Before I get in to the nitty gritty, I just want to say that I have been a huge fan of John Green for many many years. He is a large part of why I became a writer in the first place. I actually discovered him and his brother on YouTube before I even knew John was an author. If you haven’t checked out their channel, Vlogbrothers, you definitely should because it’s an amazing community… Now you know how much it pains me to say that I wasn’t exactly a fan of his fifth solo novel, Turtles All The Way Down.
To this day, Looking For Alaska, his first book, is my all time favorite book. It had great characters, a different way to tell a story, was very real, and took risks. That has always been something I respected about John, he walked the line of what was technically allowed in a Young Adult novel. Why is that so important? Because teenagers don’t live PG-13 lives or speak elegantly (usually). In LFA, there are heavy themes of tragedy, addiction, sex, and coming of age. There is a blowjob scene in it that has sparked controversy among readers and its integral to the story. An Abundance of Katherine’s is very similar in that sense, while also being quirky and different from most books in tone. John also always has a romance, usually as the focal point of his stories. If I really look at all of his novels, the realism of teen romance and relatability goes down with each passing release. Having pointed all of these things out, TATWD is the worst offender of them all, having little to none of the characteristics that I once sought John out for.
TATWD follows Aza, a teen girl that struggles with OCD and thought spirals, on her quest to solve a mystery of a fled billionaire so her and her close friend can collect a reward. Aza happens to have had a small fling with the son of said billionaire and ends up speaking with him to get info on his whereabouts. This is what the story is truly about. The relationships and troubles of these characters… Now, John is great at dialogue and making you feel very deeply about everything going on, and that’s no different here. I’m not arguing that he isn’t a brilliant writer. What i’m arguing is that this book is safe, and he might have lost touch with who teenagers actually are. I wouldn’t blame him, he’s in his fourties.
Although I didn’t really enjoy the book (again, that kills me) I will say that Aza’s struggle with mental illness, OCD specifically, is very real. John Green himself suffers from OCD, and has described the character as being quite self-based and it really shows. Reading about this in a way only someone who truly understands the problem can create is amazing. It spoke to me, and countless others.
In the end, this wasn’t a terrible book. Curiosity and author loyalty kept me going until the end. Parts, primarily the inner workings of the main character, were good, but everything else felt normal and unrealistic. If you disagree, I would honestly love to hear your side and what you got from this book. In the meantime, I eagerly await #6.