Despite the shrinking budget I had decided to buy 2 copies of this in hardback, which I almost never do. I thought the students would be fighting over the copies, but not so far. I have had a mixed response myself to John Green’s writing – loved ‘Paper Towns’ ‘The fault in our Stars’ less so, but ‘Turtles all the way down’ was a very thoughtful read.
Our narrator is Aza. She has many of the teen traits you’d expect from any self-respecting teen novel. She has lost a parent under sudden and tragic circumstances, she finds being at school tricky and has only one close friend, and she suffers from a complex mental health issue. At the start of the book, Aza and her friend discover the news that a local, super-wealthy businessman has gone missing. He is father to two teen children, who are now left in the care of their paid staff. Aza had spent some summer camps years before with the oldest son, and with Daisy they make contact again and do a little investigating – partly for the huge reward, but also because of the connection Aza and Davis have. It does feel, for much of the book, that Aza and Davis have a real chance of a blossoming romance, and the scenes together I think will really appeal to teen readers as feeling true and real. However, for Aza, many of the simple, day to day activities most take for granted are fraught with danger because of her mental health issues. This for me was a real strength of the book. There is a lot of ‘issues’ based fiction around. Aza’s condition is complex, but through the way it is written I certainly felt I had a much greater understanding of what might be going on in the head of someone suffering from something similar. There is a scene towards the end where she tries to describe what it’s like and how it affects her to Davis, which I thought was rather wonderfully drawn. I gather that in this novel Green wanted to try to chronicle the kind of mental illness he suffers from himself, which may well go far in explaining that, for me, these were the most powerful passages. I suspect it will just be a matter of time before this title really takes off in my school