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?


midwinterbloodThe moment this book won the Printz Award I put a hold on it at the library (yes, this bookseller uses the library…I have to or I’d be broke!). I finally got my copy right before I left for a business trip, and  pretty much read the entire thing in one sitting on the plane. Which I suppose means that it was a page turner, but mostly that’s because it is in short sections which just make it easy to get through. Midwinterblood, by Marcus Sedgwick, tells the story of Merle and Eric, starting in the future and moving back in time throughout centuries of love, death, and interconnected relationships, until you reach the beginning of their story, a tale from the viking days.

I’ve seen this book compared to Cloud Atlas before, so I’ll just say that when the thought came to my mind I was a bit annoyed at the lack of originality. That’s not to say you can’t take something that’s already been done and make it your own original concept, or make it awesome despite the similarities. I’ve never read Cloud Atlas, but I was not a fan of the movie, I thought it was too heavy handed with the DEEP MESSAGE. While Midwinterblood isn’t heavy handed, it is really weird. It didn’t sit right with me. In some of the stories Merle and Eric are brother and sister, and in some they’re mother/son. I realize there are different kinds of love, but I wasn’t satisfied with how this was dealt with. The concept of the book, and the connecting stories, were intriguing in theory, but the reality fell flat for me. I kept waiting for the Amazing Epiphany and ended up disappointed.

While Midwinterblood is an interesting book, I don’t understand how it won the Printz Award–an award for acclaimed young adult writing–when there wasn’t a single teenage in the entire novel. Maybe that’s a separate issue–what makes a book YA?–but it’s definitely one worth discussing.

Midwinterblood didn’t meet my expectations. The writing was strong and the stories were interesting, but as a whole I feel like it could have been more riveting, and Sedgwick could have had more fun with the concept.

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!

Why Hello There

Yeah, I kind of snuck back on here after a long hiatus, posted a few book reviews, and didn’t say hi or anything. How rude of me! In the spirit of moving forward, just a quick recap, and then we will move forward! Hooray!

Me, Lately:

  • I got a new job. I’m now a technical editor at a consulting firm. And I work from home. I have the best new coworker:

Business Cat

  •    I went to the SCBWI–Oregon Silver Falls Retreat. Met with an agent and talked about my manuscript, and am now knee deep in revisions. Apparently I didn’t take any pictures. I plan on blogging about the whole experience, but it’s already been a month, so in summary: it was totally exhausting and totally worth it. Four days, in the woods, talking about writing.
    Writing can be such a solitary experience, that getting so many writers together and sticking us in some cabins without internet for a few days so that we could talk about the craft was fantastic. My brain felt like mush afterwords, and I was a bit terrified to get back into my manuscript, but I learned a lot, made some great connections, and love love love my fellow YA/Children’s writers. We’re great people.
  •    Totally failed the Bar Method Fall Fitness Challenge and wanted to cry. The challenge just came at a terrible time for me, transitioning to a new job and going through some personal things (what? there are things too personal for blogging?! ha!), Bar helped me a LOT getting through the tough times, but I just didn’t have the time to go 50 times in 84 days. I did get to 40, I think? And as punishment/preparation for the New Year I went to FOUR level 2 classes in a row. I’m in pain. And let me admit something to you: I probably don’t belong in level 2. My form sucks. My endurance sucks. But you know what? We have the BEST instructors, and I really really REALLY am trying.
       I want to be a pretty ballerina SO badly. And I’m not going to get any better if I don’t try. So I’m trying. I’m trying to be patient, but also push myself at the same time. I’m trying to keep my shoulders down. I’m trying to lift my heels. Sometimes I try push-ups on my toes. I have not lost a single pound since I started Bar Method over 6 months ago, and sometimes I do cry over the number on the scale. Technically I’m obese for my height. Which, while bullshit, is absolutely devastating.  But then I feel my buff arms and clench my muscley ass and smile. Except right now I can’t clench anything. So much pain. I’m starting the New Year with a very sore seat.
       Last year I started the new year running my first 5k. That’s not happening this year, but I have started running again since stress-fracturing my foot over the summer, and holy shit. Bar really is doing SOMETHING my first run back in the game was so much easier. My muscles felt like they were working with me, not against me. I couldn’t run very fast or very far because I’ve been out of the race (ha.) for months now, but it made all of my hard work feel much more worth it. I want to try to get back into running, but I’m afraid of injuries, so we will see. If anyone wants to sign-up for some fun runs let me know, I could use the motivation!

In summary: New Job, Writing Writing Writing, Sore Butt.

As I look to the New Year, I would like you all (all three of you) to know that my new job gives me a lot more freedom/time to blog, and I fully intend to keep up my lovely space on the internet. So look for more book reviews, Bar Method sore-butt whining (I mean, health and fitness posts!), and too much information about a Portland Writer Girl who doesn’t understand blogs but likes to overshare!

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! 

Going Bovine, By Libba Bray


I  really really wanted to like this one. I had never read any Libba Bray, but I’ve heard that this is quite a departure from her Gemma Doyle series. And I really really want to read the Gemma Boyle books. But this book. This strange book. It just didn’t do it for me. But I REALLY wanted it to. It’s like a relationship that looks good on paper, but in reality there are no sparks, and all you can blame is a lack of chemistry. I wanted sparks.

Going Bovine is about Cameron Smith, a 16-year-old boy who somehow ends up with the unlucky fate of contracting mad cow disease. Cameron finds out that the disease is fatal, and that his body will slowly stop working for him. So he does what any fatally ill teenager would do. He goes on a road trip with his friend Gonzo. But it’s not just any road trip. He learns, from a hot punk-rock angel named Dulcie, that he has to find Dr. X who can cure him of the disease. Along the way Cameron and Dulcie run into a very odd cast of characters–my favorite was Balder, the viking garden gnome.

As I said, I really really wanted to like this book. It has a unique premise and amazing characters, but the plot is so wishy-washy. I felt like I was constantly waiting for the “a-ha!” moment, and never got there. My favorite part was the beginning, before the road trip.  And when my favorite part is the beginning, that means the rest of the book was “meh”. There are some tear-jerker moments in the book and Libba speaks so honestly about the state of the world today, and about the fragility of life. I didn’t dislike it, and I didn’t “not get it”, it is a deep and moving book that was well crafted and beautifully written, and very original and witty and hilarious. Which all sounds great, but there were no sparks.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never read Don Quixote, which this is loosely based on. Or maybe it’s because I’ve read a few too many truly BAD Don Quixote knock-offs. But this just wasn’t for me. It’s not Libba, it’s me. Going Bovine has gotten good press, and in case my review just doesn’t do it for you, here are a few fans of the book: KidsLit, Reading Rants, Tea Cozy, Em’s Bookshelf and a review I agree with: Abby (the) Librarian.