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A New York Times Notable Book • A New York Times Critics’ Top Book of the Year • An NPR Best Book of the Year • A TIME Best Book of the Year • A Wall Street Journal Best Book of the Year • A Boston Globe Best Book of the Year • An Entertainment Weekly Best Book of the Year • A Seventeen Best Book of the Year • A Southern Living Best Book of the Year • A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year • A Booklist Editors' Choice Selection • A BookPage Best Book of the Year • An SLJ Best Book of the Year • An A.V. Club Best Book of the Year • A Bustle Best Book of the Year • A BuzzFeed Best Book of the Year • A Pop Sugar Best Book of the Year • A Vulture Best Book of the Year
#1 New York Times Bestseller • #1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller • #1 International Bestseller
Featured on 60 Minutes, Fresh Air, Studio 360, Good Morning America, The TODAY Show
“A tender story about learning to cope when the world feels out of control.” —People
“Green finds the language to describe the indescribable. . . . A must-read for those struggling with mental illness, or for their friends and family.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A powerful tale for teens (and adults) about anxiety, love and friendship.” —The LosAngeles Times
“Wrenching and Revelatory.” —The New York Times
“Tender, wise, and hopeful.” —The Wall Street Journal
“A new modern classic.” —The Guardian
“A thoughtful look at mental illness and a debilitating obsessive-compulsive disorder that doesn’t ask but makes you feel the constant struggles of its main character.’” —USA Today
“Turtles delivers a lesson that we so desperately need right now: Yes, it is okay not to be okay…. John Green has crafted a dynamic novel that is deeply honest, sometimes painful, and always thoughtful.” —Mashable
“Green does more than write about; he endeavours to write inside…. No matter where you are on the spiral—and we’re all somewhere—Green’s novel makes the trip, either up or down, a less solitary experience.” —The Globe and Mail
“This novel is by far [Green’s] most difficult to read. It’s also his most astonishing. . . . So surprising and moving and true that I became completely unstrung. . . . One needn’t be suffering like Aza to identify with it. One need only be human.” —Jennifer Senior, The New York Times
“Green’s most authentic and most ambitious work to date.” —Bustle
“An existential teenage scream.” —Vox
“Funny, clever, and populated with endearing characters.” —Entertainment Weekly
“An incredibly powerful tale of the pain of mental illness, the pressures of youth, and coming of age when you feel like you’re coming undone.” —Shelf Awareness
★ “A richly rewarding read…the most mature of Green’s work to date and deserving of all the accolades that are sure to come its way.” —Booklist
★ “In an age where troubling events happen almost weekly, this deeply empathetic novel about learning to live with demons and love one’s imperfect self is timely and important.” —Publishers Weekly
★ “A deeply resonant and powerful novel that will inform and enlighten readers even as it breaks their hearts. A must-buy.” —School Library Journal
Praise for John Green
- 50 million books in print worldwide -
#1 New York Times Bestseller
#1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller
#1 USA Today Bestseller
#1 International Bestseller
★ Michael L. Printz Award Winner
★ Michael L. Printz Honor Winner
★ Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist
★ TIME 100 Most Influential People
★ Forbes Celebrity 100
★ NPR's 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels
★ TIME Magazine's 100 Best Young Adult Books of All Time
Critical acclaim for The Fault in Our Stars:
“Damn near genius . . . The Fault in Our Stars is a love story, one of the most genuine and moving ones in recent American fiction, but it’s also an existential tragedy of tremendous intelligence and courage and sadness.” —Lev Grossman, TIME Magazine
“This is a book that breaks your heart—not by wearing it down, but by making it bigger until it bursts.” —The Atlantic
“Remarkable . . . A pitch-perfect, elegiac comedy.” —USA Today
“[Green’s] voice is so compulsively readable that it defies categorization. You will be thankful for the little infinity you spend inside this book.” —NPR.org
“John Green deftly mixes the profound and the quotidian in this tough, touching valentine to the human spirit.” —The Washington Post
“[Green] shows us true love—two teenagers helping and accepting each other through the most humiliating physical and emotional ordeals—and it is far more romantic than any sunset on the beach.” —New York Times Book Review
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
At the time I first realized I might be fictional, my weekdays were spent at a publicly funded institution on the north side of Indianapolis called White River High School, where I was required to eat lunch at a particular time—between 12:37 p.m. and 1:14 p.m.—by forces so much larger than myself that I couldn’t even begin to identify them. If those forces had given me a different lunch period, or if the tablemates who helped author my fate had chosen a different topic of conversation that September day, I would’ve met a different end—or at least a different middle. But I was -beginning to learn that your life is a story told about you, not one that you tell.
