75 pages 2 hours read

John Green

Turtles All the Way Down

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2017

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Mental Illness

Aza’s anxiety and fear are her greatest challenges and the driving forces behind most of her actions. Her struggles are internal, demonstrating that mental illness is generally a solitary hardship. She insists that she is “fine,” because she believes this is how she is supposed to feel. Society does not easily accept the internal pain of others, and there are few outlets for people to express their pain. The expression of mental anguish makes others uncomfortable, so people are expected to hide their pain. This prevents Aza from genuinely healing and from getting the help she needs to deal with her mental illness.

Aza’s OCD sets her apart from the rest of the world, even her best friends. Often Aza feels a split sense of self, one part of her physically present in the room with others, but most of her self locked in an internal argument between her destructive and logical selves. Her obsession with bacterial infection occupies her thoughts to the point that she cannot actively attend to the conversations and actions of the people around her. Aza obsesses about the fact that the human body is composed of billions of bacteria cells. She fixates on the idea that so many of her cells are not truly “her.