Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

I think I might be a fiction.

 

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Aza Holmes is a young girl struggling with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and anxiety. She is consumed with a fear of contracting C. diff, a bacterial overgrowth most commonly developed in a hospital (which she hasn’t been to) and by people on antibiotics (which she’s not on).

Aza’s supporting cast consists of Daisy, who she’s been friends with forever, so she “gets it”, and occasionally Mychal, the artist who sits with them at lunch. When Richard Pickett, billionaire, goes missing (and a reward is offered), Daisy insists that Aza reconnect with his son Davis, who she met at “Sad Camp” years ago. So Daisy is trying to solve the mystery of where Pickett Sr. is, Davis is trying to keep his younger brother from falling apart over their missing farther, and Aza is trying to escape the ever-tightening spiral that is her mind.

I love John Green. I really do. And as I love John Green, I loved Turtles All the Way Down. But it is a John Green novel, complete with the same grievances and praises I sing every time he writes a new book.

It may not be the same book he always writes, but it features the same cast of characters. You’ve got your main character who is just looking for something more (Miles’ Great Perhaps, Colin’s eureka moment, Aza’s proof that she’s real), and the eccentric supporting cast member (Alaska, Hassan, Margo, and now Daisy). It even comes complete with the supporting actor’s strange fixation (Radar’s parents and the Black Santa, Gus’s parent’s Encouragements, and Tua, Richard Pickett’s tuatara). Thankfully, he’s abandoned his usual storymap for Turtles, and he’s done so very successfully.

This is easily the most mature of his novels. Green manages to flesh out so much material that shouldn’t work together into one novel. Mental illness is obviously the center piece here, but there are also characters dealing with loss, poverty, and wealth (and the challenges it brings). As usual, this book should be much heavier than it is, and that lightness is a function of Green’s writing. If any writer besides Green tried to tackle so much in one novel, it wouldn’t work. Somehow, he makes it all palatable.

Turtles All the Way Down reminded me of Perks of Being a Wallflower. They both feature a main character with a mental illness and a car ride late at night that spurs deep, existential thinking (Comparison: “But the world is also the stories we tell about it,” vs “This moment will just be another story someday.” “that just repeated, ‘you’re everything, everything, everything,’ and I felt like I was,” vs “I was really there. And that was enough to make me feel infinite.” Who wrote which?). Aza and Charlie both struggle to participate in real life and are pushed into it by there friends. If you’ve ever read/enjoyed Perks, I’m sure you’ll draw your own parallels, but it’s very easy to see where some of Green’s inspiration comes from.

Turtles raises some important points about being in a relationship (especially non-romantic) with someone who is suffering with a mental illness. They’re not necessarily going to get better, and even if they do get better, they will likely never be well. Being close to someone who is ill can be burdensome, but if they “get it” (the way Daisy is supposed to), that’s something they understand and signed up for. Daisy has no right to be as bitter as she is, and Aza is a much kinder person than I ever would be for forgiving her so easily. Aza could stand to learn a little from Daisy in the friend compartment, though. Aza is so busy struggling within her own head that she doesn’t have any time to worry about any one or anything else. It’s not something that she can help, but when she’s not spiraling, it would be nice of her to show some gratitude to the people who are there for her.

 

 

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Winter by Marissa Meyer

This is the epic conclusion of The Lunar Chronicles. Will Cinder reclaim the Lunar Throne, her birthright? Will Kai ever marry Levana? Will Scarlet and Wolf ever see each other again? Will Cress ever stop being so damn clueless when she’s thinking about Carswell Thorne? Will everyone make it out of this adventure alive? Some things we do know: Kai has been kidnapped by Cinder and the crew of the Rampion. He’s now solidly on Cinder’s side. Scarlet has been taken in (as a pet) by Princess Winter. She is crazy-pants. Letumosis, a disease plaguing the Earthen Union, has mutated and can now infect Lunars. Luna is the only place able to manufacture the cure to letumosis. Levana isn’t just sadistic and cruel, she’s becoming unhinged. And it seems these days like it’s more of a matter of who can take who down first.

In Winter, Cinder is reassembling and redistributing her allies. In the resistance, everyone has a role to play. Rally enough sectors to overpower the thaumaturges, and Cinder wins. Convince enough Lunar citizens that Cinder is the lost princess Selene, and Cinder wins. Avoid run ins with Levana and stay alive long enough to take the throne from her, and Cinder wins. The hard part now will be hitting all of these goals.

Winter fell flat of my expectations, at least in quality of story-telling. It felt like a step backward in all the pacing and character development we’ve learned in the last 3 adventures we’ve taken together. I will admit, though, this book it much swoonier than any (maybe all of) the last books in the series. Cress and Thorne are my favorite. I’m a sucker for a good redemption arc. But I also imagine Kai to be the sweet and concerned, but also aware of a woman’s independence kind of man, and I dig that too. Wolf and Scarlet are so devoted to each other, and Jacin and Winter are definitely the star-crossed lovers we all hate to love.

I liked Princess Winter a lot; she’s kind and she’s broken. This makes her relatable in a way; though many non-fictional people don’t suffer with delusions like Princess Winter does, they do have to fight with the demons in their mind just to get through their days. What’s unique about Winter is that this mental anguish is self-imposed. It’s a result of the Lunar Sickness that develops when somebody with an active Lunar Gift doesn’t use it for long enough. It’s common in Lunars who are hiding on Earth, but why doesn’t the Princess use her gift when not using it causes her so much strife and pain?

 

Jacin has always guarded the Princess, both from threats others who would wish her harm and threats from herself. Jacin is her crutch; he gets her through her hallucinations and allows her to maintain her functionality. They also happen to be madly in love with each other, although they are from two different classes on Luna, which makes any relationship they may have entirely improper. Because that’ll stop them.

This book either needed to be shorter, or it needed to be two books. On the one hand, it had the feel of Harry Potter and the Endlessly Long Camping Trip. Cinder and her merry band of misfits were shuffling back and forth between the sectors and Artemisia and things weren’t really happening sometimes. But on the other hand. A lot of stuff happened. This is the first time we really had a chance to get to know Princess Winter. The entirety of Cinder/Selene’s rebellion happened in this book.

This is stupid, but I don’t care. I wanted them to spend more time on the dresses and the crowns. Selene is a queen, for goodness sake. Give me royalty. Give me regality. I’m with Iko; I’m here for the gowns.

Someone should take the time to explain those Sailor Moon references the Acknowledgements in these books keep alluding to. It’s not like I’ve never seen Sailor Moon, but I’m just not catching them. That’s not actual feedback, I’m just lost.