Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green [spoiler-free post, but I’d avoid the comments!]

It was John Green’s book The Fault in Our Stars that inspired me, back in January 2012, to put down the manuscript I was working on and try my hand at writing YA literature, the result of which was my debut novel Truest. (Please see: 3 Novels That Changed My Life.)

It’s been over five years since TFIOS came out, so of course, everyone has been excited for Green’s next book, me included. I was less excited to discover the coincidental similarities it had to one of my works-in-progress: Turtles is about a girl named Aza with OCD; Yes Novel is about a boy named Asa with OCD. Yes Novel, meet backburner.

But what a cool intersection of my passions– YA lit, John Green, OCD!

In Turtles All the Way Down, Aza Holmes is fighting against her intrusive thoughts, all while she and her best friend Daisy attempt to locate a runaway millionaire, the son of whom was Aza’s childhood friend Davis. I loved how Green showed the way that Aza’s OCD impacted not only her but all of her relationships.

Did the book get OCD right?

Yes. I was pretty pleased. Green did a really good job of showing both Aza’s obsessions and the resulting compulsions, and I think readers will be able to see the *faulty* logic that presses sufferers to perform compulsions. And although some readers might think things were a bit exaggerated for the sake of the story, in my opinion, Green actually toned down OCD for the book. (My own editor told me of Yes Novel that I had to find a way to lighten it up, make it less depressing, as readers could only handle so much.) There are definitely degrees of OCD (see: YBOCS), but for it to be considered OCD, it has to noticeably disrupt one’s life. I took the YBOCS as Aza Holmes and scored 26 out of a possible 40, which is the severe category. Just because I was curious. 🙂

The book was good, very well written, a much quieter book than The Fault in Our Stars, and I think it needed to be. Though others might argue that it didn’t pack the same emotional punch as TFIOS, I think it was exactly the book Green needed to write after the phenomenal, almost debilitating success of the former.

In September 2016, John Green made the following video. It’s wild to watch it now (especially if you’ve finished Turtles) and see that just 13 months later, that book would be published. It’s because of this video that I say that I think Turtles is exactly the one he needed to write. I’m curious to hear what you think of it. (Probably best to avoid the comments section BECAUSE SPOILERS.)

Book Heroines I Adore

unsplash90Hermione Granger of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling | Related
“The smartest witch of her age” and fiercely loyal, never gives up. Never.

Shazi from The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh | Review (and sequel)
“So you would have me throw Shazi to the wolves?”
“Shazi?” Jalal’s grin widened. “Honestly, I pity the wolves.”

Citra from Scythe by Neal Shusterman | Review
Whip-smart, deeply philosophical … but can also kick your ass.

Joana from Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys | Review 
“She must have been a nurse. She looked a few years older than me. Pretty. Naturally pretty, the type that’s still attractive, even more so, when she’s filthy.”
So strong in the face of a thousand hardships

Roza and Petey from Bone Gap by Laura Ruby | Review
Each of these girls is so strong in her own way; I adored every character in this book.

Liesel Meminger of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak | Related
She can hold her own against any boy, she knows the power of words, and perseveres through tremendous loss.

Isaboe of The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta | Related
Fearsome. Unwavering. Isaboe’s resolution and leadership are a thing to behold. She is her own boss. She loves with ferocity.

Quintana of The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta | Review 
“‘Do you know who tells me my worth, Phaedra of Alonso?’
The princess pointed a hard finger at her own chest.
‘Me. I determine my own worth. If I had to rely on others I’d have lain down and died waiting.’”
‘Nuff said.




Resistance: The War of Art

war-of-art4I had in the past attempted to read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, but I’d been waylaid, I think due to the way he talks about mental illness in the book.

But this time I pressed through, and I really enjoyed it! I listened to the audio book on a long trip for work, and it only took about three hours from beginning to end. I probably could have read it even faster with the book in my hand.

The War of Art is about Resistance. It’s about anything that stops us from getting our creative work done– and about how to overcome it. Pressfield makes an extensive list of things that play into resistance: procrastination, of course, but also sex, trouble, drama, victimhood, self-doubt, fear, criticism, love, stardom. He’s not afraid to add things to the list that you and I would rather keep off it. This was pretty eye-opening for me.


In the second part of the book, he talks about “becoming a pro”– how to overcome Resistance. To be a professional, we need to show up, be prepared, be patient, ask for help, accept no excuses, among other things.

A quick excerpt:

In my younger days dodging the draft, I somehow wound up in the Marine Corps. There’s a myth that Marine training turns baby-faced recruits into bloodthirsty killers. Trust me, the Marine Crops is not that efficient. What it does teach, however, is a lot more useful.

The Marine Corps teaches you how to be miserable.

This is invaluable for an artist.

Wow. Pressfield goes on to say:

The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.

Tell us how you really feel, Steven. 😉

But, honestly, this resonated with me. Writing is a mix of joy and misery; publication too. But what am I supposed to do? Ignore my calling? No. I need to become a pro.


In the last part of his book, Pressfield talks about muses and angels– he takes the book to a whole other plane, reflecting on how the artist isn’t really in charge anyway. I’m sure he loses a lot of readers here, but not this girl. As a person of faith, I already believe something similar.

All told, this was a fast read and well worth it. In the days since finishing it, I’ve been able to recognize areas of Resistance in my life and to deal with them accordingly. Great, thoughtful book.

Shattering Stigma as Book Advocates [Guest Post at It Starts at Midnight]

Today, I’m honored to be over on my lovely friend Shannon’s blog, talking about the power of book advocates to break the stigma of mental illness.

ShatteringStigmas-2-e1472245713311It begins:

My young adult novel Truest, which came out last year with HarperCollins, features a teenager with a depersonalization disorder that makes her question whether real life is actually real—or if she is just dreaming it all. To me, it’s a compelling concept, sparking thoughts around philosophy, reality, and the nature of existence, not to mention mental illness and depression. Although I’m not a doctor or psychologist, I still felt qualified to write this story. Why? Because I dealt with solipsism syndrome myself.

To read the rest, click here! Thanks for taking the extra time to hop over and read my thoughts.



Queued Up: Books on My Radar

Here are a few books that I’m planning to read next.

persuasionPersuasion by Martina Boone | This is book two of a trilogy, and it just came out last week! I LOVED the first book, Compulsion. It’s a gothic novel about the South, some old magic, and a sweet southern gentleman nicknamed Eight.

another dayAnother Day by David Levithan | This is a companion novel to Levithan’s Every Day, which I adored. It’s told from the perspective of Rhiannon, the girl A loves.

orbitingOrbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt | This book was already on my radar before I went to Anderson’s YA Lit Conference, but after hearing Gary speak there, I can’t wait to read it! It’s about a (very) young father (thirteen!). Schmidt works at Calvin College, which is another CCCU school, just like Northwestern, where I work.

rest of usThe Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness | I loved Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy, and I love the way he thinks outside the box. This novel is about the non-heroes’ lives. Each chapter begins by briefly describing what crazy stuff is happening to all the heroes and leaders. Picture this book being the equivalent of a story about a first-year Hufflepuff’s life during the time of Harry Potter. Can’t wait. Bonus: check out this EpicReads video explaining the novel!

What’s in your reading queue?