John Green’s New Novel Helped Him Figure Out His Own Mental Illness

In a visit to AM to DM, Green talked about pulling from
his early struggles with OCD to write the main character of
Turtles All The Way Down.

Posted on October 10, 2017, 20:07 GMT

The book follows 16-year-old Aza Holmes — who, like Green, has
OCD and anxiety — as she tries to solve the mystery of a missing
local billionaire. Green said he wanted to write a detective
story in which the detective’s obsessiveness is “distinctly
unhelpful” in trying to solve the case.

“A lot of times, detectives are portrayed as obsessive, and
that’s somehow linked to their observational genius,” Green
said. “But that’s completely opposite to my experience having
OCD, which is that when I’m really sick I can’t notice anything
outside of the world of myself.”

Green also spoke about the importance of finding ways to
describe mental illness, so that those who live with it (and
those close to someone who does) can better understand what
they’re going through. He said he wrote the book “in the wake
of an extended period of unwellness” and that doing so helped
him make sense of what he’s been dealing with since he was a

“One of the terrifying things about psychic pain is that it’s
so abstract,” he said. “You can’t talk about it the way you
talk about a table. That makes it all the more isolating, for
me at least, and also scary.”

And yes, if you’re wondering, it is a coincidence — “amazingly
enough,” according to Green — that this book is coming out on
World Mental Health Day.

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