Highlights from Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Cover of Turtles All the Way Down
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Highlights from this book

  • As kids, Daisy and I had played all up and down the riverbank when the water was low like this. We played a game called “river kids,” imagining we lived alone on the river, scavenging for our livelihood and hiding from the adults who wanted to put us in an orphanage.

  • “I honestly can’t even tell if he’s cute.” “He’s in that vast boy middle,” she said. “Like, good-looking enough that I’m willing to be won over. The whole problem with boys is that ninety-nine percent of them are, like, okay. If you could dress and hygiene them properly, and make them stand up straight and listen to you and not be dumbasses, they’d be totally acceptable.”

  • Now you’re nervous, because you’ve previously attended this exact rodeo on thousands of occasions, and also because you want to choose the thoughts that are called yours.

  • Had you gotten some river water on your hand? It wouldn’t take much. Time to unwrap the Band-Aid. You tell yourself that you were careful not to touch the water, but your self replies, But what if you touched something that touched the water, and then you tell yourself that this wound is almost certainly not infected, but the distance you’ve created with the almost gets filled by the thought, You need to check for infection; just check it so we can calm down, and then fine, okay, you excuse yourself to the bathroom and slip off the Band-Aid to discover that there isn’t blood, but there might be a bit of moisture on the bandage pad. You hold the Band-Aid up to the yellow light in the bathroom, and yes, that definitely looks like moisture. Could be sweat, of course, but also might be water from the river, or worse still seropurulent drainage, a sure sign of infection, so you find the hand sanitizer in the medicine cabinet and squeeze some onto your fingertip, which burns like hell, and then you wash your hands thoroughly, singing your ABCs while you do to make sure you’ve scrubbed for the full twenty seconds recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, and then you carefully dry your hands with a towel.

  • Applebee’s is a chain of mid-quality restaurants serving “American food,” which essentially means that Everything Features Cheese.

  • “At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough.”

    — Toni Morrison
  • Everything was loud and bright. At the bar, people were shouting about some sports occurrence.

  • “So I made up an email address that looks almost exactly like Sandra Oliveros’s and emailed Bitterley an order to send me a copy of the police report. And he replied, like, ‘I can’t; I don’t have it on my home computer,’ so I told him to go the hell into the office and email it to me, and he was like, ‘It’s Friday night,’ and I was, like, ‘I know it’s Friday night, but the news doesn’t stop breaking on the weekend; do your job, or I’ll find someone else who will do it.’ And then he went to the fucking office and emailed me scans of the fucking police report.” “Jesus.” “Welcome to the future, Holmesy. It’s not about hacking computers anymore; it’s about hacking human souls. The file is in your email.” Sometimes I wondered if Daisy was my friend only because she needed a witness.

  • I like being outside at night. It gives me this weird feeling, like I’m homesick but not for home. It’s kind of a good feeling, though.

  • I wanted to tell her that I was getting better, because that was supposed to be the narrative of illness: It was a hurdle you jumped over, or a battle you won. Illness is a story told in the past tense.

  • “I want to share something Virginia Woolf wrote: ‘English, which can express the thoughts of Hamlet and the tragedy of Lear, has no words for the shiver and the headache. . . . The merest schoolgirl, when she falls in love, has Shakespeare or Keats to speak her mind for her; but let a sufferer try to describe a pain in his head to a doctor and language at once runs dry.’ And we’re such language-based creatures that to some extent we cannot know what we cannot name. And so we assume it isn’t real. We refer to it with catch-all terms, like crazy or chronic pain, terms that both ostracize and minimize. The term chronic pain captures nothing of the grinding, constant, ceaseless, inescapable hurt. And the term crazy arrives at us with none of the terror and worry you live with. Nor do either of those terms connote the courage people in such pains exemplify, which is why I’d ask you to frame your mental health around a word other than crazy.”

  • Dr. Singh told me once that if you have a perfectly tuned guitar and a perfectly tuned violin in the same room, and you pluck the D string of the guitar, then all the way across the room, the D string on the violin will also vibrate.

  • “Here at the Pickett residence, we have both kinds of movies—Star Wars and Star Trek. What would you prefer?”

  • Davis was already there, and he hugged me in the entryway before we got seated. A thought appeared in my mind undeniable as the sun in a clear sky: He’s going to want to put his bacteria in your mouth.

  • “Do you feel like you’re getting better?” Everyone wanted me to feed them that story—darkness to light, weakness to strength, broken to whole. I wanted it, too.