”One of the challenges with pain – physical or psychic – is that we can really only approach it through metaphor. It can’t be represented the way a table or a body can. In some ways, pain is the opposite of language.”
Those words rang so true and I think this is my favourite quote from the entire book. Because yes, I’ve been there and done that and in all honesty I can’t tell you what was worse. Physical or psychic? In both cases I couldn’t find my voice. For different reasons but the outcome was the same. So I totally agree with this statement. Pain IS the opposite of language and if you want to work through it you’ve to learn to express yourself.
Which is exactly what Aza is doing in this book. Or to be completely honest: This is what everyone is trying to do in this book. No matter if it’s Davis, Aza’s mom or her best friend Daisy. They all hurt, in different ways, for different reasons, but they feel pain and they really try their best to deal with it. With varying success, but they are fighting and this is always good because this means that none of them gave up yet.
“Turtles All the Way Down” is no fast read, it’s neither suspenseful nor easy, but it’s real and true and this makes all the difference. You won’t find action scenes or plot twists in here, you’ll find real people with real problems and the will to work through them. No supernatural obstacles, just ordinary life and its challenges. Which, truth be told are sometimes even worse than everything a superhero has to put up with. 😉 This said, let’s head to my character section and go into more detail.
This is my characters section so this means that you’ll be spoiled relentlessly if you decide to continue to read. It’s your choice and up to you, but if you didn’t read the book yet and begin to regret your own curiosity: Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Because, well, I just officially did! ;-P
”And if you can’t pick what you do or think about, then maybe you aren’t really real, you know? Maybe I’m just a lie that I’m whispering to myself.”
Oh, how I felt with Aza when I read this book. She knows she has a problem and she’s doing her best to work through it but she just can’t escape what she thinks or who she truly is. There’s always something gnawing at the back of her mind and even though she’s living an ordinary life and doing homework etc. there’s still something that’s holding her back. I have to admit, sometimes it was really tough to read Aza’s POV because her spirals were pretty intense. There were moments I had to close the book and put it aside… a privilege Aza didn’t have because it was her own mind and her own thoughts that haunted her. Yet despite everything she was going to school and trying to fit into our world. And sometimes she even succeeded to live in the moment. I can’t even fathom how difficult this must have been but I’m kind of proud of Aza because she never gave up. =)
”You don’t actually want to do this; it’s just an invasive. Everyone has them. But you can’t shut yours up. Since you’ve had a reasonable amount of cognitive behavioral therapy, you tell yourself, I am not my thoughts, even though deep down you’re not sure what exactly that makes you.”
”But a human woman falling in love with a Wookie, God forbid. I mean, I know I’m just feeding the trolls here, Holmesy, but I can’t stand for it.”
Haha! Okay, the idea of Rey/Chewie fanfic is still something I have to get used to, but in general I got the gist of what Daisy meant. *lol* I liked Aza’s best friend and it was great to see how they worked together. Daisy was definitely the outgoing and honest kind of type and I really appreciated that about her. She didn’t mince her words and never beat about the bush and this was really refreshing. I can understand why some people might think that Daisy was selfish and self-centred, but I think that she only wanted the best for Aza and really loved her. If you don’t have OCD it’s hard to understand the actions of people that have it, but Daisy tried and that has to count for something!
”I don’t know what superpower William James enjoyed, but I can no more choose my thoughts than choose my name.”
Where to start with Davis? What a pure and tortured soul! T_T I really loved that boy! In the eyes of others he might have had everything he wished for but Davis was aware that he didn’t have the one thing that truly counts: A loving father who took care of his sons. After his father’s disappearance he was left to his own devices and even though it seemed like everything was secured – at least legally – this didn’t change anything about the fact that he had a hard fate. Without their father and without a mother he was the only one his younger brother could rely on and this was a lot of responsibility for such a young boy. The scene where Aza’s mother confronted him and told him that she only wants the best for her daughter was so sad to read. No wonder Davis cried. If his father would have only cared about him half as much… >_< Davis is such a precious bean and he deserves the world! I really hope he was able to start a new life and that he got everything he wanted and more! <333
”At this point I don’t care why someone likes me. I’m just so goddamned lonely. I know that’s pathetic. But yeah.”
He started to say something, but then had to stop, because his eyes were welling up with tears. “Davis, are you all right?” my mom asked. He tried to speak again but it devolved into a choked sob.
“Davis, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize….”
Blushing, he said, “I’m sorry.”
”I guess at some point, you realize that whoever takes care of you is just a person, and that they have no superpowers and can’t actually protect you from getting hurt. Which is one thing. But Noah is starting to understand that maybe the person he thought was a superhero turns out sort of to be the villain. And that really sucks.”
”The worst part of being truly alone is you think about all the times you wished that everyone would just leave you be. Then they do, and you are left being, and you turn out to be terrible company.”
Aza & Davis:
”Him: And the thing is, when you lose someone, you realize you’ll eventually lose everyone.
Me: True. And once you know that, you can never forget it.”
