Turtles All The Way Down (secondary age)

Quick Overview

This book centres on 16-year-old Aza who lives with anxiety and OCD.  Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

Health Professional Review

Health Professional Review

Reviewer: Sophia Graham, Communications and Marketing Manager at the Mental Health Foundation.

Book Title: Turtles All The Way Down

Author: John Green

Date Published: 2017

Problems addressed: OCD and anxiety

Suitable for: Young Adult

Book Summary

16-year-old Aza finds herself on the hunt for an elusive billionaire, she lives with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).  Aza is bright, curious and capable of deep self-absorption combined with moments of great empathy for others. She’s interesting and interested, she’s grieving the death of her father and her friendship with her best friend Daisy felt very true to life.


Green has spoken openly of his own experiences with mental illness, and his decades of reflection on what this experience really is, combined with his sharp eye for the details of what it means to be human have paid off with a fully-realised character who lives with mental illness and is so much more than her diagnoses.


Sometimes this book made for very intense reading. Aza’s thoughts spiral and we go along for the ride, tumbling through her anxieties and worries with no relief in sight. Aza compulsively self-harms, and that makes for difficult reading. Sometimes I needed to take a break, but it was never far from my thoughts and I was eager to finish it.


I went back and forth on whether I would recommend this book to a young person who experiences mental illness. Ultimately, I think I would, because being a teenager is a fundamentally lonely experience for many, and I remember well the comfort of recognising parts of myself in the pages of a book. I also remember what it meant at the time to be taken seriously, and John Green never fails to take young people and their hopes, dreams and worries seriously and kindly. A warning though, the self-harm is graphic and specific and unusual enough to leave an impression.


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