Chapter 1 Summary
As The Fault in Our Stars begins, sixteen-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster reflects that her parents and doctors have declared her depressed and signed her up for a weekly Support Group. She thinks this is stupid. She has cancer, and she is going to die. “Depression is a side effect of dying,” she says.
The Support Group for cancer kids is held in the basement of an Episcopal church. The building is shaped like a cross, and the group meets in its the exact center. The leader of the group, an adult cancer survivor named Patrick, constantly reminds the kids that they are sitting in the part of the cross where Jesus’s heart would have been during the crucifixion. Hazel wonders why anyone thinks such a comment would help people fight depression.
Hazel goes to Support Group only for her parents’ sake, and she hates every minute of it. She hates Patrick’s ridiculous encouragements, and she dislikes the way the other kids speak in clichés about “fighting and battling and winning” against their diseases. The only thing she likes is a boy named Isaac, who exchanges sighs with her whenever people say stupid things.
One day when Hazel arrives at Support Group, she meets a new boy, Augustus Waters. He explains that he is recovering from “a little touch of osteosarcoma,” a kind of bone cancer, but that he is attending the group only as a favor to Isaac. Isaac has lost an eye to cancer and is scheduled to have the other eye removed next week.
During the discussion, Augustus admits that he is afraid of “oblivion.” Hearing this, Hazel speaks up. She says that, someday, the entire human race will go extinct. She advises Augustus to forget about it and go on with his life.
After the meeting, Augustus and Hazel flirt for a while. He is sweet and funny, and he invites her to watch a movie with him. She thinks he is great—until he pulls out a cigarette and puts it between his lips. She is shocked at his stupidity, and she tells him so:
Even though you HAD FREAKING CANCER you give money to a company in exchange for the chance to acquire YET MORE CANCER. Oh, my God. Let me just assure you that not being able to breathe SUCKS.
Hazel stalks away, but Augustus follows. He says that cigarettes can only give people cancer if people smoke them. He does not:
It’s a metaphor, see: You put the killing...
(The entire section is 457 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
Augustus had one of his legs amputated during his cancer treatment, and his prosthetic leg makes him a terrible driver. As he drives Hazel to his house, the two of them agree that he was probably given his license as a “Cancer Perk.” According to Hazel:
Cancer Perks are little things that cancer kids get that regular kids don’t: basketballs signed by sports heroes, free passes on late homework, unearned driver’s licenses, etc.
Hazel wants to know about Augustus’s history of cancer, but she does not want to ask depressing questions. Instead she asks whether he goes to school. Among cancer kids, this is a polite way of asking about “approximate survival expectations” because parents usually remove kids from school when it seems clear they are going to die.
Augustus goes to high school but is only a sophomore at seventeen. When he learns that Hazel has been out of school for three years, he is aghast. She tells him her story, which she sarcastically calls a “Cancer Miracle.” She got diagnosed at thirteen, nearly drowned in her own lung fluid at fourteen, and then suddenly responded to an experimental drug. She still has terminal cancer, and her “lungs…suck at being lungs.” Her doctors do not know how much longer she will live, but her cancer has not grown worse in two years.
After hearing this story, Augustus comments that Hazel should go back to school. She explains that she got her GED, which means she cannot return to high school. Instead she takes classes at community college. He jokes that this must be why she has such an “aura of sophistication.”
At Augustus’s house, Hazel meets his parents, a friendly but cheesy pair who adorn their home with embroidered quotations like, “True Love Is Born from Hard Times” and "Without Pain, How Could We Know Joy?" Augustus says that they call these quotations Encouragements.
Hazel finds Augustus’s parents silly, but she likes them anyway. They invite her to dinner, and she says that she is a vegetarian. “I want to minimize the number of deaths I am responsible for,” she explains.
After this conversation, Augustus shows Hazel his room, which is full of signed Cancer Perk basketballs. He says that he used to be a basketball player before he got his leg amputated. However, he no longer particularly likes the game.
Augustus asks Hazel to tell...
(The entire section is 550 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
That night, Hazel stays up late reading The Price of Dawn, the book Augustus loaned her. It is a ridiculous story full of adventure and killing, but she rather enjoys it. The following morning, she is surprised to be awakened by her mother, who usually lets her sleep as long as she wants because "sleep fights cancer."
Hazel protests that she wants to stay in bed, but her mom, who loves to make a big deal out of the smallest occasions for celebration, reminds Hazel that it is her half birthday. Hazel does not particularly care, but she puts up with her mom’s attempts to make it an exciting thing. She texts her friend Kaitlin and suggests spending the afternoon at the mall to celebrate.
