A Writer’s Review: Turtles All the Way Down

I finished reading Turtles All the Way Down back in October 2017, but as this week is Mental Health Awareness Week, I felt it was a perfect time to share my thoughts on John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down. In the past, John’s been very open about his OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). And in Turtles, OCD is something the main character Aza suffers from. Mental health is a huge issue, and it can be surprising to see the statistics on how many people struggle with a mental illness. I’m sure a good portion of those that read Turtles don’t struggle with OCD, but there would also be some that do.

Everyone struggles with OCD in different ways. The character Aza has obsessive thoughts about germs which leads to a physical compulsion to dig her fingernail into a callus on her finger. Those thoughts are irrational and yet inescapable, and due to the nature of OCD, she is unable to eliminate those thoughts from her mind. If you’ve every seen a YouTube video by John Green where he talks about mental health or other videos about mental health, they always say talk to someone. Not only does talking to someone provide an outlet for support, but for someone suffering from mental health it can also provide perspective. That’s exactly why my review for Turtles All the Way Down is a positive one, because that’s exactly what this book and other well written novels on mental health do well; provide perspective.

No one case of mental health is the same, even with an identical label like depression, OCD, anxiety, bipolar. Turtles gives a perspective through the eyes of Aza and her struggle with OCD. It allows the reader to experience the feelings going on inside her head. But unlike many novels that centre around mental health, it doesn’t demonise mental illness, nor does it romanticise it. Rather, it’s a tool for those who suffer from a mental illness to realise that others struggle with the same things they do. It gives them hope that they can continue living their life—even through the ups and downs—just as the main character does. It shows people that they’re not owned by their mental illness and there are ways of combatting it. And it also shows they’re able to maintain friendships even in the rough patches they might face. Not only does this book give an example for those who suffer from mental illness, but it’s also an informative tool for those who don’t.

This book gives those who don’t necessarily deal with a mental illness—or at least those who don’t suffer from OCD—an insight into the thoughts of someone who does. And the insight Turtles gives can be adapted to many mental illnesses in a non specific way. It shows that people who have issues with mental health can’t always control certain aspects of their lives, that they don’t choose to have their illness and they don’t want to suffer the way they do. It also shows the guilt they can feel when their illness has an impact on someone else.

I think this is a wonderful book, not only because of its exciting storyline—of chasing after a missing billionaire or links to New Zealand with the reference of a Tuatara—but because of its positive light for mental health. Showing it from a more human perspective rather than a clinical one. I hope to see more novels come out in this subject matter, aside from the fact it’s a subject I like to write about and is something I personally have to deal with, it’s a conversation that needs to be continued. More, and more.
– Michael Topschij.

A Nerd’s Review: The iPhone XS

From the hyped-up keynote to the adrenaline filled pre-order evening, I finally got in my hands the all new iPhone XS Max. This year Apple introduced three new models to the iPhone X lineup, and two of those were the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. The only difference between the two is battery life and screen size. The iPhone XS Max is just about the same size as the iPhone 6 Plus, 7 Plus and 8 Plus—and so, it’s a familiar size for many plus owners. The only difference, it’s essentially all screen! This was what I wanted when the iPhone X was released this time last year. I wanted an all screen plus-sized iPhone, but instead, I settled for the smaller brother. At least, until now.

My first thought about this year’s announcements, was that there wasn’t much to cover. Until I wrote myself a list and realised (for an “S” year upgrade) there’s actually quite a number of improvements. Apart from the larger display on the iPhone XS Max, there’s also stronger glass (for all you clumsy phone owners), faster speeds with the new A12 Bionic chip, iP68 water/dust resistance, gigabit LTE, dual sim support, improved battery, huge updates to the camera and much more.

The camera is by far where the iPhone XS saw the most improvements. I took a trip to Lake Tekapo in the South Island of New Zealand and put the new camera through its paces. Not only was battery life on the phone impressive, but the shots and videos that came out were certainly a new standard (for what can be captured from something that goes in your pocket).

The updates to the iPhone 8 over the iPhone 7 weren’t huge, and I felt it didn’t justify a new title (but rather should’ve been the iPhone 7S). But, this is certainly for me one of the biggest updates in an “S” year. I’m looking forward to seeing what Apple brings to the table next, like the rumoured iPad Pro that mirrors the new standard of bezel-less design (even if technology hasn’t advanced enough to eliminate that pesky notch).

– Michael Topschij.

