Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

“If only I were as good at life as I am at the internet.”

I was so overly eager for any new John Green book related content that I made the mistake of reading the excerpt shared on Buzzfeed last month. I say mistake because when I opened up the book weeks after having read the first two chapters, I only had this vague recollection that certainly wouldn’t help to continue from where I’d started. Rereading was key.

To give you a bit more background on why I was so eager: Back in 2014, John Green was one of the first authors I’d read that introduced me to the magic of books. I owe a lot to his writing that sucked me in so completely, only to leave me craving for more by the last page, which then led me to look up what next book would satisfy that particular hunger. And here we are today.

Despite all the above, I still went into Turtles All the Way Down with little to no expectations as to what was to come. I knew that though I had history with TFIOS, when I look back on certain scenes, I can’t help but feel shivers of disgust (like when the “two very privileged caucasian Americans who have never known starvation, genocide, or physical abuse” kissed in the Anne Frank house, which Ariane tells like it is in this article). So if anything, I was apprehensive as to what this newest work would contain.

It all begins with a fugitive billionaire and the promise of a cash reward. Turtles All the Way Down is about lifelong friendship, the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, Star Wars fan fiction, and tuatara. But at its heart is Aza Holmes, a young woman navigating daily existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

I feel like the only way I can accurately describe the heart of the book is by borrowing this phrase: Captures the everyday moments of teens’ lives and then sets fire to those moments, heightening them until they become metaphor.

“True terror isn’t being scared; it’s not having a choice in the matter.”

I have so much my mind is eager to spit out, so I think a list is in order (mild spoilers ahead):

  • Let’s start with Aza, who surprised me so much with her strong will and great depth of character. Her thought process and spirals gave me a keen insight on the works of the mind and expanding my view on things. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was having my own thoughts staring back at me from the page. From staring down the rabbit hole that is social media stalking your crush (#exposed), to vocalizing my exact fears on the reality of dating:

“I’m really not looking to date anyone.” I know people often say that when secretly looking for a romantic partner, but I meant it. I definitely felt attracted to some people, and I liked the idea of being with someone, but the actual mechanics of it didn’t much suit my talents. Like, parts of typical romantic relationships that made me anxious included 1. Kissing; 2. Having to say the right things to avoid hurt feelings; 3. Saying more wrong things while trying to apologize; 4. Being at a movie theater together and feeling obligated to hold hands even after your hands become sweaty and the sweat starts mixing together; and 5. The part where they say, “What are you thinking about?” And they want you to be, like, “I’m thinking about you, darling,” but you’re actually thinking about how cows literally could not survive if it weren’t for the bacteria in their guts, and how that sort of means that cows do not exist as independent life-forms, but that’s not really something you can say out loud, so you’re ultimately forced to choose between lying and seeming weird.”

  • Green’s style has grown and matured a lot for me with his newest work. It’s equal parts dark, hilarious, and achingly real. Plus, the dialogue is amazing. Speaking of the latter, the main reason why is thanks to the effervescent Daisy, who’s a force to be reckoned with, from writing her own Rey/ Chewbacca fanfiction to her inspiring directness.

“Have you ever gotten a dick pic?” she asked in lieu of saying hello.

I feel like she and Ilana Wexler would get along perfectly. Actually, I’ve never been sure of something.

“I mean, how am I supposed to react to a semi-erect penis as fan mail? Am I supposed to feel intrigued?”
“He probably thinks it’ll end in marriage. You’ll meet IRL and fall in love and someday tell your kids that it all started with a picture of a disembodied penis.”tumblr_inline_ovwvvl3htk1tsgfd5_540John Green isn’t afraid to let loose with his newest work. And I’m digging it.

  • Speaking of which, the direction the author took with Aza’s mental illness felt like the most honest portrayal I’d read in ages.

“I wanted to tell her that I was getting better, because that was supposed to be the narrative of illness: It was a hurdle you jumped over, or a battle you won. Illness is a story told in the past tense.”

“I would always be like this, always have this within me. There was no beating it. I would never slay the dragon, because the dragon was also me. My self and the disease were knotted together for life.”

  • I got educated on such a vast array of topics, without ever feeling like I was lectured. The random history and science lessons really give away who the author of this novel is. From the history of Indianapolis (the setting of the book), to the genetically distinct creature called tuatara, to this weird parasite called Diplostomum pseudospathaceum. I can’t deny how utterly fascinating John Green made all of his swift lessons.

“What I love about science is that as you learn, you don’t really get answers. You just get better questions.”

