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Turtles All The Way Down is the Mental Illness Novel We’ve Been Waiting For

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“At the time I first realized I might be fictional, my weekends were spent at the publicly funded institution on the north side of Indianapolis called White River High School…”

And with that opening line, we are introduced to John Green’s long-awaited novel Turtles All The Way Down. This is Green’s fifth novel and the first he has written after a five-year break from writing after his widely popular novel The Fault in Our Stars. And with the mind-blowing success of his last novel, his new novel comes with certain expectations, mainly raising the question: “Will this book measure up?”

   The answer? Yes, but not in the ways you expect. Turtles All the Way Down is the story of 16-year-old Aza Holmes and her best friend, Daisy, hunting down the fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett for a hundred-thousand-dollar reward money. While on this caper, Aza is struggling to be “a good daughter, a good friend, and a good student,” with her mental illness.

   However, this is not your typical John Green novel or your typical YA novel; this is not a story of people falling in love or coping with death or learning the value of friendship. Though all three of these themes come up.

   The real plot is simple: this is a story about a girl in crisis.

   Good mental illness books are few and far between, especially in the YA world. They are either too over-dramatic, basing things on over-used stereotypes or cliches; making it very clear that the author has never suffered a mental illness. Or they make a mental illness a minor character “quirk” and nothing more. More importantly, we never actually see a character’s mental illness, we are just told about their mental illness.

   In this novel, we see exactly what’s going on inside Aza’s head as she talks in real time about each one of her “spirals,”.  She starts with one thought that quickly snowballs into more horrible, all-consuming thoughts that she cannot escape from. No matter how hard she tries to fight it.

   Very rarely do we see intrusive thoughts in media. It surely shook me to my core when I saw my own thought process on paper while reading this book.  It’s hard to articulate these thoughts to someone because saying them out loud makes you sound, for lack of a better word, “crazy,”. They just don’t make sense to anyone who has never had these thoughts. However,  seeing it on paper draws a powerful connection for any reader who suffers from anxiety and OCD.

   This is because John Green suffers from anxiety and OCD, the same things that Aza suffers from. Green takes his own experiences and thoughts,  putting them into the words that many people cannot say.  Going into a new depth of skill and reliability not seen in previous novels.

   As the book continues, the reader goes down their own spiral as we lose track of the plot and focus completely on Aza’s thoughts. The original plot takes a back seat, almost forgotten. This would be a huge problem in most novels, but here it works. Why? It’s a metaphor for how people with OCD become so involved with their intrusive thoughts that they cannot see past it. She is so wrapped up in her illness, she cannot see the plot.

   The hunt for the billionaire was only a red herring, the real antagonist is Azas’ anxiety and OCD.

   There are a few problems with the book, such as the climax resolving too quickly and many of the other characters do not have much development. (John Green if you’re reading this please make a Davis Pickett spin-off). However, the powerful prose, funny in some moments, Earth-shattering in others makes this novel. This novel reminds us all that John Green is the King of YA.

   The most powerful and touching part of the novel is the ending which follows no trope. It doesn’t follow the death of a character like in other John Green novels. Nor does it end with the main character getting 100% well like in most mental illness books. Instead, the ending is both powerful and painful because of the realness of it, breaking our hearts in a way Looking for Alaska or The Fault in Our Stars could not: it gave us an ending that was relatable.

Verdict: While this book did not outrank my two favorite John Green novels, The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska, this book did have a profound impact on me that left me reeling for weeks after (and yes, I did cry). It was so moving to read something that connected so closely to my own thoughts.  It really helped me understand and recognize my own mental illness better (representation matters!).  This book is perfect for anyone who suffers from anxiety, OCD, or any other mental health issues. Or if you love someone with a mental health issue but don’t understand what they are going through. This is probably one of the best mental health novels out there.

If you like to order Turtles All The Way Down click here.

