Turtles All the Way Down Provides Insight about OCD

Madelynn Honeycutt and Kortni Baughman, Reporters

John Green, author of “Looking for Alaska” (2006 Printz Award) and “The Fault in Our Stars” (#1 on The New York Times Best Seller List), has written yet another thought provoking novel with his newest work “Turtles All The Way Down.”

In his novel, Green explores the mind of 16-year old Aza Holmes who suffers from a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Holmes is afraid of bacteria, specifically a disease known as C. Diff., which is caused by a bacterial infection. While the main character Holmes and her best friend Daisy Ramirez embark on a journey to find a millionaire, Davis Pickett Sr., who mysteriously disappeared after being accused of bribery and fraud, Green showcases how OCD causes waves in Holmes’ friendships and relationship.

Holmes feels as if she is in a constricting spiral that will eventually enclose her, trapping her in a prison with no way out. “The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.” (Turtles All the Way Down, John Green) It’s almost like she can’t escape her own mind, and she’s just trapped there overthinking things that are what most would see as very simple. Holmes doubts if she is real as she struggles to believe her life is her own. Green gives us glance into the head of an American teenager struggling with figuring out who she is. She struggles a lot with who she is as a person and the type of things that goes through her head. However, the story takes a darker twist as this teenager happens to be suffering from a highly developed case of OCD.

Despite her OCD with physical germs and the fear of infection, Holmes’ fears stem from a much more deep and powerful fear; the fear that her life is not actually real and her life is not fully, if at all, in her control. This is the reason she attends therapy sessions. In order to try and get a lot of what she’s thinking out but even then she thinks that her therapist will think she’s crazy and not be able to understand her outlook on herself.

Green touches on a topic that most people are too afraid to approach. He brings up the state of the mental health of America’s youth, bringing attention to the fact that some adolescents have to deal with not only the outside world but also the struggles within themselves. Though all teenagers have to figure out who they want to be in life, some have internal battles that are worse than others and that wreak havoc on their mental health. While reading this book, one can feel a sense of familiarity on some levels. Green spins a beautiful but tragic story about how mental health can be the thing that can make or break someone’s whole life. Though it may not seem like much from the outside, it can cause irreparable damage on the inside.