The 'Turtles All The Way Down' Book Vs. Movie Differences Are Actually NBD

turtles all the way down hbo max isabella merced john green
The 'Turtles All The Way Down' Book Vs. MovieRyan Sweeney - HBO

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Watching a movie based on a book sometimes can feel like going to battle. You've got to get armored up, because your favorite moment or character from the source material might not have been as important to the people doing the adaptation as it was to you. What if it doesn't make the cut?? That said, I'm actually surprised by how similar Turtles All The Way Down on HBO is to John Green's book. The movie, about a girl named Aza (Isabela Merced) who's trying her best to manage her OCD and anxiety while also solving a mystery and maybe falling in love, is an excellent and emotional AF adaptation.

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The trailer barely mentioned the afore-mentioned mystery (Aza's crush, Davis Pickett, has not seen his dad in weeks) so maybe that's why I'm pleasantly surprised. And I'm shocked they including as much as they did. Maybe I've been burned by representations of fandom before, but I thought for sure the movie would play down Daisy's Star Wars fanfiction writing and they didn't really at all!

The changes between the Turtles All The Way Down book and the movie are minor, and there's definitely more of certain things or characters in the book. That's pretty standard. Here are some differences that stood out. Spoilers ahead!!

Davis' blog has a larger role in the book

In the book: Aza reads post after post about Davis' relationship with his dad. She also reads his poems. And she reads posts about her. The book really is about the dangers of coming of age online. Your crush blogs about you, and publishes poems about you. Your best friend vents her frustration with you through fanfiction about original Star Wars characters. If you stumble across posts like that in the dead of night, it's a nightmare!

In the movie: Aza does find Davis' blog, but only reads a few posts about his own mental health issues. He also says that, due to his dad's high profile disappearance, he's going to stop posting for a while. Fair!

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Courtesy of Max

Davis' little brother Noah has a larger role in the book, too

In the book: Noah is really upset about his father's disappearance and Aza promises to help him despite Davis dissuading her and giving her thousands of dollars in cash to remove her and Daisy's temptation. He also gets in trouble at school. It's a whole thing.

In the movie: We see Noah a few times, and he does ask Aza for help finding his dad by showing her a clue that will ultimately clear up the mysterious disappearance, but Aza doesn't promise him anything and we don't really see him find out what happened.

The first time Aza drinks hand sanitizer is for a different reason

In the book: It's because she reads Daisy's fanfiction about her. That still happens in the movie, and it still causes a friend breakup and a car crash, but...

In the movie: The first time Aza drinks hand sanitizer is because she kisses Davis after he flies her to Northwestern to meet her hero and make Chicago "old new" and therefore not scary. The exchange of bodily fluids makes her anxiety spiral out of control.

We don't see as much of Aza's recovery in the movie

In the book: After drinking hand sanitizer in the hospital, Aza's rock bottom in both the movie and the book, she tries different kinds of therapy in addition to medication.

In the movie: The recovery is more or less a montage and we kind of only see her taking meds. And that's fine! Finding medication that works is important to see, and the movie does a really good job (in my opinion, at least) stressing their importance while also voicing some common concerns–like how unfair it seems that some of us need medication to simply be ourselves.

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Daisy and Aza's reconciliation is a tiny bit different

In the book: Aza apologizes for her behavior and the car crash at school.

In the movie: Aza apologizes at the art show, right before they solve the mystery.

Oh, and the title comes from a different character

In the book: Daisy tells the "turtles all the way down" story.

In the movie: A philosophy professor at Northwestern played by J. Smith Cameron (Gerri from Succession) tells Aza that story. That's fine IMHO because Daisy gets to have her big moment telling Aza about the wonderful, challenging future she's going to have at the end. Some of Doctor Singh's moments in the book are also given to this professor–like the part where Aza worries that she's not real.

Some aspects of the fate of Davis' dad are dealt with off-screen

In the book: The kids place an anonymous tip to the police and Russell Pickett's body is ultimately found.

In the movie: We know he died by suicide, and where, and we see Aza telling Davis before the cops tell him... but that's it. They also find Russell's jacket and suicide note in the movie, which does make what happened clear.

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