  • The bits of romance seemed slightly off-kilter with the flow of the story at first, but it just so happened that I was in the rare mood for a budding romance to indulge in. Actually, it turned out to be quite nice, since it first and foremost focused on two teens taking comfort in talking with someone that gets them on a whole new level.

“In the best conversations, you don’t even remember what you talked about, only how it felt.”

  • The fact that we get to read inserts from Davis’s blog post & poetry entries, and Daisy’s successful fanfiction. The particular Davis piece below rang in my ear for a very long time.

“The next one stopped me cold:

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
—WILLIAM JAMES

I don’t know what superpower William James enjoyed, but I can no more choose my thoughts than choose my name.

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.
When I was little, I used to tell Mom about my invasives, and she would always say, “Just don’t think about that stuff, Aza.” But Davis got it. You can’t choose. That’s the problem.”

  • On a totally separate note, I couldn’t help but think of Richard Campbell Gansey III from The Raven Boys when Davis was first introduced, thanks to his obscene amount of family money.

“You mean, when a movie comes out in theaters, it . . . also comes out at your house?”

I never thought we’d have someone upstage Gansey… And yet here we are.

  • But what came quite unexpectedly at me was how connected I felt to Noah, who’s the 13-year-old brother. We see him truly struggle with the fact that his dad just up and left out of the blue, leaving no clue of his whereabouts. But what hit most was the fact that Noah had no one to cry out to. Davis is barely getting by on his own, so his younger brother has to figure things out mainly on his own. And seeing that that just took a piece right off me.

“It’s all right to be scared, Noah.” And then he turned his face away from me and started sobbing. “You’re okay,” I told him, lying. “You’re okay. He’ll come home.”


Though the premise is set to be about making “connections that crack open the long-dormant case of Russell Pickett’s disappearance,” Turtles All the Way Down is at its core a character-driven novel, favoring the development of the characters’ relationships with one another, which is how I like ’em. All this to say: I’m beyond eager to see what Green has next in store for us.

5/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Turtles All the Way Down, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

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Review: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

Having to wait on the release for this illustrated collection of original fairy tales since the start of the year was nearly excruciating. I even went ahead and read The Too-Clever Fox by Leigh Bardugo a month after the news to calm my eagerness. But here I am finally ready to dive into my long awaited review for this collection!

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

“And what lesson am I to learn from this story?” asked the beast when she was done.
“That there are better things than princes.”

#1: “Ayama and the Thorn Wood.”

The Language of Thorns 1-- bookspoils

An original retelling of a forest that demands to hear only the truth and nothing but the truth, which made for a clever, wordy, high-spirited read. It also delivered a compelling mix of Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White, excelling at capturing the chilling and gleaming atmosphere.

“And can this ugly beast not speak for himself?”
The beast looked upon his father and said, “A man like you is owed no words. I trust Ayama to tell my story.”

#2: “The Witch of Duva.”The Language of Thorns 2-- bookspoils

A twistingly clever take on the wicked stepmother trope. Seriously, that ending couldn’t have messed me up more. Leigh Bardugo was making it quite the challenge to move on seamlessly from story to story while delivering such blows at each end.

“Karina who had given herself to a monster, in the hope of saving just one girl.”

Also, coming to the realization that AURORA’s Runaway fit like a glove for this tale was so fulfilling. From the lyrics to the visuals in the video, I was continuously mesmerized.

“I got no other place to go
But now take me home
Take me home where I belong
I can’t take it anymore.”

#3: “Little Knife.”The Language of Thorns 3-- bookspoilsBardugo once again succeeds to bring about an unexpected turn of events. And I have to note that I came to endlessly appreciate her for sharing the message that our heroine’s story doesn’t have to end with finding romantic love (not specifically talking about one tale here), even going so far as to make that the damn point of it all.

“It was I who built the tower of trees,” said the river.
“And I who earned the mirror from Baba Anezka. It was I who found the magic coin. And now I say to you, Yeva Luchova: Will you remain here with the father who tried to sell you, or the prince who hoped to buy you, or the man too weak to solve his riddles for himself? Or will you come with me and be bride to nothing but the shore?”

“The river carried her all the way to the seashore, and there she stayed. She said her prayers in a tiny chapel where the waves ran right up to the door, and each day she sat by the ocean’s edge and watched the tides come and go. She lived in happy solitude, and grew old, and never worried when her beauty faded, for in her reflection she always saw a free woman.”

Easily the best ending I’ve read in awhile.


