John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down, reviewed.

If Green’s fiction has a fault, it’s the way his characters’ thoughts and dialogue lean so hard toward the aphoristic, neat if melancholy formulations that seem purpose-built for excerption on a Goodreads favorite-quotes-from page. “Every loss is unprecedented,” Aza thinks, with a sense of perspective that’s distinctly unadolescent. “You can’t ever know someone else’s hurt, not really.” But in Turtles All the Way Down, he turns even this propensity toward less expository ends. The characters in the novel keep repeating a certain saying along the lines of “Sometimes you think you’re spending money, but all along the money is spending you,” a motto also applied to power. Eventually, the reader comes to see that even though she never quite states it, this is also Aza’s fear, and by extension Green’s: That she thinks she is telling a story, but all along the story is telling her. Green has said that after the publication and tremendous success of The Fault in Our Stars, he suffered a relapse of his mental illness. Writing had previously helped him, getting him out of his own head and, presumably, providing him with a sense of control, at least over his own fictional creations. But as he became convinced he would never produce a follow-up to his monster hit, the thing that had once eased his fears had become itself a source of anxiety.