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

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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 teen.

“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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