Of course, you pretend to be the author. You have to. You think, I now choose to go to lunch, when that monotone beep rings from on high at 12:37. But really, the bell decides. You think you’re the painter, but you’re the canvas.
Hundreds of voices were shouting over one another in the cafeteria, so that the conversation became mere sound, the rushing of a river over rocks. And as I sat beneath fluorescent cylinders spewing aggressively artificial light, I thought about how we all believed ourselves to be the hero of some personal epic, when in fact we were basically identical organisms colonizing a vast and windowless room that smelled of Lysol and lard.
I was eating a peanut butter and honey sandwich and drinking a Dr Pepper. To be honest, I find the whole process of masticating plants and animals and then shoving them down my esophagus kind of disgusting, so I was trying not to think about the fact that I was eating, which is a form of thinking about it.
Across the table from me, Mychal Turner was scribbling in a yellow-paper notebook. Our lunch table was like a long-running play on Broadway: The cast changed over the years, but the roles never did. Mychal was The Artsy One. He was talking with Daisy Ramirez, who’d played the role of my Best and Most Fearless Friend since elementary school, but I couldn’t follow their conversation over the noise of all the others.
What was my part in this play? The Sidekick. I was Daisy’s Friend, or Ms. Holmes’s Daughter. I was somebody’s something.
I felt my stomach begin to work on the sandwich, and even over everybody’s talking, I could hear it digesting, all the bacteria chewing the slime of peanut butter—the students inside of me eating at my internal cafeteria. A shiver convulsed through me.
“Didn’t you go to camp with him?” Daisy asked me.
“Davis Pickett,” she said.
“Yeah,” I said. “Why?”
“Aren’t you listening?” Daisy asked. I am listening, I thought, to the cacophony of my digestive tract. Of course I’d long known that I was playing host to a massive collection of parasitic organisms, but I didn’t much like being reminded of it. By cell count, humans are approximately 50 percent microbial, meaning that about half of the cells that make you up are not yours at all. There are something like a thousand times more microbes living in my particular biome than there are human beings on earth, and it often seems like I can feel them living and breeding and dying in and on me. I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans and tried to control my breathing. Admittedly, I have some anxiety problems, but I would argue it isn’t irrational to be concerned about the fact that you are a skin-encased bacterial colony.
Mychal said, “His dad was about to be arrested for bribery or something, but the night before the raid he disappeared. There’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward out for him.”
“And you know his kid,” Daisy said.
“Knew him,” I answered.
I watched Daisy attack her school-provided rectangular pizza and green beans with a fork. She kept glancing up at me, her eyes widening as if to say, Well ? I could tell she wanted me to ask her about something, but I couldn’t tell what, because my stomach wouldn’t shut up, which was forcing me deep inside a worry that I’d somehow contracted a parasitic infection.
I could half hear Mychal telling Daisy about his new art project, in which he was using Photoshop to average the faces of a hundred people named Mychal, and the average of their faces would be this new, one-hundred-and-first Mychal, which was an interesting idea, and I wanted to listen, but the cafeteria was so loud, and I couldn’t stop wondering whether there was something wrong with the microbial balance of power inside me.
Excessive abdominal noise is an uncommon, but not unprecedented, presenting symptom of infection with the bacteria Clostridium difficile, which can be fatal. I pulled out my phone and searched “human microbiome” to reread Wikipedia’s introduction to the trillions of microorganisms currently inside me. I clicked over to the article about C. diff, scrolling to the part about how most C. diff infections occur in hospitals. I scrolled down farther to a list of symptoms, none of which I had, except for the excessive abdominal noises, although I knew from previous searches that the Cleveland Clinic had reported the case of one person who’d died of C. diff after presenting at the hospital with only abdominal pain and fever. I reminded myself that I didn’t have a fever, and my self replied: You don’t have a fever YET.