To learn more about the author John Green click here

Ranking 4.5/5 turtles 

 

Ellen Ricks is a word-for-hire, fashion blogger, and bibliophile living in upstate New York. She has a BFA in Creative Writing from SUNY Potsdam and has been published in a number of literary magazines, both in print and online. She runs the fashion blog Sarcasm in Heels.  When not writing, Ellen enjoys frolicking in fancy dresses, consuming pumpkin spice everything, and dismantling the patriarchy.

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The Best LGBTQ+ Podcasts to Keep You Entertained While Travelling

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Unpopular Opinion: Travelling is hella boring.

Wait, don’t click away so fast. I don’t mean the actual being away- where you dip your feet in the Pacific Ocean or stroll across a piazza in Rome . I mean the physical act of travelling to a place, which can mean hours- and sometimes days- of waiting for your holiday to start.

Basically, the thrill of planes, trains, and automobiles was lost on me from a very early age making me a terrible choice for your Route 66 road trip (but thanks for asking).

Now, you’re probably wondering why I wouldn’t just enjoy the extra time with my travel companion. Well sometimes, especially if I’m travelling for work or to visit someone, I’m on my own. Occasionally, even if I have a kickass travel buddy, it’s hard to keep the enthusiasm up over a long period of time when you’re just waiting.

As a result, I turn to podcasts to keep me occupied; there are shorter pop culture ones to keep me alert while waiting for my flight in the early hours of the morning or longer fictional stories to keep me entertained on seven-hour coach rides.

Here are some of my personal recommendations for those of you who want some LGBTQ+ hosted podcasts to keep you busy during your next trip.

Looking for laughs: Nancy

Kathy Tu and Tobin Low; courtesy of New York Public Radio

With most podcasts coming in at around 30 minutes, this is the perfect peppy companion to keep you entertained (and most importantly, awake) while waiting at an airport gate before 6 am.

Best friends Kathy Tu and Tobin Low discuss issues affecting the LGBTQ community from sex-ed to politics to pop culture, while sharing their personal stories about being queer and Asian- and encouraging their guests and listeners to do the same.

Previous guests include “Master of None” star Lena Waithe, musician Rufus Wainright, and nonbinary actor Asia Kate Dillon.

Recommended Episode: There Are No Gay Wizards- It’s no secret that I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and this podcast explores the absolute queerness of the series…I mean Harry literally lived in a closet ya’ll.

Looking for debate: Umbrella

Hosts (clockwise from top left): Kate, Taylor, Dawson, Olivia, Glynn, Riley, Kayla, Layne.
Collage created by Emma Murphy; photos reproduced with permission from hosts.

If you’re looking for intelligent, informed debate to break up a train journey, then check out Umbrella. This monthly panel-style podcast brings together a diverse group of the LGBTQ+ community to discuss issues that impact upon our community.

Sometimes the subject matter is heavier, as in the case of their intersectionality show, but all of the podcasts are kept light by the interactions between the hosts.

Beware: You may find yourself interjecting your own opinion into the debate and the other people on the train may look at you strangely…

Recommended Episode: (106) LGBTQ+ Fandom – Canon, Non-Canon, Ships and All- For all fangirls and boys who want more representation in their fave media, this is the podcast for you. IMO Criminal Minds needs to feature some queer characters who are neither victims nor criminals.

Looking for a story: Alice Isn’t Dead

Actors Jasika Nicole and Joseph Fink. Credit: Nina Subin

Last month, I made a 14-hour return coach trip for my five-year uni reunion and I wanted something to keep me distracted enough that I wouldn’t have to use the bathroom (because ever since a horrible trip to Miami in 2011, I never use coach bathrooms).

That’s how I found the Alice Isn’t Dead Podcast, a serial fictional drama about a long-haul truck driver (played by Jasika Nicole) searching for her missing wife. Will she find her? What happened to her?

I am the worst person for accidentally blurting out spoilers- and I’ve listened to the entire podcast- so I won’t go into detail but oh my god, this is incredible. It kept me hooked from the beginning and when I met up with my friend at the end of my coach journey, I might have asked if I could just finish the episode before we started our catch up.

