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“So surprising and moving and true that I became completely unstrung.” – The New York Times
Named a best book of the year by: The New York Times, NPR, TIME, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Entertainment Weekly, Southern Living, Publishers Weekly, BookPage, A.V. Club, Bustle, BuzzFeed, Vulture, and many more!
JOHN GREEN, the acclaimed author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, returns with a story of shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.
Aza Holmes never intended to pursue the disappearance of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Pickett’s son Davis.
Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.
- Publisher : Dutton Books for Young Readers; First Edition (October 10, 2017)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0525555366
- ISBN-13 : 978-0525555360
- Reading age : 14 - 17 years
- Lexile measure : 840L
- Grade level : 9 - 12
- Item Weight : 1.05 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.81 x 1.06 x 8.63 inches
A New York Times Notable Book • A New York Times Critics’ Top Book of the Year • An NPR Best Book of the Year • A TIME Best Book of the Year • A Wall Street Journal Best Book of the Year • A Boston Globe Best Book of the Year • An Entertainment Weekly Best Book of the Year • A Seventeen Best Book of the Year • A Southern Living Best Book of the Year • A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year • A Booklist Editors' Choice Selection • A BookPage Best Book of the Year • An SLJ Best Book of the Year • An A.V. Club Best Book of the Year • A Bustle Best Book of the Year • A BuzzFeed Best Book of the Year • A Pop Sugar Best Book of the Year • A Vulture Best Book of the Year
#1 New York Times Bestseller • #1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller • #1 International Bestseller
Featured on 60 Minutes, Fresh Air, Studio 360, Good Morning America, The TODAY Show
“A tender story about learning to cope when the world feels out of control.” —People
“Green finds the language to describe the indescribable. . . . A must-read for those struggling with mental illness, or for their friends and family.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A powerful tale for teens (and adults) about anxiety, love and friendship.” —The Los Angeles Times
“Wrenching and Revelatory.” —The New York Times
“Tender, wise, and hopeful.” —The Wall Street Journal
“A new modern classic.” —The Guardian
“A thoughtful look at mental illness and a debilitating obsessive-compulsive disorder that doesn’t ask but makes you feel the constant struggles of its main character.’” —USA Today
“Turtles delivers a lesson that we so desperately need right now: Yes, it is okay not to be okay…. John Green has crafted a dynamic novel that is deeply honest, sometimes painful, and always thoughtful.” —Mashable
“Green does more than write about; he endeavours to write inside…. No matter where you are on the spiral—and we’re all somewhere—Green’s novel makes the trip, either up or down, a less solitary experience.” —The Globe and Mail
“This novel is by far [Green’s] most difficult to read. It’s also his most astonishing. . . . So surprising and moving and true that I became completely unstrung. . . . One needn’t be suffering like Aza to identify with it. One need only be human.” —Jennifer Senior, The New York Times
“Green’s most authentic and most ambitious work to date.” —Bustle
“An existential teenage scream.” —Vox
“Funny, clever, and populated with endearing characters.” —Entertainment Weekly
“An incredibly powerful tale of the pain of mental illness, the pressures of youth, and coming of age when you feel like you’re coming undone.” —Shelf Awareness
★ “A richly rewarding read…the most mature of Green’s work to date and deserving of all the accolades that are sure to come its way.” —Booklist
★ “In an age where troubling events happen almost weekly, this deeply empathetic novel about learning to live with demons and love one’s imperfect self is timely and important.” —Publishers Weekly
★ “A deeply resonant and powerful novel that will inform and enlighten readers even as it breaks their hearts. A must-buy.” —School Library Journal
Praise for John Green
- 50 million books in print worldwide -
#1 New York Times Bestseller
#1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller
#1 USA Today Bestseller
#1 International Bestseller
★ Michael L. Printz Award Winner
★ Michael L. Printz Honor Winner
★ Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist
★ TIME 100 Most Influential People
★ Forbes Celebrity 100
★ NPR's 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels
★ TIME Magazine's 100 Best Young Adult Books of All Time
Critical acclaim for The Fault in Our Stars:
“Damn near genius . . . The Fault in Our Stars is a love story, one of the most genuine and moving ones in recent American fiction, but it’s also an existential tragedy of tremendous intelligence and courage and sadness.” —Lev Grossman, TIME Magazine
“This is a book that breaks your heart—not by wearing it down, but by making it bigger until it bursts.” —The Atlantic
“Remarkable . . . A pitch-perfect, elegiac comedy.” —USA Today
“[Green’s] voice is so compulsively readable that it defies categorization. You will be thankful for the little infinity you spend inside this book.” —NPR.org
“John Green deftly mixes the profound and the quotidian in this tough, touching valentine to the human spirit.” —The Washington Post
“[Green] shows us true love—two teenagers helping and accepting each other through the most humiliating physical and emotional ordeals—and it is far more romantic than any sunset on the beach.” —New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
At the time I first realized I might be fictional, my weekdays were spent at a publicly funded institution on the north side of Indianapolis called White River High School, where I was required to eat lunch at a particular time—between 12:37 p.m. and 1:14 p.m.—by forces so much larger than myself that I couldn’t even begin to identify them. If those forces had given me a different lunch period, or if the tablemates who helped author my fate had chosen a different topic of conversation that September day, I would’ve met a different end—or at least a different middle. But I was -beginning to learn that your life is a story told about you, not one that you tell.
