Before I start, for those of you who have not read the book I am going to talk about, this doesn’t have any spoilers for Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. The book covers a very serious issue regarding teens, mental health. If you or a loved one is dealing with a mental illness, let the person know there are people who love them. The second thing is get help. John Green reinforced this on his recent book tour, too. It was an awesome book tour and I was lucky to see him and his brother, Hank, in Minnesota!
I think Turtles All The Way Down, is, by far, one of the best teen books with a character with a mental illness. The narrator, Aza Holmes, starts off by stating, ”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 12:37 P.M. and 1:14 P.M.—by forces so much larger than myself that I couldn’t even begin to identify 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.” John Green has a way of understanding the teenage mindset that is so powerful.
Aza is a young woman who has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and a callus on her middle finger from continuing to crack open the cut because she goes into these thought spirals, leaving her to think that she has a microbial infection, C-Diff. Let us take Aza’s words when she goes into her thought spiral, particularly when she makes out with Davis, a billionaire’s son whose dad goes missing. ”I felt his hand on my shoulder. I spun around and squirmed away from him. My breath running away from me. Dots in my vision. You’re fine he’s not even the first boy you’ve kissed eighty million organisms in me forever calm down permanently altering the microbiome this is not rational you need to do something please there is a fix here please get to a bathroom.” the thoughts are obsessive and downright compulsive, taking a hold of her and causing the stoppage of making out.
Aza goes on to talk about the ”invasives” with Dr. Singh, a psychiatrist who quotes a lot of people. For example, when Aza quotes Descartes’ ”I think therefore I am,” ”No, not really. A fuller formation of Descartes’s philosophy would be Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum. ‘I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am.’ Descartes wanted to know if you could really know that anything was real, but he believed his ability to doubt reality proved that, while it might not be real, he was. You are as real as anyone, and your doubts make you more real, not less.” Descartes’ philosophy plays a role in the book that makes the book so precious and powerful.
John Green opens up about him having OCD in this sometimes dark and haunting novel and I think that experience matters in books. At the end of the novel, John Green writes, ”I, a singular proper noun, would go on, if always in a conditional tense. But you don’t know any of that yet. We squeeze his hand. He squeezes back. You stare up at the same sky together, and after a while he says, I have to go, and you say, Good-bye, and he says, Good-bye, Aza, and no one ever says good-bye unless they want to see you again.”
My recommendation – read this book right away and don’t forget to be awesome! #DFTBA
See my post about tax cuts next week. Goodbye.