*sighs* Those two. They would have been good for each other but their circumstances made it so difficult to be together. Aza was fighting hard against her growing OCD and Davis was kind of fighting for his and his brother’s existence. So definitely not the right time to start a relationship. Still, I liked that they were there for each other whenever things got tough and in their own way they understood and respected each other more than anyone else would have been able to. Their deep conversations were definitely the highlight of this book and I felt really sorry for both of them. It didn’t surprise me that Davis was hurt when Aza decided to break up with him, but considering their circumstances it was the sensible thing to do. This said my heart will always bleed for those two and I don’t think it will ever stop! >_<
”I’m not gonna un-have this is what I mean. I’ve had it since I can remember and it’s not getting better and I can’t have a normal life if I can’t kiss someone without freaking out.”
“It’s okay, Aza. Really.”
”He kept saying what do I do, what do I do, his head on my shoulder. I wondered whether it was a mistake to tell him. What do I do? He asked it again and again, pleading.”
Daisy & Aza:
”I don’t mean that you’re a bad friend or anything. But you’re slightly tortured, and the way you’re tortured is sometimes also painful for, like, everyone around you.”
Now that was quite a friendship and I could relate to it from Daisy’s POV. I have a few friends that have OCD and even though I’m trying to understand them it’s not always easy. If you don’t have OCD it’s kinda tough to understand why people would do certain things and I think John Green portrayed this incomprehension quite well. Daisy loved Aza and this was more than just obvious, yet she still had troubles to maintain their friendship. I think most of that is due to the fact that the most ordinary things (in our eyes ordinary, mind you) become a challenge for people with OCD. We can’t even fathom what it means to go out into the world and to live with that voice in the back of your mind. So at times this makes it hard to comprehend Aza’s actions. Despite all that Daisy did everything she could. She tried to understand Aza and she accepted her the way she was. If you ask me this is what true friendship is about and in my eyes they were perfect! =)
”What are their jobs? When was the last time you were at my apartment – five years ago? We’re supposed to be best friends, Holmesy, and you don’t even know if I have any fucking pets. You have no idea what it’s like for me, and you’re so like, pathologically uncurious that you don’t even know what you don’t know.”
Aza & her mom:
”You feeling scared?”
“It’s not like that. The sentence doesn’t have, like, an object. I’m just scared.”
“I don’t know what to say, Aza. I see the pain on your face and I want to take it from you.”
Aza’s mom was so great! She was a single mom and tried her best to give Aza everything she needed. There was no doubt that she loved her daughter dearly and it was so good to see that she always managed to engage Aza in dialogue. Of course this wasn’t always welcome from Aza’s side but I guess that’s a typical teen trait. Regardless of their troubles and fears, no teen seems to be keen on the idea of talking with their parents about the real important things. *lol* I think that if she would have wanted to, Aza knew that she could always confide in her mother though. And last but not least her mom’s words resonated so much with me. It’s so hard to see your kid in pain and not to be able to do anything against it and if I could, I would do everything possible to take away my child’s pain. No matter if it’s heartache or a flu. XD
”You seemed locked inside of your mind, and I can’t know what’s going on in there, and it scares me.” I pressed my thumbnail against my fingertip through the Band-Aid, thinking it would scare her a lot more if she could see what was going on in there.
The OCD rep:
”The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.”
I don’t have OCD so you have to take my words with a grain of salt. I do think that the rep was done very well in this book though. As I mentioned before, I have a couple of friends that suffer from OCD and before I read this book I was trying to understand them but never truly did. I think to read “Turtles All the Way Down” gave me a better understanding of their troubles and fears. Of course there are different types of OCD and there was only one part of it represented in here, the “thought spiral” is something that all of my friends seem to have in common though. I can’t even imagine how tough it must be to get out of bed and to live your life with thoughts like that always spinning in the back of your mind. To read about it made it so palpable and real. It’s one thing if people try to explain it to you, it’s an entirely different thing if you’re in their head and experience those things exactly like they do. Some of those book scenes were pretty intense and yes, I admit it, I sometimes found myself closing the book because I couldn’t take the repetitive thoughts and the spiral downwards any longer. When I needed a break I could close the book, but people who have OCD can’t just close a book, they have to live through their thoughts and that’s actually pretty scary. I think I finally got how scary it actually is! So thank you John Green for giving us this rep and for helping us to understand the people we love and care about! If not entirely, at least a little bit better.
”True terror isn’t being scared; it’s not having a choice in the matter.”
“Turtles All the Way Down” was a fairly slow-paced and somehow gentle book. John Green dealt with quite a few sensitive topics yet always tackled them in a careful manner. Whilst it can be argued that the plot around the missing billionaire is only background music, there is no doubt that Green used it as a device in order to focus on the important things. The things that have moved our world for centuries. Love, hope, fear, anger, frustration, despair and the entire bandwidth of human emotions. If you’re looking for one or all of those things you’ll certainly gain something from reading this book! Happy reading!