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Book Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Turtles All the Way DownTurtles All the Way Down by John Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

31st May 2021 (second read):

This book felt like a warm hug.

After reading the last words, I closed the book and set it down on my lap and looked up. The sun was searing down, and I had taken shelter beneath a chestnut tree in a small copse by a meadow. I looked out over the meadow. The sun’s rays fell warmly on my bare arms. But to the same degree, I felt an inner warmth that emanated from inside my chest. For a rare and fleeting moment, I was in equilibrium with my surroundings.

Maybe that’s what we’re all seeking. We want to be in equilibrium. We want to be in the right place at the right time. Sometimes we want to return to the past; other times we want to skip ahead to the future. When we can’t get there, we feel a dissonance. This book lifted me out of rumination and speculation and gently set me down in the present. It told me that I am okay as I am, where I am, and when I am. That’s comforting.

The book is narrated by Aza Holmes, a high schooler who suffers with severe OCD*. While I can’t relate to all of Aza’s struggles, I can empathise with her, and see myself in her. I felt both compassion and pride for Aza. I wanted to tell her, “You’re okay. You’re not a terrible person. You’re alright.” As I read the final pages, I felt Aza was saying the same words back to me: “You’re okay. You’re not a terrible person. You’re alright.”

This was my second time reading this book, but still the ending surprised me. In the closing paragraphs, Aza addresses her younger self. But it felt like Aza was talking to me. She told me that there is only one thing in this world that I can ever deserve: love.

Love is the one thing you don’t earn. Everything else needs to be earned: a reputation, a promotion, respect, trust, etc. But love is the one thing that you and I both deserve with no strings attached. You are worthy.

I could have sworn that somebody had taken my copy of the book and added that part to the story since last year. But maybe I wasn’t ready to read those words until I had written a bit more of my own story.

And what about you – what story are you writing? The pen is in your hand…

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Obsessive compulsive disorder, a clinical condition – not an adjective to describe somebody who values cleanliness.

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