Turtles All the Way Down

by John Green

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Last Updated on October 19, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 545

Turtles All the Way Down is the fifth novel by John Green. The book, like most of Green’s others, takes a look at the complicated part of life that is the teenage years.

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This particular book follows protagonist Aza Holmes, who has spent much of her life suffering from several different anxiety disorders, the first and foremost of which is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). She is terrified of getting an infection, and she copes with this by constantly splitting open a cut on her finger to drain it of the germs she thinks could be inside. This becomes her obsession: she constantly thinks about draining it, and she does it as often as possible to make sure that she doesn’t catch the deadly C. diff virus she is terrified of getting. As the novel goes on and she gets distracted by the new and exciting things in her life, she doesn’t drain the cut as often as she usually does—which only leads to more anxiety on her part.

The main plot of the novel is comprised of Aza being dragged along on an adventure by her much more outgoing and reckless friend Daisy, who loves to write Star Wars fan fiction. Daisy finds out that a billionaire has gone missing and that Aza once knew his son at summer camp. She convinces Aza to use her connection with the billionaire’s son, Davis, to help them find the billionaire, as the person who finds him will be given $100,000. In an attempt to keep them from pursuing his father, Davis gives the girls $100,000 himself.

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As the novel progresses, Aza and Davis begin to date, and so do Daisy and Aza’s other friend Mychal. Although this seems like it would be a good thing, it only serves to distress Aza. She starts to feel more alone and out of control than ever and more and more convinced that she will never be able to get a handle on her anxiety and OCD. This stresses her relationship with Davis, who writes about their struggles on his blog.

As if this weren’t enough pressure, Aza finally decides to read some of Daisy’s fan fiction, only to find that all of the stories are about Daisy’s having to deal with all of Aza’s issues. They have an argument while Aza is driving the beloved car she inherited from her late father, and Aza ends up in the hospital.

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Latest answer posted March 21, 2021, 5:42 pm (UTC)

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The two friends make up and eventually find Davis’s father’s escape route when they go to an art show. They smell a terrible, decomposing smell, and they tell Davis, who calls the police. His father’s body is found, and the investigation is closed.

The story ends on an upsetting note, as Davis and his little brother decide to move away because their home holds too many memories of their parents that have passed. Before he leaves, Davis gives Aza a painting that she admired from his mansion.

Aza, as the narrator, then breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the reader. She reveals that the entire book has been written because her psychiatrist asked her to do so and that writing allows her to keep a part of herself.

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