Summary: Chapter 5

Aza drives Daisy home and Daisy claims that she can tell Aza likes Davis. Aza denies it and says she is not looking for a romantic relationship. Daisy changes the subject and informs Aza that Malik told her Tua will receive the entire Pickett fortune when Russell dies. The fact that Russell is not leaving any money to his sons convinces Daisy that Davis would turn in his father if he knew his location. Daisy leaves Aza to go babysit her sister. Aza returns home and begins watching TV with her mom but struggles with intrusive thoughts about the cleanliness of the wound on her middle finger. Concerned about infection from the river water, Aza excuses herself to go to the bathroom to open the wound, clean it, and rebandage it. She leaves the bathroom, with intrusive thoughts about her finger continuing to distract her.

Summary: Chapter 6

After school the next day, Aza drives around Indianapolis to fill the time before she plans to meet Daisy to discuss Russell Pickett. She goes home and her mom informs her that Lyle dropped off the canoe, which has been repaired. Her mom questions why Aza and Daisy would go canoeing unless their intent was to see Davis Pickett. Aza explains that they wanted to see Davis because they were concerned about him since his dad was in the news so much. She wonders why a lot of people do not seem to like their dads very much. Her mom comments that Aza’s dad understood Aza’s fear. Her mom says that she cannot believe Aza’s dad left them—as if he had chosen to die. 

Aza leaves and meets Daisy at Applebee’s, their favorite study spot. They talk about Daisy’s Star Wars fanfiction before researching the Picketts. Aza finds that Davis has not been active online since Russell disappeared. Aza also discovers multiple lawsuits filed against Russell’s company and that Pickett Engineering failed to complete a sewage project, Pogue’s run, despite evidence of bribing state officials to win the contract. Meanwhile, Daisy pretends to be a journalist and receives a copy of the police report regarding Russell’s disappearance. Daisy suggests that Aza should text Davis.

Analysis: Chapters 5–6

Aza’s anxiety reinforces the difficulty of living with mental illness. This aspect of her life prevents her from forming meaningful, romantic relationships. Her thought spirals cause her to constantly question and second guess everything, and this includes the way in which she talks to someone she likes. She worries that her use of language and the way she thinks are not good enough for a romantic relationship, and thus she insulates herself from others. Aza’s anxiety is further exasperated after her time in the river and results in the repetitive ritual of cleaning and bandaging her callused finger. The callus in turn emerges as a symbol for her anxiety, representing the sheer lack of control that anxiety and mental illness create in her life. By giving in to the impulsive cleaning ritual, Aza seems to believe that the act will lead her to regain order and control. In her mind, she has stopped the infection, and yet she will still repeat this ritual over and over again throughout the novel. If Aza could find a way to control her “invasive” thoughts and gain stability, she would be able to stop herself from reopening the wound and begin to address her bigger problems.

This section furthers the theme of the absence of familial love. It becomes apparent that Russell Pickett was absent long before he disappeared. His decision to leave his estate to the reptile Tua rather than to his own children indicates that he did not find value in his family or in maintaining meaningful relationships with them. His values instead lay in fame and fortune, and his decision makes Davis feel unloved. On the other side of town, Aza’s mom reveals her resentment toward Aza’s departed father. Aza can’t help but pick up on this sentiment and acknowledge that the choice to disappear through death was not his. Absent fathers are not rare in this town, and it will prove to be a through line to Davis and Aza’s looming connection.