A Writer’s Rant: Sydney Opera House

A close friend and I recently took a day trip to Sydney Australia to see the sights and be stock standard tourists. After making our way out from the airport on public transport, we went and visited the Sydney Opera House. I’d only visited once before when I came to Sydney for the iPhone 6 release.

I’m an avid photographer and wannabe vlogger so I was taking lots of photos/videos with my iPhone. One other thing I was using was a video stabiliser which is really just a selfie stick that helps keep videos from being too shaky.

DJI Osmo Mobile – My Selfie Stick 😎

Around the right side of the Opera House (an area with a lot less foot traffic) a security guard came up to us and asked us how we were doing. He then asked if he could take a look at the photos I was taking “for security purposes”. He also said that no “professional” photography is allowed. I didn’t immediately show him my photos, and I said like every other person there we were taking photos of a landmark. I also asked if he was going up to ever other person with an iPhone, and asking them to show him their photos.

Eventually I begrudgingly showed him the selfies and shots of myself and my friend. Within a second of looking at my screen he said to me; “see, that’s fine. Just cooperate.” He walked off as I said to him I felt that was stupid and over the line. He agreed and shrugged his shoulders.

– Michael Topschij.

A Writer’s Review: Challenger Deep

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman was a tremendously written alternative approach to mental health. Neal used a method of portraying our main character’s mental anguish as a somewhat split storyline, that eventually for the reader started to tie together and make sense. It alternated between Caden’s real life and a fictional-fictional journey to Challenger Deep. As I came to the end of the book, I started to have moments of “oh I get it now” and “oh that’s who it is!”

At first, I felt a little hazy. As the characters and events in Caden’s internal storyline started to come into existence, it took some time before I realised this journey on the ship wasn’t real. But once I came to appreciate the voyage to Challenger Deep (and the diverse characters onboard) was related to things in Caden’s life, I began to value the book even more.

Mental health is a tough subject to write, specifically because the feelings related to each and every case are different. No one person ever feels those things identically, and so no one author can depict mental illness in it’s entirety. All they can do is present a perspective of it, and hopefully have an impact on it.

No one author can depict mental illness in it’s entirety.

That, is exactly what Neal Shusterman has done with Challenger Deep. The novel brought to light Caden’s schizophrenia in a unique way that drew me in like never before. I felt Neal’s technique of leaving myself to unravel who the characters were functioned as an excellent tactic to keep me on the edge of my seat while not being left entirely in the dark. As a slow reader, I found myself excited every time I curled myself away to read this book. And when I finished, there was (and still is) a promising desire to explore more from Neal Shusterman.

– Michael Topschij.

A Writer’s Thoughts: Wonderful, Wonderful

While on my three month hiatus in the US of A, my favorite band of all time today have released their new album; Wonderful, Wonderful. Today was also the day that tickets for The Killers went on sale for their concerts back home in New Zealand. Thanks to awesome people on the Reddit forum I got the pre-sale code and was able to buy tickets to all of the concerts, but of course.

I’ve been listening to the album through and through today and wanted to share some opinions. And my opinions will actually include a broader topic than just this wonderful new album from The Killers (I tried to be a comedian there, sorry). In the iTunes editor write up for the album, I noticed a comment about Brandon’s wife dealing with depression. As I listened to “Rut” which was said to be Brandon’s song that addressed the fore mentioned depression, and then listened to songs like “Some Kind Of Love” I really started to put together a theme for this record. A song like “The Man” pokes fun at fame and fortune and shows the shallowness of it, while “Run For Cover” for me shared thoughts about the world and it’s flakey state that it’s in. Heck, that song even made comments on politics and almost to me sounded like there were a couple of stabs at U.S president Donald Trump (“big smile, fake news, run for cover you’ve got nothing left to loose”). I’m probably far off with that one, but the theme I’m more pointing at is that of mental health.

In some alternative way, my favorite band and my favorite author (John Green’s New novel; Turtles All The Way Down) are creating content that is highly influenced by what is becoming a bigger and bigger issue. Heck, it’s recently been brought into the spotlight thanks to the horrific representation by the 13 Reasons Why Netflix series. And even more with other novels like All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven which is on its way to becoming a film. I’ve researched, looked at statistics and read multitudes or articles on this topic. And my thoughts are going to shadow a lot that already exist out there. Is mental health becoming a larger issue, or are we just talking about it more?

– Michael Topschij.