Review and critique Turtles All the Way Down.

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In writing a review and critique of John Green's Turtles All the Way Down , you will clearly be influenced by the aspects of the book (particular characters, plot, themes, images) which appealed to you personally. However, here are two specific avenues of approach that may prove helpful. You...

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In writing a review and critique of John Green's Turtles All the Way Down, you will clearly be influenced by the aspects of the book (particular characters, plot, themes, images) which appealed to you personally. However, here are two specific avenues of approach that may prove helpful. You might consider beginning by explaining the title, which immediately signals that this is a philosophical novel. Stephen Hawking tells the story on which it is based in A Brief History of Time:

A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"

This may be a joke, but it is a philosophical joke about finding easy, superficial answers to complex questions. This is clearly relevant to Green's rejection of the tidy resolution that ends a typical mystery. When Russell Pickett's body is discovered, Aza remains deeply dissatisfied:

You’d think solving mysteries would bring you closure, that closing the loop would comfort and quiet your mind. But it never does. The truth always disappoints. As we circulated around the gallery, looking for Mychal, I didn’t feel like I’d found the solid nesting doll or anything. Nothing had been fixed, not really. It was like the zoologist said about science: You never really find answers, just new and deeper questions.

You might, therefore, critique the book by contrasting it with other mysteries you have read, which are not so ambivalent about the truth. Almost any detective story, from Sherlock Holmes onwards, could provide such a contrast. Indeed, it has been suggested that the reason for the sudden popularity of the detective story at the end of the nineteenth century was precisely because of a widespread sense of philosophical nihilism and uncertainty, as people questioned their faith in traditional religion. The detective story provided a world in which omniscient detectives discovered and punished evil. This would make a fascinating background against which to critique the story.

Another approach, which is one followed in many actual media reviews of the book, would be to focus on its depiction of a protagonist with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Green has talked about this in interviews, sometimes referring to his own struggles with OCD. If you are familiar with Mark Haddon's book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, you might consider comparing and contrasting the two, since this book is also a murder mystery featuring a young protagonist who deals with similar (though by no means identical) mental issues, which offer many grounds for comparing the two works.

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