Turtles All the Way Don’t

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Genre: YA
Published October 10 2017
Dutton Penguin

Image result for turtles all the way down john greenJohn Green’s latest novel since his successful The Fault in our Stars tackles a subject that Mr. Green is intimately familiar with: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Green has openly discussed his own OCD on his YouTube series and in essays. While trying to write a follow-up to TFIOS he struggled with not just the pressure of creating something after such a career-changing novel, but his own mental battle. So he took his OCD and used that as not just fuel, but subject matter for Turtle’s All the Way Down.

As someone with my own diagnosed mental challenges (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), I was intrigued by the premise of TAtWD. The story is told through the eyes, and thoughts, of Aza  Holmes, who like her creator, has OCD. The reader sees Aza’s OCD through compulsive thoughts and actions, including her fear of bacteria, which is physically expressed through a cut in her thumb that she constantly opens, drains (of bacteria) and reapplies Band-Aid after Band-Aid. Aza is an interesting protagonist, she is vulnerable and honest, but she’s also got that touch of “manic-pixie-dreamgirl” that John Green insists on adding to all of his female characters.

Which leads us to the plot, which is pretty thin, solidly John Green, and completely not groundbreaking. Aza and her best friend Daisy are on the hunt to find out what happened to local billionaire Russel Pickett, who disappeared leaving his sons alone in their mansion playground. Aza knows Davis Pickett, Russel’s son from camp years ago, where they connected over the deaths of their parent’s (Davis’s mother and Aza’s father). The two reconnect and start to solve the mystery of the missing millionaire. Except not really. The amount of sleuthing in this book is minimal and it really proves to be a thin backdrop for the relationship between Aza and Davis, which is equally thin, and proves to be a thin backdrop for Aza and her mental illness. Now, I admit that I prefer plot-heavy books to character-driven dramas, but I know there is a place for character driven books as well, and if they’re done right they can be just as page-turning and compulsive of reads. I also wonder if John Green is trying to make a statement that Aza’s mental health totally overshadows any “plot” in her life. If so, maybe I needed a bit more acknowledgement that this was his plan.

But thin plot isn’t the only problem. One reason I was excited to read this book was because of the concept of a character with a mental disadvantage. There were really well written moments where I really think Green presented an accurate representation of something so hard to represent. For example, when Aza struggles with taking her medication because she isn’t sure if taking a pill to make you more like yourself is actually not being who you really are, the discussion of the unmedicated reality of one’s personality versus the medicated. But I think Green missed the mark entirely by not naming Aza’s OCD. Throughout the book Aza’s friends and mother, and even her therapist, talk about her anxiety, her “unique” personality, her challenges. But they don’t name the disorder. The term OCD shows up exactly zero times in the entire novel. And for this, I must fault Green. Sure maybe he didn’t want to write an “OCD Book” after writing a “Cancer Book.” But that’s exactly what he did, and when his fan base is teenagers (and other lovers of YA!) he needs to take responsibility for the fact that his job is no longer just “writer,” he is also an educator. Yes, sure, the point comes across what Aza has, but with no official diagnosis mentioned a lot could be confused. Readers may think that Green is simply writing about anxiety. And while anxiety is one symptom of OCD, it is certainly not the only one.

I applaud Green for showing us what it is like inside Aza’s brain, and I know it is no easy feat to write about a disease that has little physical manifestation, a disease of the thoughts and mind. There are some really wonderful moments, but as a whole Turtles All the Way Down relied too heavily on Green’s characters and tropes that have become too convenient and well, tropey—best friend fights, car accident plot-devices, philosophizing teenagers, and an unneeded teenage romance all included. The last few pages of the novel are truly wonderful, perhaps semi-autobiographical, and beautifully written, but they feel almost misplaced in a novel that ultimately let me down.


Adventures of a Bookshop Ho

I keep telling myself “your blog is called Adventures of a Bookshop Girl” and yet you’ve kiiiiinda stopped posting about books lately.

I was going to post about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, but I wanted to wait until after my book club met, in case any of them were stalking me (hi guys!). But book club has come and gone, and I never reviewed it on here. Brief review: I liked it. I didn’t love it. I really appreciated Junot Diaz’s writing, and his merging of genres, but I still kind of felt like I was watching everything from arms length and didn’t entirely connect to the story. And it’s not because I have nothing in common with the characters. I still think you can connect with a book without relating to it. There was just the magic spark missing for me. But I really really liked it, and it was so close to having that Missing Thing. Yeah…worst book review ever. Moving on.

