Not much to say about the plot of the book – it’s a young adult novel, and that pretty much sums it up. There are teenagers who go through a rite of passage – the discovery of who they are and what they feel. It is the beginning of an adventure we never get to see, only the gestation of it – we are left to draw our own conclusions of what happens after this episode that we have in front of us; but, in all fairness, it is this episode that you will want to read even if you had the choice of reading one out off all of them – it is here where the big conclusions are drawn; the point of no return.
While the novel has scattered all over cliches and improbable events, it does come to a good conclusion and, rounding everything up, it does appear to make some sense. It’s nothing mind-blowing, just the usual live the life you always wanted to live kind of thing.
But the novel does get one thing perfectly right, the subject of mental illness. The main protagonist suffers from severe anxiety and OCD, and both play a very important part of the character construction and some of the plot devices.
Going through such strong emotions is perfectly captured through the thoughts and actions of the character, showing the audience again and again the torments that people everywhere and of all ages suffer every day – it is the voice not of a generation, but of an illness that does not discriminate ages and genders, that creates harm out of thin air and has, over time, claimed the most talented and brilliant of individuals.
Mental illness is not always depression or another crippling disease, sometimes it is the burden that other people do not see. Anxiety doesn’t make us incapable of leaving your bed, nor does it make you crazy in the eyes of others, but it is a slow burning fire that torments relentlessly and consumes you to the point of giving up. The series of scary thoughts that never leave your head, that just come and come to the point of exhaustion, seem less important for most people, but that doesn’t mean that people that are currently going through it and people that have overcame it do not find it important, it is as defining for an individual as birth itself.
Turtles All the Way Down is a nice, short and fun read that tackles successfully a very important topic, especially in today’s lens. Although John Green’s mental illness has caused him a great deal of pain, it is refreshing to see how the human mind can overpower its traumas and, while doing so, create art.