cover image Turtles All the Way Down

Turtles All the Way Down

John Green. Dutton, $19.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-525-55536-0

Like many of Green's characters, Aza Holmes is whip smart, articulate, and tortured by worry. When she was eight, her father succumbed to a heart attack while mowing the lawn. Now 16, Aza takes meds (irregularly) to treat anxiety, which is manifesting in increasingly self-destructive ways. Her problems amplify when she reconnects with Davis, a boy she met years earlier at "Sad Camp," where both had gone to grieve their recently deceased parents. Now Davis's billionaire father is missing, running from a warrant for his arrest. Aza's best friend Daisy, in a classic sidekick role, pressures Aza to contact Davis, hoping they'll learn something about the disappearance—and maybe get a cut of the $100,000 reward. The reunion leads to romance, until Aza's anxiety won't allow it. Green's first novel since The Fault in Our Stars is another heartbreaker, full of intelligent questions. It's also a very writerly book, as Aza frames a lot of the questions she asks herself in literary terms. Am I a fiction? Who is in charge of my story? Why do we describe pain with the language of metaphor? Because of this, it's tempting to conflate Aza the character with her author, who has been open about his own mental illness. But readers need not know where the line is between the two to feel for someone trapped in an irrational, fear-driven spiral. In an age where troubling events happen almost weekly, this deeply empathetic novel about learning to live with demons and love one's imperfect self is timely and important. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jodi Reamer, Writers House. (Oct.)