Turtles All the Way Down: Review

Turtles All the Way Down centres on 16 year old Aza Holmes who suffers from multiple anxiety disorders including obsessive-compulsive disorder. The plot covers friendship, loss, living with mental health issues and a bunch of other random bits that make the book great.

Turtles all the way down

As I don’t suffer with obsessive compulsive disorder, I found the look into the mind of someone who is living with the disorder insightful. The way I have always obsessed over a event feels more like a dark cloud coming over me, which is then all I can loop back to for that day. The next day though a lot of the time the feelings are gone. Sometimes, it can only be for 5 minutes, like every time I see a new email subscriber (I’ve seen a lot recently for some odd reason) and for some reason I’ve decided that instead of it being a totally normal thing, it’s some sort of conspiracy where people laugh at my blog (even though that makes like zero sense). So basically if you’re an email subscriber please comment below and reassure me that’s not that case! I can’t imagine what it would be like being constantly trapped in that kind of thought cycle.

I loved the characters in this novel, particularly the fan-fiction loving, hilarious Daisy who reminds me both of me and a few of my friends at times, which is probably why I love her. There is though refreshingly not too many characters to stress over, as most of the plot is centred around a core group of characters- I’ll admit I’m awful at remembering names if there starts to be too many characters in something.

Maybe the small ‘cast’ is linked to the fact that John Green has described this novel, as his most personal:

“This is my first attempt to write directly about the kind of mental illness that has affected my life since childhood, so while the story is fictional, it is also quite personal.”
Source: Penguin.co.uk 

I think this really shows. I feel much more like I am in Aza’s mind then I have felt with characters in other John Green novels though maybe that is also because Aza’s experiences in life are a lot more close to home for me than say Hazel’s experience in The Fault in Our Stars.

Image: The postcard that came along with my copy of the novel.

The novel however is not without faults. Like, all John Green books the characters are a little bit too philosophical for their own good. I’m not saying people that age can’t have those sort of debates because they most certainly can (and I think social media has brought an immense amount of pressure to have everything all figured out even younger nowadays) but in my experience this was something largely internalised or restricted to things like blogs (which, one of the characters does have).

I think this is probably my only criticism of John Green novels- I remember talking about  the topics that are discussed but always in a roundabout way. Everyone does not also always have amazing vocabulary. But as an English Literature graduate I’ll admit I don’t hate it though I can understand why people might think it might come across as pretentious.

My other not really a criticism because I loved the book regardless, but perhaps instead then a little quibble, is that the mystery that makes up the plot, for me (it’s on the blurb so I really don’t think this is a spoiler!) is a bit anti-climatic. It felt like it was there to tie characters together but this could have been done in another way- the bit where everything was revealed was also just a little bit rushed as well.

There are though elements of this book that are specular. As mentioned the novel does an amazing job at demonstrating what it’s like in Aza’s mind. At the same time though the novel is able to show and explain what it’s like for both the people who suffer from mental health and their friends and family. There is a scene in the book (which, I am going to try my best not to spoil) in which the lead character, Aza has to confront the effect her mental illness has had on her friends and family. Of course, the book stresses this is not something that Aza has deliberately maliciously done but I think it is refreshing to see the effect that mental health issues do have on someone’s family and friends. Without making the person at the centre feel incredibly guilty or selfish- just making them realise what is going around them and come out of the bubble that their mental illness has on them.

What is important to me is that we also get to see Aza’s mum and friend’s opinions- we see the importance of having an open dialogue, as it helps stop a cycle of both parties acting in a certain way because they don’t know how to do anything else.

In fact, for me one of the most powerful scenes of the novel (mild spoiler alert, maybe?) is when Aza demonstrates exactly what it feels like to think like she does. Sometimes, it does take a metaphor to help people to understand.

I’ll admit I thought one of the characters was being overly harsh at first but after a lot of thinking about it (mostly on my bus to work) I realised that it was a totally justifiable reaction. Yes, they could have brought it up beforehand but I’m not immune from letting such feelings bubble up myself and then all come tumbling out.

It also leads to some truly beautiful scenes between the two characters afterwards (and demonstrates something I’m trying to do more and more, take the time to see what your friends are doing and show some love towards it- especially in terms of things they create). In one of the scenes one of the characters says it feels like they are actually in the moment and not “watching a movie of our conversation”- something that I can definitely relate to (the feeling like I’m not quite ‘there’ in a particular moment).