Recommended Episode: Part 1, Chapter 1- Omelet- As this is a fictional story, it’s best to begin at the beginning but don’t worry, the tension is high from the offset.

Looking for sassy politics: Throwing Shade

Via goo.gl/vFQZFp

 

If you’ve been sitting in the airport bar, staring at cable news on mute, and wishing it was socially acceptable to cuss out the Fox News hosts in public, then do me a favor; walk out of the bar, find somewhere to sit and play an episode of Throwing Shade.

Hosts Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi are not afraid to talk about the important issues facing the LGBTQ+ community and women in the 21st Century, with the exact right amount of sarcasm and skepticism. Honestly, it’s like listening to good friends calling out politicians, institutions, and the general public for failing to achieve justice for marginalized groups.

They may bill themselves as “a weekly podcast taking all the issues important to ladies and gays and treating them with much less respect than they deserve,” but they still do a much better job than certain politicians and journalists.

Recommended Episode: TS284: Dog Songs, FGM, Trump and LGBTQ issues- How does Donald Trump fair on a podcast called Throwing Shade? Not too well surprisingly, but it sure is fun to hear him being dragged through the mud.

Looking for music: Homoground

The Homoground Team. Photos taken by Moon Cloud.

Travelling is tiring and sometimes you just need to stick in your headphones and let the music take you away, but what if you could discover new music by LGBTQ+ artists at the same time?

That’s where Homoground comes in.

I listen to Homoground whenever I need a break from the outside world; whether that’s sitting on the floor of a bus station waiting to be picked up after a full day of travelling, leaning against the wall while waiting for my suitcase to appear on the luggage carousel, or when I just don’t want to hear the opinions of my fellow coach travelers.

Tune in, turn up, chill out.

Recommended Episode: #MIXTAPE126 – Gender is Over! If You Want It- If the gender police are getting you down, then play this punk-filled podcast loud and proud.

Originally posted 2017-08-23 11:24:30.

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Gay Relationship Timeline

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Friends, allies and other distinguished readers, there is an inherent truth to some particular types of relationships. Specifically, the idea that there will be confusion over the timeline in general and, in particular, the transitional period from being lovers to partners. Normally this would be the stuff of romcoms, but we all know how Hollywood can stuff it when it comes to understanding certain types of relationships.

And by “certain types”, it is “all of them.”

So as a public service, TravelPride will set out a timeline for how the transitional period ought to be mapped out. Keep in mind that every relationship is different, so these guidelines are meant to be taken with a grain of salt. Also, it should be understood that the marker for Day 1 is the day where there is the love confession and acceptance. With that in mind, here is the timeline:

  • Day 30: This the beginning stage of being a full-time lover, not a Stevie Wonder song. Do something nice on this day, like maybe go see a movie or take in a local baseball game/soccer match. During this time, look for some subtle hints from your boyfriend about the possibility of something that is more long-term. This sometimes comes in the form of the occasional staring off into the distance, as if he was doing method acting for an obscure indie film. Make note of it, in accordance with your own good judgment.
  • Day 60: At this point, the prospects of you two becoming partners should be considered as a possibility in the near future. If he wants to have a discussion about such a thing, do so in a way that ensures a more-or-less neutral disposition. This is not to say that you should be oblique; if there are issues, do not be afraid to speak your mind about them. Whatever conclusions are reached, keep them in mind as your relationship moves forward.
  • Day 90: If you believe it to be worthwhile, feel free to introduce your boyfriend to your family. Depending on the circumstances, this may require a certain kind of diplomatic language when it comes to your older relatives. Unless you have a drunk uncle (which all families have, to be honest), then all bets are off. And while TravelPride does not wish to support or even condone physical violence, sharp-witted insults are encouraged. Here are some links to a few collections in order to gel both of your imaginations.
  • Day 180: As you post the six months’ anniversary collage on Facebook, ask yourselves these questions: “Do I truly want a long-term commitment? Does he want to be seen as a partner instead of a boyfriend? And what coffee shop are we going to for breakfast on Saturday?” If your answers to the first two questions are Yes, then you should consider your boyfriend as a full-fledged partner and tell him as such. And while you’re at it, use Yelp to ask the third.
  • Day 365: At this point, he is a partner of yours. If you can, invite him to move into your place. If he accepts your proposition, it means that he has also acknowledged the maturation and progress of the relationship. Then again, the two of you will probably have to split the money spent on moving fees, because that ain’t cheap.
  • Day 730: For God’s sake, just go ahead and propose already! Unless you have serious reservations about the relationship, however. In that case, seek the advice of professional help as soon as reasonably possible. You can’t be too careful about this sort of thing.

