So I went into this book having no idea about it really, or any expectations. However, I was really intrigued to see The Return of John Green and what that would mean for readers everywhere. I mean, not to give him a big head or anything, but I feel like this was long overdue (also I need Hank’s book to be out like now please and thank you).
I won’t dwell too long on my past experiences with John Green books, so let’s jump right into the review.
Rating: 5/5 stars
*POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD*
I haven’t read anything that made me feel quite like this in a while. This book hangover is going to be so real.
So while I was reading this book, I was messaging my reactions to someone, and hopefully this will make my review easier.
First of all, I’d like to say that this book gets mental illness right. I love how Aza uses a spiral metaphor in the beginning, because its honestly the best way to describe the descent down the rabbit hole into the despair of your mind. When I have depressive episodes, it feels like this, thoughts spiraling down all at once. This book is a great way for people like me, with anxiety and depression (I think John suffers from OCD(?), so for those concerned, this is #ownvoices). Another metaphor I loved was the idea of invasives, how they invade your thoughts and suck the life from you. Perfect way to describe these feelings to someone who has no idea what they feel like.
FINALLY, his main characters worry about something realistic aka getting to/paying for college instead of random relationships that have no future. He highlighted how the system is rigged – something everyone else seems to gloss over. I really loved how Amherst and Sarah Lawrence were on Aza’s list, as they used to be on mine (dream schools honestly).
Also, John literally came after EVERYBODY in this book. Appreciation for the talk about unsolicited dick pics and the entire paragraph at the beginning of Chapter Five at how average boys are.
I wholeheartedly agreed with Daisy when she said calculus was akin to reading Sanskrit (apologies @ my AP calc teacher love you). I was LIVING for all of the Star Wars talk in this book (nerd alert!). Plus, I really enjoyed how she acknowledge how awful it is when girls ditch their best friends for their significant others (it sucks).
Let’s do something new, and add my favorite lines:
I wanted to tell her that I was getting better, because that was supposed to be the narrative of illness: It was a hurdle you jumped over, or a battle you won. Illness is a story told in the past tense.
This hurt me so bad – it was so raw and fitting. It describes our misconceptions towards mental illness. A lot of people see mental illness as a thing that you can cure, and it’s totally not. It’s an everyday struggle, and one that any one of us can be struggling with.
I related to Aza a lot – her father died suddenly while she was young and so did mine. Our moms constantly reflect on how life would be different if our fathers had been around to watch us grow up. Also, I forget to take my medicine regularly like I should, and it’s probably hindering me in some capacity. I am trying tho, pinky promise. It’s also hard for my mom to understand my illness, but that doesn’t make her love me any less. It just means we both have to get better at communicating, just like these two.
Her going to therapy really reflected my own experiences, and it was refreshing to see it in such mainstream literature.
I loved how Davis and Aza FT-ed each other. At times, I am tempted to ask my friends to FaceTime just to feel their presences and not talk really.
Daisy and Aza needed to yell at each other. Neither of them were completely wrong or right, and it was ugly because things like this are ugly. Things like confronting how mental illness can impact a friendship are supposed to hurt, because we shouldn’t be comfortable dealing with the worst parts of our friends, nor should they feel ashamed for making you “put up” with them. Their friendship was everything to me. They acknowledged that Aza’s mind was shitty at times, but although the “river” of her mind was bad, she still managed to be a “city” all on her own. She’s still her in spite of her illness, which has no bearing on her identity/ who she is as a person.
The turtles metaphor was amazing (especially since the title now makes sense). I also loved the cars metaphor, and I’m going to start using it whenever the Bad Thoughts come.
I loved all the characters, and how no one had an annoyingly minor, token kind of role. The missing person side-plot was elegantly woven in, and didn’t overshadow the themes of dealing with mental illness.
Lastly, I like how at the end, the future felt like it could be anything to Aza. At times, we as humans can feel as if we don’t have any control over our destiny. The ending shows that nothing is set in stone, and even if we can’t be in control of all things (if at all), life goes on and we’ll be okay. The ending ripped my heart out, but also made me excited for the future.
This was unexpectedly one of the best books I’ve ever read.
Buy it here: