Enchanting novel shows us we're all human - The Buffalo News

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Enchanting novel shows us we're all human

"Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills," a quote from Arthur Schopenhauer, is the epigraph that perfectly opens John Green’s beautiful novel "Turtles All the Way Down."

"Turtles All the Way Down" is the bittersweet story of 16-year-old Aza Holmes, who, along with her best friend, Daisy, is determined to locate a fugitive billionaire, all while coping with obsessive compulsive disorder.

Readers of Green’s other works, like "The Fault in Our Stars" or "Looking for Alaska," may be familiar with his way of handling heavy topics. That style of writing continues in "Turtles All the Way Down," but this is a far tougher read than Green’s others.

The novel exposes Aza’s raw experience, expressing every emotion passing through her mind, including many fights between what she views as her sanity and her insanity.

Some of the primary focuses of "Turtles All the Way Down" are Aza’s unanswerable questions about her identity, humans’ lack of control, and the spiral-like nature of her obsessive thoughts.

Aza questions why school bells have control over her, why bacteria inside her body decides how she’ll operate and why medication is necessary to make her "right."

The concept of spirals recurs throughout the novel, since tightening spirals are the most accurate metaphor to describe Aza’s OCD. As they tighten, she falls deeper, and she can’t escape.

A highlight of this novel is its lack of romanticism of mental illness, a controversy probably intentionally avoided by Green, who actually suffers from his own form of OCD.

Even though this book may seem like a painful read that only teenagers living in a reality like this could understand or enjoy, there are honestly so many aspects of it beyond that.

There is something in it for everyone.

Anyone can relate in some way to some form of the pain, happiness, indecisiveness and emotion that Aza experiences.

Plus, dedicated high schoolers acting like PIs seeking a $100,000 reward adds some fun to what would otherwise seem rather serious.

"Turtles All the Way Down" is an enchanting novel one could devotedly finish in one sitting. It ultimately reassures any reader that they are human and that everyone is human, despite whatever one thinks defines them.

Maura Ende is a junior at Nardin Academy.

 

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