Title: Turtles All the Way Down
Author: John Green
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Page Count: 288
Publication Date: 2017
Category/Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Young Adult
Good Reads Rating: ★★★★☆ (4)
It all begins with a fugitive billionaire and the promise of a cash reward. Turtles All the Way Down is about lifelong friendship, the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, Star Wars fan fiction, and tuatara. But at its heart is Aza Holmes, a young woman navigating daily existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.
In his long-awaited return, John Green shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity.
*Questions are a mix from Rabbit Hole Blogger and the publisher. They may contain spoilers.
- Why did Aza constantly feel like life was happening to her, and she wasn’t in control of it, from the lunch bell to her thoughts and fears and compulsive digging of her fingernail into the pad of her finger?
- What does Aza mean when she says, “You think you’re the painter, but you’re the canvas”? How does this statement influence your perception of this story? Do you ever feel a similar way?
- Compare and contrast the idea of “I think therefore I am,” and “I am not my thoughts.” Can these two statements coexist? Why or why not?
- John Green’s depiction of Aza’s mental health is different from what is often seen in literature and other media. How does TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN change the way you think about mental health?
- Aza’s mental illness means it’s hard for her to see outside herself, which doesn’t always make her a good friend. How does that impact Daisy?
- Was it a betrayal for Daisy to have created Ayala in her fan fiction as an outlet for her frustrations with Aza? Would Aza have been able to understand Daisy’s resentments if confronted with them directly?
- Aza enjoyed spending indirect time with Davis, looking at the stars together and messaging him. Why did she prefer this type of interaction over being physically present or physically engaged with him?
- Davis noticed Aza’s bandaged finger and asked her if it hurt. Why did she reply, “Whether it hurts is kind of irrelevant” and he declared that a good life motto?
- When explaining her childhood friendship with Davis, Aza says, “I mean, anyone can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.” Is there a person in your life who you think sees the world like you?
- How did Aza’s mother’s advice sometimes help her: “Your now is not your forever”?
- Why did Daisy once tell her best friend when she noticed her putting hand sanitizer on her finger again, “Don’t let Aza be cruel to Holmesy”? What does that mean if they are both the same person?
- Aza describes her thoughts as many things—knotted loops, spirals, light-swallowing
wormholes, and never straight lines. How would you describe your own thoughts?
- Why was it so difficult for Aza to describe her pain to others? What makes language or even the written word sometimes fall short in this category?
- Several characters in the novel process their emotions through fiction and poetry. If you were to use a quote from this novel to begin an essay about your life, which would it be and why? What other literary quotes particularly resonant for you?
- The last few paragraphs of TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN zoom out to reframe Aza’s time perspective of her own story. How does this shift change the way you think about Aza? How does it change the way you think about mental illness?
- Daisy says, “You pick your endings, and your beginnings. You get to pick the frame, you know? Maybe you don’t choose what’s in the picture, but you decide on the frame.” What does that mean to you?
- Why did Davis steal and send Aza the spiral painting?
- What does “turtles all the way down” mean, both in the illustration, and as a symbol for Aza?
- The title, “Turtles All the Way Down,” refers to a theory of the universe. Aza and Daisy interpret this idea in different ways. How do you interpret Daisy’s story?