Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Teaser Tuesday: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by Ambrosia of The Purple Booker.
To play along just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green.

Turtles All the Way Down –
Dutton Books

Who knows what lies I believe, or you do. Who knows what we shouldn’t doubt.
— Chapter 17

You get to pick the frame, you know? Maybe you don’t decide what’s in the picture, but you decide on the frame.
— Chapter 23

This is going to be long-ish. I’m (not) sorry, but I find that I have a lot to say about this precious book. Short version: I really liked it and it has made me think and feel and consider quite a bit. It’s not TFiOS, it doesn’t try to be, and it most definitely doesn’t have to be as it is special and important in its own right.
Longer version: With some authors, you just know that when you pick up their books the likelihood of experiencing severe emotional or other trauma is relatively minimal. You’ll be entertained, have a pleasant read, maybe laugh a little and overall enjoy the book. And then there are authors like John Green, where you can be almost certain that you won’t be the same person you were at the end of the book.
Following up on something like The Fault in Our Stars is … I can’t even imagine the sort of pressure that must have been. This book already had so much weight to carry before it ever got anywhere and it does that beautifully in my opinion. Is it as good as TFiOS? I don’t know. I’d say it’s different. The two books won’t occupy the same place in my reader’s heart and that is okay because they really shouldn’t have to be compared. Someone said that while TFiOS is the book you push onto everyone to read it (like that quote from the book itself) TAtWD is more the book you want to cherish and secrete away. I can agree with that if we add that one still silently wants everyone to read it.
This book is extremely captivating, sometimes almost painfully so. John Green has a way with language that at the same time has you aware that the effect is designed just so and also wondering why you suddenly find yourself almost breathless from the emotional turmoil you’ve just been through. Of course, I cried. At one point I was racing against myself to read the ever more panicked thoughts and I physically had to get the book away from me for fear that my own thoughts on the matter might go somersaulting off the tracks. And I think that was the moment I finally understood the very real imagined danger the main character finds herself in.
Aza’s searching for that essential part of who she is while at the same time fearing about already being invaded by a force she’s helpless against. Or maybe it’s already too late. While the book doesn’t actually play upon some of the fears I have, it manages to strike a very close nerve and inspire almost the same terror. Most people will relate to the “Don’t think about a pink elephant right now” phenomenon, but being so entangled and mentally bound in your own thoughts that you are certain you cannot escape is a horror that is hard to describe. The language nerd in me especially liked the observations this book seemingly casually makes on the shortcomings and failures of language. We almost treat things as non-existent just because we don’t have an adequate way to name them and therefore share them with each other. Physical pain is to some extent relatable and thus we use this imagery to liken it to other experiences. If I say I feel a pressure on my chest like a hippo is sitting on it, you can probably relate although I’d wager neither of us has ever had an actual hippo sit on us. Yet for a feeling as sadly universal as grief words utterly fail us. Or me at least. Because even if everyone experiences physical pain differently it is still sort of the same whereas feelings are so deeply personal that unless you were able to co-inhabit my thoughts you will never know the exact shape of those feelings.
I can only say this is masterfully written. If you absolutely have to compare it to TFiOS then I would maybe try to frame it like this: Both books have a main character on a journey to themselves and both are to some degree betrayed by their very selves. One on the physical level as her body is actively trying to destroy itself and the other on the psychological level seeing that her mind is permanently working against her. Both main characters are to varying degrees successful in fighting against their challenges and live and thrive despite and in some twisted way also because of them. Both are stories of illnesses healthy people only ever wish to hear about in the past tense as something you overcome, but some stories just don’t work out that way. I bow to John Green for having written yet another of these difficult stories in a meaningful and impactful way.
Sort of p.s.: Here is the one aspect where I think German has a slight advantage over English: English has as far as I’m aware no farewell that also clearly conveys the connotation of an also meeting again. German has “(auf) Wiedersehen” which convolutedly literally translates to “(until) reunion/reencounter/see again”. There is “see you (soon)” and all that jazz, but that doesn’t quite ring true. I very much hope that there will be a “Wiedersehen” with John Green because I really like the things he has to say.

Which book has last irreversibly affected you? Share your thoughts and teasers in the comments!


Unknown said...

Such a lovely review. I've got this one on my list. I'd love to find out why he chose that title.

My TT from Thief's Mark

sherry fundin said...

Great review. I've seen this book all over the place and now I know why.
sherry @ fundinmental My TT

Unknown said...

I am not sure this one would be for me, but I love how you speak of it.

My post is: here

Laurel-Rain Snow said...

I have definitely been eyeing this one. I've only read TFIOS by this author, but I do have Paper Towns on Pippa, my Kindle.

Thanks for sharing...and here's mine: “EVEN IF IT KILLS HER”

Kathy Martin said...

Great review. I still haven't read anything by John Green. This week my book is A Peace Divided by Tanya Huff. Happy reading!

Nise' said...

I am looking forward to this book. Great review.

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