John Green has long been one of my favorite authors. His books are fabulous and he and his brother Hank, the Vlogbrothers, have the best videos around. They tackle all kinds of topics and issues with humor and insight. They also educate. Their history/civics videos, in particular, would spice up any high school classroom and help students understand our past.
John’s new book, Turtles All the Way Down, takes on an issue that is closer to him than most; mental illness, specifically, OCD. He speaks about it on his Youtube channel. With tenderness and humor, he gives us a glimpse into his world and what it feels like to be stuck in a spiral. In particular, the scene when Aza and Daisy are in the tunnel and Aza uses the situation to help Daisy understand a little of what she goes through each day is poignant and heartbreaking.
Spirals are cool looking figures. They seem to continue in an ever-tightening, infinite circle. Aza is not particularly fond of spirals, though. Her thoughts can sometimes corkscrew out of control and take her with them. It might start as a simple question, “Did you change your band-aid this morning?” Then, as fast as a machine gun, more questions, doubts, terror crowds out her world and all she knows is the spiral. Her best friend Daisy has stuck by her for most of their lives, no matter what. When the two girls decide to play detective and find the town’s missing millionaire who disappeared under suspicious circumstances, their road diverges into uncharted territory for Aza; boys, a particular boy named Davis Pickett who also happens to be the missing millionaire’s son. It’s a roller coaster ride for Aza as she figures out a way to navigate the budding relationship with Davis, maintain her friendship with Daisy, and also deal with her worsening OCD symptoms. It all comes to a head with a crash and Aza must learn to move forward even if it hurts.