Why Turtles All the Way Down Was Really Hard For Me to Read

I’m not a rabid John Green fan. I like his books, but I wasn’t waiting with bated breath for his next novel.

Until I heard it was about mental illness.

After reading a short interview with the author, I opened up Amazon and pre-ordered myself a copy of Turtles All the Way Down.

The package came right on the day of release. The dust jacket was colorful and coated in something soft that made it impossible not to pet. I eagerly anticipated cracking it open.

The next day I did. I was immediately sucked into the story, into the journey of Aza and Daisy and Davis. But after reading about a third of the book, I had to put it down.

You see, reading this book was hard. Not because it was boring or pretentious, but because it was real.

I not only read but FELT Aza’s pain. My stomach twisted in knots as she worried away at the callous on her finger until it bled, feeling the pain of myself picking at hangnails and my lips in such a similar way. My eyes filled with tears as she isolated herself, both literally and figuratively, from her family and friends.

My fears are not Aza’s fears. But intrusive thoughts? I’m no stranger to them. I know what it’s like to have your brain take one passing thought and send it down a twisted path so fast you get mental whiplash. I know what it’s like to yell at yourself but be unable to listen to your own good advice. I know what it’s like to be so involved in what’s going on in your own brain that you can barely see what’s going on around you.

John Green has stated that he also suffers from Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He clearly poured himself into this book. He took his own fears and thoughts and applied them to Aza in a way that explains them better than any other book I’ve come across.

Turtles All the Way Down was an amazing book, beautiful and touching and honest.

But it was really hard for me to read.

Have you read Turtles All the Way Down? Do you intend to? Did you like it? Have you read other books about characters with mental illness that were difficult to read? I’d love to hear your thoughts, whether or not you suffer from mental illness also. 


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  1. I’ve yet to read this, but I’ve seen it absolutely everywhere! I admit, when I first saw it on bookshelves I had no clue what it was. The title sounded weird and the cover was (in my opinion) very ugly, and I thought it was some boring literary novel. Oops! I guess that’s what I get for judging a book by it’s cover! I’m definitely taking a second look at it now that I’ve seen just how impactful it is.
    Rebeccah recently posted…Monthly Book Draft Challenge : OctoberMy Profile

  2. I have yet to read a John Green book but everyone seems to really like them (from what I’ve heard). But still, I’ve never really had the urge to read one until now. This book sounds really interesting! I’ve been wanting to read more books that focus on mental health (plus for NaNoWriMo, that’s one of the topics my story touches on). So maybe I’ll give this book a try. I definitely relate to having anxiety along with depression (though I’ve never been properly dignosis or anything, so who knows xD) but some times it’s hard to write about my experiences without feeling…exposed. I’m wondering how he addressed it in his book and what gave him the courage to put himself on display.
    Ariel B. recently posted…Be Careful What You Wish ForMy Profile

  3. Interesting. I’ve never really been into John Green, but I might check this one out, though it might be similarly hard for me to read because of my GAD and depression. Thanks for reviewing it! I probably would not have considered the book if I hadn’t read this.

  4. Yes! I had the same thing…I love this book to death and I read it in one day and nearly bawled…but it honestly gave me an anxiety attack. Which I think is proof of really excellent writing?! You can tell John Green knows what he’s talking about and it’s really really good to have such an honest and not stereotyped view of OCD in a book!! But I think people with anxiety definitely need to take care of themselves while reading it…it’s not an easy book.😭

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