Another amazing point about this book is that it talks about fanfiction. And it’s not making fun of it but celebrating it and from what I know about John Green I would only expect as much (though to be honest that is not a whole lot- I really need to go on a binge of his content). Most importantly, fanfiction is praised as being something that should have fans and does showcase really great writers and to be honest it reminded me of how I need to read more fanfiction again!

Before reading this novel my favourite John Green novel was Looking for Alaska. Since, this is the book I’ve read the most recently it is now Turtles All The Way Down but I think if I read Looking for Alaska again there might be a bit of a war going on there.

This also counts as reviewing a Youtuber’s book (though I don’t think a lot of people counts John Green’s novel as ‘Youtuber books’ even though he is very well known on Youtube) so I’ve put it under that tab. I’m hoping to try to have different tabs on my blog soon where you can click for book reviews, fashion stuff, etc. but my theme is making it a bit difficult.

I think the phrase ‘Life goes on’ has perhaps been used too much so maybe instead what you can take from the novel is ‘Life happens’. Your mental health problems are not something to be magically fixed, sometimes there will be bad, sometimes good but amongst all that life just goes on- so capture the good moments whenever you can.

April

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Undercover Princess: Rosewood Chronicles Review

A book review of Connie Glynn (aka Noodlerella)’s debut novel, Undercover Princess (part of the Rosewood Chronicles series).

Yes I am as upset as you the book is crumpled in the main image. Welcome to my life. 

Lottie Pumpkin is an ordinary girl who longs to be a princess, attending Rosewood Hall on a scholarship.

Ellie Wolf is a princess who longs to be ordinary, attending Rosewood Hall to avoid her royal duties in the kingdom of Maradova.

When fate puts the two fourteen-year-olds in the same dorm, it seems like a natural solution to swap identities: after all, everyone mistakenly believes Lottie to be the princess anyway.

But someone’s on to their secret, and at Rosewood nothing is ever as it seems…

Warning some spoiler throughout but no major plot spoilers. 

Connie Glynn aka Noodlerella was probably one of the first Youtubers I started watching. First of all, she has mad cosplay skills, and second of all she did amazing impressions. Plus, I had serious envy over her travelling and Disney trip hauls. I’ve even met her at MCM London Comic Con but I was so nervous that I just blushed, attempted to make conversation, bought on of her prints, and then regretted not getting a photograph (also, if you’re wondering she was very nice).

Hello I want to say a little word about the book tour 🌹 This weekend saw my very first book tour and the first, for me, of any kind of venture of that sort. Firstly I'm utterly thrilled that my very first tour was for Undercover Princess, a book I've poured my soul into and cannot wait for everyone to read. Yet what really made this tour so special was how utterly wonderful you all were who came along. You were all so enthusiastic and asked such wonderful and intelligent questions, I was so proud of you all. The launch of Undercover Princess has been so positive and the feedback I've received so very heartwarming. Thank you not only to everyone who came along to the tour but everyone who sent a word of encouragement or enthusiasm. One final thank you to my incredible team at penguin and my amazing manager who have made this a really joyful time for not only me, but hopefully all of you as well. Thank you thank you thank you, from the bottom of my heart and I hope you enjoy the book. I can't wait to share more with you soon 🌹🌹

A post shared by Connie Glynn (@noodlerella) on

The book appears to be mainly targeted for teenagers, as I’m assuming that is Connie’s main audience. On Amazon the age range suggested for the book is between 10-17 years old. I’d argue that for me at least the novel definitely hits more towards the lower range of that age scale in terms of tone. In fact, it has been the longest time since I’ve read anything that was not conclusively marketed at adults, so it was quite refreshing and made me want to get back into reading YA (Young Adult) fiction again.

While the book I admit started a bit slow for me; once I got into the book it was very much a page turner. Lottie and Ellie’s friendship was the driving force of the novel, and if I was not mistaken (mild, maybe spoiler alert) there was hints that the spark between them might be on the romantic side. There are at least hints if Ellie’s furious remarks about not liking boys or being into them are anything to go on that maybe her sexual preferences lay elsewhere. To be honest, if Lottie does turn out to be a bisexual protagonist (it has made conclusive she likes men at least in the first novel) that would be amazing and would really make the series stand out for me.