Overall, I was enamoured by this deliciously feminist collection of atmospheric folk tales filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

4.5/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying The Language of Thorns, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn, Allison Raskin

I Hate Everyone But You chronicles a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?

I’ll start off by saying that reading this book was probably the most FUN I’ve had in ages with fiction. I practically couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for the entirety of my reading experience. I Hate Everyone But You is perfect for fans of We Are OkayGena/ Finn, and Queens of Geek. That is to say: This book is an entirely character driven story, and like We Are Okay the premise is about two best friends in college, but we also have the shenanigans shared in Queens of Geek. I read through it in a whirlwind.

I will admit, however, that it took some time to get fully into the swing of things with the characters. But I was pretty sold once we had that one random scene at the beginning of the book where Gen tried cocaine in the bathroom with her new “friend.” It truly left me both baffled and in fits. Particularly when I recalled this fittingly iconic Christine Sydelko vine:

“Overall, I would give cocaine 2 stars.”

But once I was into it, I really was in… From clickbait-worthy titles for emails, relatable budding crushes (“I like him so much. I hope he can’t tell.”), mental health, weird therapists in training, exploring your sexuality and labels, growing into yourself, the complexity behind friendships, finding your friend’s crush online at the speed of light (I’m still laughing @chinatownjake98), and so much more that left me both reeling and feeling alive.

The dialogue (entertaining as hell, by the way) shared between Ava and Gen just began to flow so easily overtime, and I genuinely felt included on the fun and on the conversation, without actually having to experience any of the things they went through, which is low-key my heaven.

“Grow! Flourish! Experiment with things so I don’t have to.”

Also, the one-liners in here are something else. You would think that only one character would properly succeed at them, but that’s thankfully not the case with I Hate Everyone But You. On one side of the coin, we have screenwriter Ava Helmer who’s not afraid to tell it like it is:

“I just spent three hours gluing sparkle Greek letters to a poster board while twenty other girls gossiped about The Bachelorette like the contestants are real people and not robots hired by a massive corporation to fulfill their given duties and then disappear into minor Instagram fame.”

And then we also have journalist Genevieve Goldman, whom I admire for a plethora of reasons, but mainly because she’s impossible to define without using her own words one too many times:

“Where do I fall, you might ask? I don’t subscribe to labels. Unless I’m labeling other people.”

Their friendship, however, is the epitome of unconditional love. They can always count on one another to put everything in perspective. Plus, they never fail to be there on the other’s side when needed. It was inspiring to experience from the sidelines.

“Not everyone hits it off immediately. I fear that I’ve ruined you for other women. I am the best. We all know that. Sometimes you have to settle”

Whether it’s bringing Ava out of her spiralling mind by reminding her of how utterly incredible she is and how she don’t need no man, or by partying it up like a true college kid… Genevieve Goldman is a piece of art.

“Just remember: Jake is a typical college guy who barely knows how to take care of himself. Your self-worth should not hang in the balance of his New Balances.”

I feel like the only way I can visually show what their conversation left me like is through the one and only Jean-Ralphio:

“Quick question: Remember winter formal sophomore year when you told Chris R. to kiss me and then he did on our way home and I didn’t realize that you could breathe through your mouth while kissing and I suffocated? Does that have to count as my first kiss?”

Have I mentioned that I like Ava?

Also, on a more serious note, I cannot stop thinking about this next passage talking about Ava’s behavior with her caring parents:

“I hate that I am my worst self around the two people who are nicest to me. I’m unable to keep my barriers up when I’m around my parents, so all the ugly comes out. Even when I’m mad, I can feel the guilt spreading through my body, but the mad overrides it.

I always apologize once it’s passed, but that’s not good enough. I’m 18. I can’t freak out on my lovely, supportive parents anytime they say something I don’t like. I’ve put them through enough. She literally drove an hour to drive me 20 minutes and then sit in the waiting room while I went into another room and complained about her. I am a terrible person.”

These lines really just made me travel back in time to that exact emotion.

But on a more lighthearted note, the surprising fourth wall break dropped in the novel regarding Just Between Us made me shriek. Which pretty much sums up the entirety of my reading experience, thinking “Why can’t I stop smiling? What is this sorcery?”

And though the ending did feel a tiny bit rushed with so much left in flux at the last minute, I still seriously applaud the authors for making 352 pages fly by without me even looking up from the book.

Last but not least, I also listened to this next charming song during my reading time.

5/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying I Hate Everyone But You, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!