At the cafeteria, where a shrinking slice of my consciousness still resided, Daisy was telling Mychal that his averaging project shouldn’t be about people named Mychal but about imprisoned men who’d later been exonerated. “It’ll be easier, anyway,” she said, “because they all have mug shots taken from the same angle, and then it’s not just about names but about race and class and mass incarceration,” and Mychal was like, “You’re a genius, Daisy,” and she said, “You sound surprised,” and meanwhile I was thinking that if half the cells inside of you are not you, doesn’t that challenge the whole notion of me as a singular pronoun, let alone as the author of my fate? And I fell pretty far down that recursive wormhole until it transported me completely out of the White River High School cafeteria into some non-sensorial place only properly crazy people get to visit.
Ever since I was little, I’ve pressed my right thumbnail into the finger pad of my middle finger, and so now there’s this weird callus over my fingerprint. After so many years of doing this, I can open up a crack in the skin really easily, so I cover it up with a Band-Aid to try to prevent infection. But sometimes I get worried that there already is an infection, and so I need to drain it, and the only way to do that is to reopen the wound and press out any blood that will come. Once I start thinking about splitting the skin apart, I literally cannot not do it. I apologize for the double negative, but it’s a real double negative of a situation, a bind from which negating the negation is truly the only escape. So anyway, I started to want to feel my thumbnail biting into the skin of my finger pad, and I knew that resistance was more or less futile, so beneath the cafeteria table, I slipped the Band-Aid off my finger and dug my thumbnail into the callused skin until I felt the crack open.
“Holmesy,” Daisy said. I looked up at her. “We’re almost through lunch and you haven’t even mentioned my hair.” She shook out her hair, with so-red-they-were-pink highlights. Right. She’d dyed her hair.
I swum up out of the depths and said, “It’s bold.”
“I know, right? It says, ‘Ladies and gentlemen and also people who do not identify as ladies or gentlemen, Daisy Ramirez won’t break her promises, but she will break your heart.” Daisy’s self-proclaimed life motto was “Break Hearts, Not Promises.” She kept threatening to get it tattooed on her ankle when she turned eighteen. Daisy turned back to Mychal, and I to my thoughts. The stomach grumbling had grown, if anything, louder. I felt like I might vomit. For someone who actively dislikes bodily fluids, I throw up quite a lot.
“Holmesy, you okay?” Daisy asked. I nodded. Sometimes I wondered why she liked me, or at least tolerated me. Why any of them did. Even I found myself annoying.
I could feel sweat sprouting from my forehead, and once I begin to sweat, it’s impossible to stop. I’ll keep sweating for hours, and not just my face or my armpits. My neck sweats. My boobs sweat. My calves sweat. Maybe I did have a fever.
Beneath the table, I slid the old Band-Aid into my pocket and, without looking, pulled out a new one, unwrapped it, and then glanced down to apply it to my finger. All the while, I was breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth, in the manner advised by Dr. Karen Singh, exhaling at a pace “that would make a candle flicker but not go out. Imagine that candle, Aza, flickering from your breath but still there, always there.” So I tried that, but the thought spiral kept tightening anyway. I could hear Dr. Singh saying I shouldn’t get out my phone, that I mustn’t look up the same questions over and over, but I got it out anyway, and reread the “Human Microbiota” Wikipedia article.
The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.
I sealed the Ziploc bag around the last quarter of my sandwich, got up, and tossed it into an overfilled trash can. I heard a voice from behind me. “How concerned should I be that you haven’t said more than two words in a row all day?”
“Thought spiral,” I mumbled in reply. Daisy had known me since we were six, long enough to get it.
“I figured. Sorry, man. Let’s hang out today.”
This girl Molly walked up to us, smiling, and said, “Uh, Daisy, just FYI, your Kool-Aid dye job is staining your shirt.”