I told myself I would post about the Next Book I Read. My last blog review was on Midwinter Blood. Right after that I read Insurgent, which is the sequel to Divergent. I didn’t want to post a review about that one because it’s the middle of a trilogy, and it would be hard to do so without spoilers. (spoiler: I read it really fast and enjoyed it for what it is: mediocre fluffy YA. I like Divergent better.) And then I went right into reading Allegiant, the third and final book in the series. And something terrible happened. I just didn’t give a damn about this book. And I stopped reading entirely. And then the book was due back at the library (what? I work at a bookstore and I go to the library. judge away.). I never finished it. So I started Ready Player One last night. I LOVE IT.

But. I have Allegiant BACK from the library. AND book club just extended our deadline for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, AND we’re meeting to talk about Remains of the Day soon.

In summary. I’m reading three books at once. I’m usually a book monogamist. I now feel like a dirty, filthy book slut. My plan: sit my ass down and finish Allegiant. Read Ready Player One really. damn. fast. And then get back into my book club books.

Challenge accepted.

Time to read!

What about you guys? Do you ever read more than one book at a time?

Zombie in Love

1982067_10102502654432283_198930371_nThis weekend I had the pleasure of selling Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Scott Campbell, at the Newmark Theater downtown. Why was I selling a picture book at a theater? Great question! The Oregon Children’s Theater was debuting Zombie in Love, the musical! Not only was it the world premier, to make the event even more special, Kelly DiPucchio was there signing books! She was really sweet, and the audience was SO excited to have her there. Embarrassingly, I was not prepared for the throngs of zombie lovers, and actually sold out of books. I didn’t get to see the show–we also had another event going on at the same time so it was busy busy (Sorry Kelly, I didn’t get to say thank you because I had to run! THANK YOU!), but EVERYONE leaving the theater after the first performance was SO happy, so I’m going to go ahead and tell you that it was FANTASTIC and you should try to go next weekend if you can.

The picture book is also fantastic. It’s a picture book about a zombie trying to find love! What isn’t to love about that (ha.)?! It’s funny, and creepy in all the right ways, and I would definitely suggest you stop at your local children’s bookstore and grab a copy.


Early Bird Award

ALA AwardsGood morning! I was up early this morning because today is a special day in the Children’s Book World. It’s ALA AWARD DAY! YAY! Every year the American Library Association announces the winners of the youth media awards–the most well known are the Caldecott, for illustrations and Newberry, for children’s literature–but there are a whole slew of other awards. The awards were announced on the east coast at 8am, so this little bookshop girl had to wake-up and get to the store at 4:30 to watch the live webcast (ok, I’m not the buyer, so technically I didn’t HAVE to wake up, but it’s fun and exciting!).

A full list of the winners can be found here. Honestly, I’ve been out of the children’s book world for awhile, but I’m glad my bookstore still has a place for me. (And a new website, that I designed! Yay!) So I’m a little out of the loop on some of the winners, but I have a few YAY! THEY WON!s: Mr. Wuffles! received a Caldecott honor, and Eleanor and Park  received a Printz honor. One of my favorite picture books and one of my favorite YAs of the year. Yay!

Eleanor and Park also received an Odyssey honor for audiobook, but honestly, I listened to the audiobook, and while the narrator did an excellent job of the Park sections, I really think they should have picked a female voice for the Eleanor chapters. He was just trying too hard and I cringed every time he used his fake-girl voice to read Eleanor.

I have to say, with Kate DiCamillo winning the Newberry, and David Wiesner getting a Caldecott honor, it feels a little bit like Ground Hog Day (you know, the movie…) they’re both very talented, but it would be nice to share the love with other talented authors and illustrators who don’t get recognized as often.

After we watched the webcast, and put together the display above with the winners that we had on hand, my lovely coworker/friend/bookbuyergenius went to breakfast at Beaterville.

photo 2 (1)I got the breakfast of champions! Well not really, but I figured I’d make my corned beef hash look festive. If you’re in Portland and haven’t tried Beaterville, I recommend it. They’re open super early and always have a solid breakfast. There was a table of teachers eating breakfast as well, and we suspect they had been up early to watch the awards too. Solidarity.

(And yes, I only ate half my breakfast, for you judgey people who have been reading my Weight Watchers posts.)

And now it’s nap time! Have a lovely Monday everyone!

Book Review: Cuckoos Calling

Once upon a time there was an author named JK Rowling. She wrote the Harry Potter books, and lived happily ever after. But what is a multi-millionaire amazing, famous author to do once that series is over, and her literary fiction receives mixed reviews? Write a genre detective novel under the psydonom Robert Galbraith, of course! And she does it surprisingly well.

