Turtles All the Way Down by John Green


Dear Fellow Reader,

I know this is a bit off topic but I have to say that I don’t like it when I don’t understand the title of a book.  I find it irritating when the title is so esoteric that you cannot see a connection between the story and the title. When a title has to be explained, I don’t think it hits the mark.  This is NOT the case with this book.  You find out in the book what the title means.

Turtles All The Way Down is a story about Aza Holmes.  Aza is 16, misses her dead father, and has OCD.  Her OCD is not what one might think of as OCD.  It is not the repetitive behavior like hand washing.  Aza has thought spirals.  She has thoughts that she can’t stop no matter how much she tries.  She is under a doctor’s care but since she does not take her medicine as consistently as she should it does not help her much.  Aza has a best friend named Daisy Ramirez. Aza is not a great friend in that she gets caught up in her thought spirals and is unable to pay attention as a friend might normally pay attention.  It isn’t that she doesn’t care, it is that her mind can’t always be present with Daisy.  They have been friends a long time and Daisy knows about Aza’s shortcomings as a friend and accepts them.

One summer after Aza’s father died, she went to what she calls “sad camp”, a camp for children with a deceased parent.  At the camp, she met Davis Puckett. Davis lives down the river from Aza and his mother has died.  At the time of the story, they had not seen each other for a couple of years.  Davis’s father, Russell, is fabulously wealthy.

At lunch, Daisy is talking about Russell Puckett’s disappearance and the reward that is being offered for information leading to finding him.  It seems he was about to be arrested for deceptive business practices and he just disappeared.   He left his two sons behind with caretakers. Daisy would like to find information or Russell himself so that she can collect the reward.  She remembers that Aza knew Davis and suggests that Aza can help her find Russell.  Aza doesn’t believe that she can be of any help but goes along with Daisy. Aza and Daisy take an old canoe down the river to check out the Puckett estate. Aza recalls that when she knew Davis that there was a night vision camera in the woods by the river on their estate.  Aza and Daisy get out of the boat on the estate to check and see if the camera is still in place. They get caught by a caretaker but Aza claims the is there to see Davis.  Davis doesn’t really believe her – because his family is in the news so prominently and he thinks people are after the reward money. Aza and Davis reconnect and their friendship is rekindled.  Davis does ask Aza not to work on finding his father. To get her to stop, he gives her money.

I think that the plot of the book is good.  I will admit that I did get a bit tired of Aza and her thought spirals.  They do serve the purpose of showing what it is like in her head but it was so relentless that I was wishing the story would move on.  Yes, I got tired of her illness.  And that was the point – her illness is hard to deal with both for her and for those around her.

I turned to her. “STOP TALKING. Jesus Christ, you haven’t shut up in ten years. I’m sorry it’s not fun hanging out with me because I’m stuck in my head so much, but imagine being actually stuck inside my head with no way out, with no way to ever take a break from it, because that’s my life. To use Mychal’s clever little analogy, imagine eating NOTHING  BUT mustard, being stuck with mustard ALL THE TIME and if you hate me so much then stop asking me to – “

To be honest, I got caught up in the characters and forgot about the plot of the book partway through.  When we circle back to Davis’s father, I wasn’t thinking about him any longer.  I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

Overall, I am a huge fan of John Green’s writing style.  There is so much cool information in with the story that I enjoy reading and listening to him.  The characters in this book are flawed and that is one of the things that John Green does very well.



“A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!”

Stephen Hawkings

Thanks for reading.

About Carol Early Cooney

I love to read. I love to share my thoughts on books and hope to hear what you think also. Looking to see what books I read beyond those I write about? Check out my Goodreads!
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3 Responses to Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

  1. Julia Tomiak says:

    Carol, I was waiting to read your review until I finished the book and wrote my own review. Funny, I focused on why Daisy wasn’t a great friend; you focused on why Aza wasn’t. I agree with you that Green is great at writing flawed characters… sometimes I don’t like them, but he captures real people very well, and so I always like his stories.
    I like how you embedded the You Tube video directly in your post and edited mine to do the same. Thanks for the idea! Happy reading!

  2. Julia, I had read your review. I find it interesting that people can find different things when reading the same book. I think that also your interpretation of a story can be based on where you are mentally at that particular time. I’m glad you added the video! Happy reading!

  3. Pingback: Beach House Reunion by Mary Alice Monroe | Carol Early Cooney

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