Daisy looked down at her shoulders, and indeed, her striped top had turned pink in spots. She flinched for a second, then straightened her spine. “Yeah, it’s part of the look, Molly. Stained shirts are huge in Paris right now.” She turned away from Molly and said, “Right, so we’ll go to your house and watch Star Wars: Rebels.” Daisy was really into Star Wars—and not just the movies, but also the books and the animated shows and the kids’ show where they’re all made out of Lego. Like, she wrote fan fiction about Chewbacca’s love life. “And we will improve your mood until you are able to say three or even four words in a row; sound good?”
“And then you can take me to work. Sorry, but I need a ride.”
“Okay.” I wanted to say more, but the thoughts kept coming, unbidden and unwanted. If I’d been the author, I would’ve stopped thinking about my microbiome. I would’ve told Daisy how much I liked her idea for Mychal’s art project, and I would’ve told her that I did remember Davis Pickett, that I remembered being eleven and carrying a vague but constant fear. I would’ve told her that I remembered once at camp lying next to Davis on the edge of a dock, our legs dangling over, our backs against the rough-hewn planks of wood, staring together up at a cloudless summer sky. I would’ve told her that Davis and I never talked much, or even looked at each other, but it didn’t matter, because we were looking at the same sky together, which is maybe more intimate than eye contact anyway. Anybody can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.--This text refers to the hardcover edition.
- File Size : 1834 KB
- Publication Date : October 10, 2017
- Publisher : Dutton Books for Young Readers (October 10, 2017)
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print Length : 299 pages
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B072SSMC4H
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #24,222 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Now that you are utterly confused, read on if any one you love struggles with mental illness.
I hated this book for a lot of reasons. I hated it because the characters in it bug the crap out of me. Worse than some of the more annoying people in my real life. I hated it because there are things stylistically I wanted from this author, because he is one of my favorite authors, and those things, stylistically, were not really there.
I hate it because my greatest fear in life is of spiraling into uncontrollable mental illness, and the book puts you inside the head of someone who has a spiraling mental illness, and it does so with just an eerie amount of accuracy, and I don't want to be inside that spiral. It is too scary inside that spiral.
And I hate this book most of all because some of the people I love most in life, people who truly own parts of my soul, live inside that spiral far too often, and it hurts deep down to be reminded of that. I don't like to read books that make me hurt. I usually avoid them at all costs. If I start one, and discover it is that kind of book, I don't often finish it.
But this book is by John Green, with whom I have a relationship that is hard to explain. Because so much of the history minutiae I have memorized is from Crash Course videos, he is the voice inside my head when I think of history. He is much smarter than me, which I admire, and a phenomenal writer, which I envy. So I had to finish the book.
I absolutely love this book because revealing your inner demons in such vivid reality is incredibly brave, and that makes him a hero in my eyes. John Green suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (which is not ever named in the book, but it is painted in horrifically detailed words throughout). People don't talk about mental illness enough, but here he is revealing his inmost self. And yes, it is him. He has been doing interviews about it and whatnot. The doctor the protagonist sees in the book is even similarly named to his own doctor, whom he thanks in the acknowledgements. John Green has a credibility with teenagers that is pretty hard to establish, and as a result, millions of teenagers are going to read this book. That might not seem a small thing, but it might mean that perhaps the world will understand mental illness just a little bit better. For that, John Green is my hero.
Read at your own risk.
And I am still crying.
It’s the most powerful and open book about mental illness that I have read, and it’s required reading for everyone, but especially those who don’t understand the intensity of OCD and extreme anxiety. It is unlike any of his other work, but it’s still funny and it’s still so so sad, but it’s also Green’s OWN struggle.
Go read his interview with NYT and try to tell me you didn’t want to cry.
And if I see even ONE “but it’s not like TFIOS” whiny review…….don’t get me started.
Read this book. Work through the discomfort. Honor his pain.
It was like reading an autobiography (that someone else wrote for me).
Change the fear of bacteria to the fear of losing loved ones, and that is my life.
Turtles all the way down.
I don't think there is any other novel I have read in recent past that struct such perfect cord.
* Love is not a tragedy or a failure, but a gift.
* You remember your first love because they show you, prove to you, that you can love and be loved, that nothing in this world is deserved except for love, that love is both how you become a person, and why.