I have this image of JK Rowling sitting at her computer deciding what to write next, and thinking it might be a fun project to have a go at a detective novel. Maybe she’s been watching a lot of Humphrey Bogart lately, and just wants to take a stab at it. And stab at it she does. Except the mystery surrounding this book is not a stabbing, but a suicide.

Cuckoo’s Calling takes place in present day London, three months after famous model Lula Landry has committed suicide by jumping from the balcony of her high rise condominium….er "flat", as they say in London. Our protaganist, and dear detective, Cormoran Strike, has been hired by Lula’s brother, John Bristow, to investigate the suicide. You see, he doesn’t think it was a suicide, but a murder.

Cormoran Strike is a superb detective character, weird name and all. I read this book for my book club, and one of the first things we did was google Cormoran. It turns out the name comes from a giant in Cornwall folklore. The name makes much more sense after this google discovery, because Cormoran is quite a large man. But he’s had a difficult life, and while in the British Army lost a leg. Reader beware: this book is not a gruesome book by any means, but Cormoran spends a lot of time running around chasing clues about the supposed murderer, and in the process causes himself a lot of pain with his illfitting prosthetic leg. I felt bad for him, but I also felt bad for myself because the descriptions of his leg pain grossed me out. But that is just a tiny part of a complex and delightful novel.

Strike is kind of a mess, having been recently kicked out of his fiance’s apartment, and is living and sleeping in his office. Clearly, he needs an assistant. Enter Robin, a temp from a local agency. Robin and Strike have great chemistry, and there are mostly only hints of a romantic connection, which I appreciated. Where Strike is misordered and down on his luck, Robin is thoughtful, organized, and so completely smitten with the idea of being a detective’s assistant. I really liked her character, and I wish she had been used more in the story.

I won’t give away any plot points, but I will say that JK Rowling Galbraith does an excellent job of giving the reader just enough hints to keep turning the page. I did think it got a little bogged down in the middle, as Cormoran’s main sleuthing skill is interviewing suspects surrounding the case. But because the characters were all interesting, from Lula’s drug addict boyfriend and her model BFF to her control freak Uncle, I kept reading.

I wouldn’t say that this book was amazing, but it was certainly enjoyable. I’m not sure if I would have picked it up had it not been written by Rowling, but that’s mostly because the detective books I read are less noir detective novels, and more thriller suspense (Tana French write faster!).  This is the first book in a trilogy, and I suspect (see what I did there? suspect? mystery novel…) I’ll be reading the other two.

Summer Reading, YA Style


As a children’s bookseller, a lot of my reading list includes YA, so while I’m excited to tackle some adult summer reading, I was really happy to come across a few YA summer reading lists as well. And these lists are fantastic. I highly recommend a ton of the books on the Mashable list, including: Raven Boys, The Book Thief,  The Fault in Our Stars, and Where Things Come Back. Granted their list isn’t entirely original–lots of familiar titles, especially if you’re up on your YA, it is still a solid list, as are the other two:

Mashable:  23 Books For Your Perfect Young Adult Summer Reading List

NPR: School’s Out: 5 Great Summer Reads For Teens

The Atlantic : The Summer Book Guide: Y.A. Edition

I’m looking forward to Eleanor and Park, I’ve heard GREAT things about it. And I don’t know how I haven’t started the Delirium series yet. Time to stop blogging and start reading! 

Summer 2013 Reading List Round-Up

The sun is shining here in Portland, and it’s time to get my summer reading on. Want to beat everyone to the library hold wait-list, before the “summer buzz books” start getting really popular? Lucky you! I’ve compiled a list of summer reading lists for you, all in one place!

NPR: Start Storing Up: Indie Booksellers Pick Summer’s Best Reads

Publisher’s Weekly:  Best Summer Books 2013

LA Times: Summer Reading Guide

Salon: What’s 2013′s “Gone Girl”? Here are this summer’s best reads

Entertainment Weekly: Summer Must List: 10 books for your beach bag

And finally, Jimmy Fallon’s Do Not Read List, Summer 2013 Edition:

Question of the Day: What’s on your summer reading list?

I’ve heard great things about Night Film (what a fantastic book website!) and I’m completely intrigued by The Bone Season. (Hey publishers, care to send a bookseller an ARC? pretty please?) I’m also looking forward to catching up on my pile of YA that has been screaming at me, including Delirium and Grave MercyTold you, I’m behind on my YA reading! And I miss it so. I’m also really hoping to finally get to Shadow of the Night and hopefully finish those damn Game of Thrones books (not linking those. I’m avoiding spoilers right now. Not gonna Google. Don’t make me do it).