Originally posted 2017-08-02 17:45:10.


Also published on Medium.

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For the Love of House Music

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House Music is uplifting, joyous, and free. Queer and like to dance? You will find a dance/music community in place no matter where you are in the world. Grooving to House Music is my thing. I enter the sanctuary of House to re-energize. It’s been that way since we were introduced in 1979. She’s carried me over some rough patches, times when I felt like I was losing the ground underneath my feet.  

House Has Carried Me Through

In 2005, while ‘‘Cool Cat’ my daddy was in the Burn Unit of Detroit Receiving hospital, I’d go to Agave on Sunday’s after visiting hours to build up my faith. Even though Cool Cat didn’t make it out of Receiving alive, I danced for him to be at peace and out of unimaginable pain experienced through a comatose state. He left the day after my 41st birthday.House music and vibing with community helped me to make it through.

My love affair with alcohol ended, I would carry two bottles of ice-water in my backpack to avoid losing my space by one of the speakers, wasting time to go to the bar. I didn’t want to miss a minute of dancing. Agave, never disappointed, I’d dance for Cool Cat while sending up prayers.   

Dance Away The Stress

House spells relief for many people after a hard week on the grind. People who love good music come out to dance their cares away. House is as freeing as it is healing. House is a connector of people. At any spot where House runs deep, you will find a mixed crowd. House Music pulls diverse crowds. You’ll find an eclectic mix of queer and str8, along with various races and ethnicities jamming together.  They will be vibing and getting high from the beats banging through the speakers and the poetry flowing from tracks.

House is for beating back the blues, through verse that grabs your spirit reminding you that you’re worthy. Finding self and self-love are frequent in the songs that dare you not to feel empowered and encouraged. House is also fluid.  When master mixologists house cuts use tribal beats and anything 1970s, I go on a spiritual journey.  

Sunday Tea Parties

One criticism I have of the Queer community is that we don’t hang out enough. Sunday Tea Parties were prevalent in the 1970s and in some places they’re making a comeback. Tea Parties worked because they were open and welcoming to the queer community and allies. In Detroit, Michigan from 2000-2006  as a member of Sistas Providing Intelligence and Creativity (S.P.I.C.E.), I helped throw some stellar afternoon events. Mimosas flowed and the food was good. In between eating, laughing, and catching up we gathered on the dance floor to throw down to House music.

Giving It All Up To The Feeling

An extensive list of Detroit deejays has held my heart since 9th grade.  Growing up with music pioneers. and being exposed to alternative music stores shaped my music tastes. It opened me up to the Worldwide House Movement. House music keeps this “Queer Diva”, moving to the beat. House is cool for a plethora of reasons. If you can keep the beat, you’re good. Go where the music takes you without fear of judgment. You don’t need a dance partner. I’m far from shy and when a good song comes up, I’m on the floor. House allows that. Dance by yourself, in the mirror or next to a speaker to take in more bass (if you’re like me), whatevs — do you. You can dance alone without worrying about someone inviting themselves into your personal space. You can feel the love of community when a dope song drops. If it’s a throwback song, House lovers make eye contact with knowing glances and head nods.  A complete blast.

House is happy it’s liberating and it’s needed in the world we live in. House Music makes things a little better.

 

Originally posted 2017-07-30 18:00:18.

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