* I would never slay the dragon, because the dragon was also me.
* To be alive is to be missing.
* The problem with happy endings is that they're either not really happy, or not really ending.
* You're the storyteller and the story told.
* The world is also the stories we tell about it.
* I remember what I've imagined and imagine what I remember.
* Thoughts are just a different kind of bacteria, colonizing you.
* I knew how disgusting I was. I knew. I knew now for sure. I wasn't possessed by a demon. I was the demon.
* What I love about science is that as you learn, you don't really get answers. You just get better questions.
* I couldn't make myself happy, but I could make people around me miserable.
* One of the defining features of parent is that they don't get paid to love you.
* Being vulnerable is asking to get used.
* Maybe I am just a lie that I am whispering to myself.
* Your now is not your forever.
* In some ways, pain is the opposite of language.
* Illness is a story told in past tense.
* I don't mind worries. Worrying is the correct worldview. Life is worrisome.
* We are about to live the American Dream, which is, of course, to benefit from someone else's misfortune.
* Anybody can look at you. It's quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.
Top reviews from other countries
What’s it about?
Turtles All the Way Down is about Aza and her best friend Daisy who discover that a billionaire in their town has gone missing. Not only that, there’s a huge reward for anyone who can help locate him. And not only that, Aza used to be good friends with his son. Aza and Davis become close and have to navigate through their relationship and their own issues, including Aza’s severe OCD and mental health problems.
Admittedly, it wasn’t the most riveting storyline in terms of action. The billionaire storyline probably wasn’t strictly needed but unlike so many others, I actually really liked it winding through the main elements which is firmly Aza’s OCD and anxiety (more on that later). I thought the missing billionaire element could have been a bit “more” but I also understand that it was more about Davis and his brother, Noah’s reaction to their negligent, missing dad rather than the dad himself.
Mental health & Aza
John Green did an amazing job with Aza. Written from her point of view, you get a real, raw sense of what it’s like being in the mind of someone with OCD. Although I have anxiety, I don’t have OCD nor do I know too much about it and the thought processes that people with the condition have on a daily basis. But this book truly made me understand more. If you’re one of those people that say something is, “a little bit OCD” then I would highly suggest you read this book because I guarantee you will stop saying something so insensitive after reading it. It was heart-breaking at times, seeing Aza’s constant struggle with her own mind.
It’s quite obvious that Green went through extensive research for this character and her condition. We’ve all read books with mental health themes which weren’t sensitive or accurate and generally just got it really wrong but John Green knows what he’s doing, he understands and you can tell that straight away from this book. He doesn’t try and make Aza anything she’s not. She is what she is, thinks how she thinks and that’s that, we take her or leave her but we’re also led to sympathise with her and really feel for her as a character.
Aside from Aza who I’ve gone in to, I absolutely loved Aza’s best friend Daisy, she had such a huge personality and was probably my favourite character in the whole book – she’s the kind of person I’d love to be friends with myself (she also writes Star Wars fan fiction,what more could you want?) She’s a huge contrast to Aza, in fact the complete opposite and despite the fact they clash quite heavily in one part of the book, I think it makes them better friends that they are so different.
I would have liked to read more about Davis and know him more because on the surface, he’s a really interesting and intriguing character. He’s clearly quite lost in himself and in life – perhaps because of growing up a billionaire’s son and not having a mum but I liked the insights into his blog and his poetry.
There wasn’t many more main-ish characters but I think the characters such as Aza’s mum and her psychologist were very well written but also very annoying but I think that was intentional, especially because the book was written in Aza’s POV. From my own anxiety experiences, I know that people can come across as annoying when dealing with your mental health, even though their intentions are well.
After such a long wait, I personally was not disappointed in the slightest with Turtles All the Way Down. As always, it captures Green’s beautiful way with words and his immaculate ability to make you think about yourself and life in completely different ways. It was effortlessly written and effortless to read – it was without a doubt the quickest book I’ve read all year and I’m not a fast reader. Although it’s not the most action-packed and riveting book, it packs a punch, delivers a message and it made me think about the idea of the “self”, of our thoughts and actions and what it means to love and miss people. Nothing I say will do this book justice for me. I adored every bit of it.
― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down
Wow. This book was stunning. Hard to read (trigger warnings for OCD and anxiety), but Jesus, did it feel healing at the same time.
John Green wrote the shit out of this book. The way mental health was portrayed through Aza was excruciating, harrowing and educational to read about and it still made me feel that though the stigma might have lessened a bit, the understanding of this subject is narrow.
I felt this book to my core. I was there with Aza when she was spiralling out of control, her mind constantly pulling her in different directions, finding no centre, the constant doubt hurling you further into finding no fixed point, so that you may breathe and focus.
I've so much admiration for Green for writing so openly in this book. It was so raw and bleak and the ugly side of mental health truly came to live, because that's how it is and what it can manifest into.
And though, it may seem difficult to find hope, a way to see the light at the end of the tunnel that seems never-reaching, it is there. It is tangible and can be found.
While the previous novel featured teenagers suffering from terminal illnesses, Aza too suffers from sickness, only it’s a form of mental illness. A very tricky and sensitive subject, but so relevant among the young these days. Thankfully, Green is adept enough not to turn Aza into a tired stereotype and poster girl for someone who trumps over her illness and lives happy ever after. The novel is narrated from her point of view so the reader develops a strong sense of empathy over her seemingly irrational fears of being infected with C-diff, and being hyper aware of her body being made up of microorganisms that she has no control over. So far, those are the good points.
High school is a difficult place to navigate for any teenager, so it is a minefield for Aza, with the added burden of OCD and paranoia. So it is a little unreal how much of her school experience is ellipted from the narrative, sheltered as she is by protective best friend Daisy, whose sidekick role is given quite a boost with her Star Wars fanfic writer status and of course fearless nature, and her motto “Break hearts not promises”. Given the main storyline promises to be about the two Nancy Drews trying to solve the case of a missing multi-millionaire, who just happens to be the father of one of Aza’s childhood friend, the story almost takes a turn in that direction, and yet it doesn’t, not really. Instead a budding love story eclipses that story arc, but then Green is also keen to throw in the buddy relationship between Aza and Daisy, so that takes over some two-thirds in as well.
It seems with this novel, Green is attempting to keep too many balls in the air all at once, which makes it only a matter of time that some inconsistencies get through. I can’t quite understand how someone with acute OCD and who gargles antiseptic hand soap to get rid of germs she is afraid of ingesting from kissing someone, could be fine with jumping into an unsterilised pool in the biting cold, and then just drying off without a shower to wander around her boyfriend's house after that. She also wanders through an underground art gallery in a rat-infested tunnel at one point with Daisy. These instances seem quite glaring to me, given Aza’s struggle with these issues is so integral to the plot and her characterisation.
Nonetheless, I would still give this novel 3.5 stars for the memorable lines and strong dialogue.
John Green took me on a rollercoaster of emotions. I was laughing at the character interaction between Aza and her best friend, Daisy. And then I was crying at how much Aza's character was fighting a lonely battle with her inner demon. It was heart-wrenching at times and I hoped for a quick fix for her, but as I found out, that's not easy with mental illness. There is a part of me that was disappointed with how the story ended and I was going to leave this story 4/5 but I now realise that Aza's battle with her demon would be long-lasting. There is no fast cure for what she feels and we were left knowing that she would go on fighting way after the last turn of the page.
There were some comical character interactions between Daisy and Aza which helped to throw in some lighter moments to the quite 'harrowing' read. The characters are brilliantly written and likeable. I love that each character has their own feel to them and I read with both tears in my eyes and a smile on my face.
With every spiral that Aza battled I felt every twist and turn and understood the intensity of struggle to remain normal and to ignore her invasive thoughts; especially when she tries to have a romantic relationship with Davis.
All in all, this book was a very interesting read and I can see how it could help a lot of people who are in the same boat as our main character. Even if it gives them words to show their family/friends so they can get a better understanding of what they go through.
I would highly recommend this book!
I read the book in one day and immediately told my parents to get it and read it and now we have a common frame of reference when I explain what's going on in my head on bad days.
I am 31, my parents are in their 60's, so no, this is not just for young adults but for everyone. With or without mental healt issues.