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  • ★★★★★-5

Re-Read Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (Spoiler-Alert)

The way he talked about thoughts was the way I experienced them—not as a choice, but as a destiny. Not a catalog of my consciousness, but a refutation of it.

If you've read this book, you've read my diary.

With every re-read, I think I'm finally gonna sit down and write a coherent review of how much Turtles All the Way Down means to me, but then I realize there is no possible way for me to do it justice. Instead, I'm just going to continue talking about what felt different for me this time around, because something new sticks out every time I read it.

On this journey through the story, I found myself lingering in the Davis chapters. Maybe because the anxiety and OCD elements have finally become expected to me instead of earth-shattering. I'm more comfortable with myself in those ways, so I had more time to focus on other story elements.

The relationship between Aza and Davis is fascinating to find in a young adult novel. It's romantic, but not a romance, and it's fleeting. Though we don't know it from the beginning, we can feel that it will be something ephemeral. We're kept at least one layer away from Davis at all times, both because of the walls he puts up and the fears that hinder Aza. It's unfair from both sides, but through it something beautiful is still able to blossom. Something so fragile, so delicate. So precious.

Me: I like being outside at night. It gives me this weird feeling, like I'm homesick but not for home. It's kind of a good feeling though.

Him: I am drenched in that feeling at the moment. Are you outside?

I've related to Aza in so many ways throughout all my reads of this book, but I never thought so deeply about how she expresses her feelings towards Davis. In his presence, everything is wrong. She wants to kiss him, but she knows that doing so will send her into a spiral. She can't stop sweating, can't stop thinking, can't stop being taken over by whatever it is inside herself that has to ruin everything.

But when there's a barrier between them, that thin glass iPhone screen, it's perfect. She's protected. Except that's not healthy.

The balance is impeccable here, between how considerate Davis is and how he sets boundaries. It's hard to accept on both ends, but ultimately is the only solution. I do want to highlight how incredible Davis is to Aza though. I'd never really thought about it, but somehow on this go-around I was stopped in my tracks.

Despite my having physically decompensated in his presence, Davis texted me the next morning before I even got out of bed.

Him: Want to watch a movie tonight? Doesn't even have to be set in space.

Me: I can't. Another time maybe. Sorry I freaked out and for the sweating and everything.

Him: You don't even sweat an un-normal amount.

Me: I definitely do but I don't want to talk about it.

Him: You really don't like your body.

Me: True.

Him: I like it. It's a good body.

I don't know why but that makes me feel like I'm gonna cry. Somehow, those stupid texts between fictional 16-year-olds feels like Aza being outside at night. Like I'm homesick but not for home. It's kind of a good feeling though.

I have to end this review by saying that the movie adaptation of this novel comes out on Thursday, the day I'm having spinal surgery. Isn't that fitting? Turtles All the Way Down has been with me through high school, therapy, my college essay, a pandemic, and now one more major life event. Can't wait to see where the next one takes me.

Read my review from 2020 here.

Read my review from 2017 here.


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