the end which was weird to me.. like I wanted Aza to defend herself and help Diasy understand because she truly did not and that was so so frustrating for me to read. I was so confused with everyone regarding Davis (lol I just forgot his name and had to look at comments that’s how little I remembered of him) and just felt like he was also a loose end that wasn’t tied up. I wanted Aza to grow and find happiness in the end and that was the purpose of the story, I think, to follow her growth rather than this detective nonsense but Idk.. lastly, I kind of think the Mom was shitty too. Like she also struggled to connect with Aza and understand her difficulties and needs which was hard for me to read. It’s so tricky writing and even reading about someone with mental illness and everyone has their own experiences which can be interpreted in so many different ways. I know John Green poured a lot of himself into this story and you can really tell so I am glad I read it but there’s some things I’ll always just be like… why???

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your awesome comment!
      This must have been an interesting John Green book to firstly read. It’s quite different from his other books! Personally I would only read the fault in our stars if you were looking at reading any more. I think the thing with Aza and Daisy has annoyed everyone who has read it. It was the type of fight where it didn’t seem like there would be a resolution, and then out of nowhere there was. The end was definitely weird to me too, I mean that kind of fight has probably happened to a lot of young girls in high school and I bet most of the fights ended with them not being friends anymore. Yes, I totally wanted Aza to defend herself too! Yeah Davis was a random character, I don’t think his storyline was tied up well either. Like I only read it a few weeks ago and I can barely remember what happened to his character. It was overall a good depiction of mental health, but I agree the reactions from some characters were a bit extreme and handled in an odd way.


  5. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this book, so I am so glad you enjoyed it so much as well! It sounds like such a powerful but relevant book. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I did read the book a week before, it was brilliant but I personally think that the book had to do more with adventurous and suspense type readers, I wanted something to happen between Aza and Davis but all in all the book was fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good point, it did have a lot of mystery and suspense to the story. It wasn’t really much of a romance story. I’m glad you still thought it was fascinating though 🙂


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