Another thing that really concreted the novel was the beautiful descriptions of Rosewood Hall or any surrounding for that matter. Everything was just magical, and you can really feel yourself in the surroundings and part of the action. The same could be said for the writing. For me though I definitely could see how it was written by someone in our generation by the numerous references to other things, such as evil Stepmothers, numerous explicit Cinderella references, references to Harry Potter by that the school houses (though this is common within British schools, especially Boarding Schools so I don’t really think Harry Potter has complete domain of that), as well as the way the boarding school is depicted.

Although, when I was younger I would have been completely taken in by the romance of the boarding school, now that I’m older and a bit more cynical- I see some of the more flaws in the system, such as the elitism of the subjects chosen, and the overwhelming pressure to perform.

Nevertheless, I want to make it clear that the story has definite charm, and I will be reading the next book in the series. I love the different Houses and would love to know what house I would be in (I also love that there is a quiz to determine what house students are in before arriving, a bit less magical than a Sorting Hat but brilliant).

The houses for those of you who don’t know are as follows:

There is the Ivy House (colour purple) who stand for the Righteous part of the school motto. The other houses are the Conch House (colour red) who stand for the Resolute part of the school motto. Finally, there is the Stratus house who stand for the Resourceful part of the school motto.

 

Stratus pin badge!!! Really hope these go up for sale at some point. 

I’m not really sure which house I would be put into but I suspect probably either Ivy  or Stratus depending on my mood. As I either like to observe everything or try to do what is right (even if I don’t always succeed). I’m waiting for someone to make up a Rosewood Hall house quiz, so I can know for sure (I would do it but it would be ridiculously bad).

I am also excited to see where some of the unresolved plot points are going to go with this novel. Especially, in regards to a certain friendship Lottie has been neglecting. There was also a scene that I think was brushed off to easily within the novel, but was actually depicted as something really quite predatory (though they did get a good smack), and should have been exposed as such a bit more. I don’t really want to say anymore and give the plot away, but if you have read the novel let me know your thoughts.

If you’re looking for a book for someone around 10-14 they’ll probably love this as a Christmas present, and bonus it has no idolisation of any particular body types, like a lot of teenage romances I read growing up seemed to have (you know what I mean, they think they’re bodies just ‘normal’, but it’s revealed they are incredibly attractive, etc.).

Overall, this is a charming little read, and Connie can certainly write. Here’s hoping that the next instalment carries on the mystery, pumps up the romance, and ties up the plot points mentioned in the first novel. Like, the cover of the novel, it is a story firmly rooted in being a magical, beautiful getaway. This novel is definitely one for when you want to drift away from reality for a little bit.

P.S. Apologises for not mentioning a lot about the other characters; I’m trying really hard to avoid spoilers. 

April

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Reviewing Youtuber books: Emma Blackery ‘Feel Good 101’

For those of you who don’t know already, I’m still what I would describe as fairly new to Youtube. I remember my sisters when they were younger (and still today to a certain extent) enthusing over their favourite Youtubers, and they even went to Summer in the City (while my mum and I strolled around London doing touristy things). But, I just never really got into the Youtube phenomenon in the same way they did. I only went to Youtube to listen to music and watch music videos- I also had seen the occasional viral video from there (but still far less than anyone else). A year or so ago however I decided to actually start to check out some more channels, as Youtube was now everywhere. To be honest, I’m not really sure who I first subscribed to but I think one of the first Youtubers I watched was grav3yardgirl through a recommendation from a friend, along with Zoella (if you’re British you just cannot not watch Zoella or escape her- don’t worry Zoella lovers I’m not slating her).

It did not take long before I became completely obsessed. As not only is there some amazing content out there but Youtubers and the way fans interact with them is something I also find fascinating from an academic perspective. We also live in a place now where people’s careers can be Youtube, and consequently recently there has been more and more controversy about sponsorship, affiliate codes and how much Youtubers earn. At the same time revenue from videos has decreased, and videos are becoming monetised less and less (and disturbingly a lot of videos with LGBTQ+ also became restricted). It’s not surprising then that a lot of youtubers have also brought out their own collaborations or products not only as a source of extra revenue, but because it’s something their passionate about and because their supporters want it.

When brands saw these ranges go well, suddenly they were everywhere. But with popularity becomes controversy. Zoella’s debut novel may have been the bestselling debut novel ever, but it has been accused of affecting literacy levels, and more famously there was a massive controversy about the book being ghost written. Emma Blackery then in reaction to the outpour of Youtuber books initially hated the idea. However, with time she changed her mind, and felt that if those books made people happy, how could she get angry about that?