Of course, you pretend to be the author. You have to. You think, I now choose to go to lunch, when that monotone beep rings from on high at 12:37. But really, the bell decides. You think you’re the painter, but you’re the canvas.
Hundreds of voices were shouting over one another in the cafeteria, so that the conversation became mere sound, the rushing of a river over rocks. And as I sat beneath fluorescent cylinders spewing aggressively artificial light, I thought about how we all believed ourselves to be the hero of some personal epic, when in fact we were basically identical organisms colonizing a vast and windowless room that smelled of Lysol and lard.
I was eating a peanut butter and honey sandwich and drinking a Dr Pepper. To be honest, I find the whole process of masticating plants and animals and then shoving them down my esophagus kind of disgusting, so I was trying not to think about the fact that I was eating, which is a form of thinking about it.
Across the table from me, Mychal Turner was scribbling in a yellow-paper notebook. Our lunch table was like a long-running play on Broadway: The cast changed over the years, but the roles never did. Mychal was The Artsy One. He was talking with Daisy Ramirez, who’d played the role of my Best and Most Fearless Friend since elementary school, but I couldn’t follow their conversation over the noise of all the others.
What was my part in this play? The Sidekick. I was Daisy’s Friend, or Ms. Holmes’s Daughter. I was somebody’s something.
I felt my stomach begin to work on the sandwich, and even over everybody’s talking, I could hear it digesting, all the bacteria chewing the slime of peanut butter—the students inside of me eating at my internal cafeteria. A shiver convulsed through me.
“Didn’t you go to camp with him?” Daisy asked me.
“Davis Pickett,” she said.
“Yeah,” I said. “Why?”
“Aren’t you listening?” Daisy asked. I am listening, I thought, to the cacophony of my digestive tract. Of course I’d long known that I was playing host to a massive collection of parasitic organisms, but I didn’t much like being reminded of it. By cell count, humans are approximately 50 percent microbial, meaning that about half of the cells that make you up are not yours at all. There are something like a thousand times more microbes living in my particular biome than there are human beings on earth, and it often seems like I can feel them living and breeding and dying in and on me. I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans and tried to control my breathing. Admittedly, I have some anxiety problems, but I would argue it isn’t irrational to be concerned about the fact that you are a skin-encased bacterial colony.
Mychal said, “His dad was about to be arrested for bribery or something, but the night before the raid he disappeared. There’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward out for him.”
“And you know his kid,” Daisy said.
“Knew him,” I answered.
I watched Daisy attack her school-provided rectangular pizza and green beans with a fork. She kept glancing up at me, her eyes widening as if to say, Well ? I could tell she wanted me to ask her about something, but I couldn’t tell what, because my stomach wouldn’t shut up, which was forcing me deep inside a worry that I’d somehow contracted a parasitic infection.
I could half hear Mychal telling Daisy about his new art project, in which he was using Photoshop to average the faces of a hundred people named Mychal, and the average of their faces would be this new, one-hundred-and-first Mychal, which was an interesting idea, and I wanted to listen, but the cafeteria was so loud, and I couldn’t stop wondering whether there was something wrong with the microbial balance of power inside me.
Excessive abdominal noise is an uncommon, but not unprecedented, presenting symptom of infection with the bacteria Clostridium difficile, which can be fatal. I pulled out my phone and searched “human microbiome” to reread Wikipedia’s introduction to the trillions of microorganisms currently inside me. I clicked over to the article about C. diff, scrolling to the part about how most C. diff infections occur in hospitals. I scrolled down farther to a list of symptoms, none of which I had, except for the excessive abdominal noises, although I knew from previous searches that the Cleveland Clinic had reported the case of one person who’d died of C. diff after presenting at the hospital with only abdominal pain and fever. I reminded myself that I didn’t have a fever, and my self replied: You don’t have a fever YET.