For those of you who don’t know Emma Blackery is a Youtuber and musician, who rose to fame initially for a series on her Youtube channel when she read out pieces from 50 shades of grey and critiqued the novel. Although, those videos eventually got taken down due to copyright claims; Blackery continued to make comedy videos and again went viral with her video ‘My Thoughts on Google +’. Recently, she released this book I’m about to talk about, and the artwork for her EP Magnetised was featured on Apple’s Keynote for the iPhone 8 and X.

However, let’s get onto the book. From the get go it’s obvious this book’s target audience is teenagers, which since that is generally considered to be the largest viewership group for Youtubers that’s hardly a shock. Plus, I picked it up in the teenage fiction section in Waterstones so if that doesn’t clue you in I don’t know what will.

Emma Blackery

Therefore, if you’re in your early twenties some of the advice and stories in this book, although they may help you reflect; are going to come a bit late for you. ‘The Brain Stuff’ section however is relevant whatever your age. We all need reminding sometimes to take better care of ourselves and look after our mental health- this book then is something that can be there when you’re feeling down and need that motivational reminder (without feeling like you’re being lectured to).

Also, for fans of Blackery there is no denying she wrote this book. It sounds and feels like she talks, which you’ll know if you’ve ever seen any of her videos. I can already predict how the audio book will sound in my head just from reading it. Prose wise this is not supposed to be something that is hard to follow, so it isn’t, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The section ‘Sex Talk’ is another highlight, especially for teenagers considering how sexuality and consent (at least when I had sex education) were not talked about properly in schools. I also like the way in which she talked about being able to categorise her feelings with the label ‘squish’  (a crush but without sexual desire) helped. I know a lot of people argue now that sexuality labels have ‘gone too far’ and are ‘redundant’, but when you live in a society that is so quick to categorise and define you, not having that definition available for you, for many people makes them think there is something wrong with them. Yes, in an ideal world it wouldn’t matter, and it’s nice that you don’t see gender (I’m going to be honest I think there are very few people who think this way just because the effect from society is so strong), but does that mean you should slate on something that helps other people? No, surprisingly, it doesn’t.

I also appreciated how Blackery made sure not to leave anyone out from the sexuality spectrum, including those who are assexual. While there was no talk about questioning your gender (from what I can remember, apologises if there is); Blackery cannot be expected to talk about everything (though I will admit maybe she should have explicitly stated this). She made it clear she was just talking about her experiences, and what she knew (that’s why in the back of the book there is helplines for people more specialised in that subject area).

I have always as well felt like honest experiences help more than well meant, but often misleading advice. Although, in one way I wish I could have read this in my teenage years; there was some chapters such as ‘Sex Talk’ that would not have applied, as Emma’s problems came from problems with crushes, and that would have involved me actually becoming involved in that area of my life.

The ‘Education (and making the most of it)’ section of the book is going to be painful for anyone who has gone to university. I don’t mean this as a disservice to Blackery, I mean it in the sense that the job market nowadays is hard (see my post Post University Panic for more) though I do think some of Emma’s CV tips are well worth taking a look at.

Overall, the book is half memoir, half advice. A quick guide to help you along in your teenage years by someone who can actually remember them. Not to say that’s its not still useful if you’re past twenty. The mental health section is definitely a must read (and as I mentioned there are also helplines at the back of the book to help with a variety of different issues). The book shows that Emma cares about her fans, and wanted to write something they could appreciate but would also hopefully be useful for them. That is something I can definitely respect.

So will I be reading sections of this again? Definitely. Do I regret buying this Youtuber’s book? No. And I think if you take anything from this review those two statements are definitely a good start.

The book is available to purchase from Waterstones, and Amazon (and I’m sure a variety of other places but those two are my favourite book buying sites). You can also get a audiobook of the novel from Audible.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and my future reading plans at the moment include ‘Secrets for the Mad: Obsessions, Confessions and Life Lessons’ by the Youtube sensation Dodie Clark (due out the 2nd November) and ‘The Rosewood Chronicles: Undercover Princess’ by Connie Glynn aka Youtuber, and cosplayer, Noodlerella (also out the 2nd November).

Let me know if there are any other Youtuber books (or products!) that you’d like me to review. I’d love to also do a Youtuber music series to accompany this as well, so drop me a line if that’s something you’d find interesting.

🍂April🍂

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