At the cafeteria, where a shrinking slice of my consciousness still resided, Daisy was telling Mychal that his averaging project shouldn’t be about people named Mychal but about imprisoned men who’d later been exonerated. “It’ll be easier, anyway,” she said, “because they all have mug shots taken from the same angle, and then it’s not just about names but about race and class and mass incarceration,” and Mychal was like, “You’re a genius, Daisy,” and she said, “You sound surprised,” and meanwhile I was thinking that if half the cells inside of you are not you, doesn’t that challenge the whole notion of me as a singular pronoun, let alone as the author of my fate? And I fell pretty far down that recursive wormhole until it transported me completely out of the White River High School cafeteria into some non-sensorial place only properly crazy people get to visit.
Ever since I was little, I’ve pressed my right thumbnail into the finger pad of my middle finger, and so now there’s this weird callus over my fingerprint. After so many years of doing this, I can open up a crack in the skin really easily, so I cover it up with a Band-Aid to try to prevent infection. But sometimes I get worried that there already is an infection, and so I need to drain it, and the only way to do that is to reopen the wound and press out any blood that will come. Once I start thinking about splitting the skin apart, I literally cannot not do it. I apologize for the double negative, but it’s a real double negative of a situation, a bind from which negating the negation is truly the only escape. So anyway, I started to want to feel my thumbnail biting into the skin of my finger pad, and I knew that resistance was more or less futile, so beneath the cafeteria table, I slipped the Band-Aid off my finger and dug my thumbnail into the callused skin until I felt the crack open.
“Holmesy,” Daisy said. I looked up at her. “We’re almost through lunch and you haven’t even mentioned my hair.” She shook out her hair, with so-red-they-were-pink highlights. Right. She’d dyed her hair.
I swum up out of the depths and said, “It’s bold.”
“I know, right? It says, ‘Ladies and gentlemen and also people who do not identify as ladies or gentlemen, Daisy Ramirez won’t break her promises, but she will break your heart.” Daisy’s self-proclaimed life motto was “Break Hearts, Not Promises.” She kept threatening to get it tattooed on her ankle when she turned eighteen. Daisy turned back to Mychal, and I to my thoughts. The stomach grumbling had grown, if anything, louder. I felt like I might vomit. For someone who actively dislikes bodily fluids, I throw up quite a lot.
“Holmesy, you okay?” Daisy asked. I nodded. Sometimes I wondered why she liked me, or at least tolerated me. Why any of them did. Even I found myself annoying.
I could feel sweat sprouting from my forehead, and once I begin to sweat, it’s impossible to stop. I’ll keep sweating for hours, and not just my face or my armpits. My neck sweats. My boobs sweat. My calves sweat. Maybe I did have a fever.
Beneath the table, I slid the old Band-Aid into my pocket and, without looking, pulled out a new one, unwrapped it, and then glanced down to apply it to my finger. All the while, I was breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth, in the manner advised by Dr. Karen Singh, exhaling at a pace “that would make a candle flicker but not go out. Imagine that candle, Aza, flickering from your breath but still there, always there.” So I tried that, but the thought spiral kept tightening anyway. I could hear Dr. Singh saying I shouldn’t get out my phone, that I mustn’t look up the same questions over and over, but I got it out anyway, and reread the “Human Microbiota” Wikipedia article.
The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.
I sealed the Ziploc bag around the last quarter of my sandwich, got up, and tossed it into an overfilled trash can. I heard a voice from behind me. “How concerned should I be that you haven’t said more than two words in a row all day?”
“Thought spiral,” I mumbled in reply. Daisy had known me since we were six, long enough to get it.
“I figured. Sorry, man. Let’s hang out today.”
This girl Molly walked up to us, smiling, and said, “Uh, Daisy, just FYI, your Kool-Aid dye job is staining your shirt.”
Daisy looked down at her shoulders, and indeed, her striped top had turned pink in spots. She flinched for a second, then straightened her spine. “Yeah, it’s part of the look, Molly. Stained shirts are huge in Paris right now.” She turned away from Molly and said, “Right, so we’ll go to your house and watch Star Wars: Rebels.” Daisy was really into Star Wars—and not just the movies, but also the books and the animated shows and the kids’ show where they’re all made out of Lego. Like, she wrote fan fiction about Chewbacca’s love life. “And we will improve your mood until you are able to say three or even four words in a row; sound good?”
“And then you can take me to work. Sorry, but I need a ride.”
“Okay.” I wanted to say more, but the thoughts kept coming, unbidden and unwanted. If I’d been the author, I would’ve stopped thinking about my microbiome. I would’ve told Daisy how much I liked her idea for Mychal’s art project, and I would’ve told her that I did remember Davis Pickett, that I remembered being eleven and carrying a vague but constant fear. I would’ve told her that I remembered once at camp lying next to Davis on the edge of a dock, our legs dangling over, our backs against the rough-hewn planks of wood, staring together up at a cloudless summer sky. I would’ve told her that Davis and I never talked much, or even looked at each other, but it didn’t matter, because we were looking at the same sky together, which is maybe more intimate than eye contact anyway. Anybody can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.