That afternoon, Hazel arrives at the mall early. She buys two sequels to The Price of Dawn and then sits at the food court to wait for her friend. When she spots her mom sitting in a corner reading some papers, she sighs. She wishes her mom could be out with friends or otherwise living her own life. Instead, she is sitting around waiting for her sick daughter, working on cancer-related paperwork.
When Kaitlyn arrives, she talks all about her latest romance. Hazel does not mention Augustus, reasoning that there is too little to say. The two girls go shoe shopping, but Hazel is not very interested. During their conversation, Kaitlyn uses the word "die" and then stops short, as if it is “a crime to mention death to the dying.” Hazel finds it annoying when people tiptoe around her illness this way. A while later, she pretends to be too tired to continue shopping.
After saying good-bye to her friend, Hazel enjoys a few rare minutes alone. She sits down on a bench to read the sequel to The Price of Dawn. It is full of blood and death, but she likes the rolling pace of the adventure, which always moves forward no matter what. It has been a long time since she read such a story, and she finds it comforting to know that it will always have another sequel.
At one point, Hazel’s reading is interrupted by a child who is curious about her oxygen tank. Hazel explains that the tube in her nose is a cannula, and it helps her breathe. The child's mother is embarrassed, but Hazel lets the girl try using the cannula to breathe. The girl clearly enjoys this, but Hazel has to take it back almost immediately. She really needs the extra oxygen to get along.
When the child is...
(The entire section is 482 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
That evening, Hazel re-reads part of her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction. It is about a teenage girl named Anna, who is dying of cancer but does not act all brave and heroic like most cancer victims in stories. She has a mother who is obsessed with tulips and who starts a relationship with a Dutch tulip salesman Anna believes to be a fraud. The mother and the Dutch man are talking about getting married, and Anna is about to start a strange new treatment, when the book ends in the middle of a sentence.
Hazel loves and hates this ending, which she takes to mean that Anna dies or gets too sick to continue writing. However, Hazel also desperately wants to know how the story turns out. Hazel has written many letters to the author, Peter Van Houten, asking him to tell her what happened after the book ends. He has never replied.
The following day, Hazel goes to a community college lecture on poetry that she finds uninspiring. Afterward, she is disappointed to see her mother already waiting in the parking lot. Her mom claims that she kept busy with a book during Hazel’s class, but Hazel remains worried that her mother has no life. When she says so, it seems to hurt her mother’s feelings. Hazel tries to make amends by suggesting that they go to a movie.
After the movie, Hazel has several text messages from Augustus on her phone. He has finished An Imperial Affliction, and he begs her to tell him what happens next. Like Hazel, he seems to love and hate the book all at once. A few hours later, she calls him, expecting to talk more about the book—but she hears sobbing in the background. Augustus tells her Isaac is there, upset, and he invites her to come over.
When Hazel arrives at Augustus’s house, she finds Isaac and Augustus playing Counterinsurgence, the video game that inspired the book The Price of Dawn. Isaac is wailing loudly, tears running down his face, and he keeps making mistakes in the game. He and Augustus are defeated just as they are trying to save some pretend schoolchildren from some pretend terrorists. At the last second before they lose, Augustus makes his character commit suicide and save the children. He seems proud of himself, but Hazel points out that the children would probably die soon anyway. He says: “All salvation is temporary. I bought them a minute...And that’s not nothing.”
After this strange speech, Isaac explains that...
(The entire section is 599 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
For a week, Augustus does not call Hazel. She wants to talk to him, but since she was the last one to call him, she stubbornly insists to herself that it is his turn. She goes through all her normal activities, trying not to worry about the PET scan she has scheduled to check on the tumors in her lungs in a few weeks. She is feeling a lot of aches and pains lately, but she tells herself that worrying does not help. She worries anyway, thinking, "Worry is yet another side effect of dying."
When Augustus finally calls, he reveals huge news: he has managed to contact Peter Van Houten, the author of An Imperial Affliction. Augustus reads Hazel a letter he has received from Van Houten and then gives her an e-mail address of Van Houten's assistant. Hazel thinks this is “the best gift ever.”
That evening, Hazel spends hours crafting an e-mail to Van Houten. In it, she explains that his book has been an important part of her life for the three years she has spent living with cancer. Then she poses a series of questions about what happens after the abrupt ending of his novel.
After sending her e-mail, Hazel calls Augustus and talks with him until the early hours of the morning. They chat about previous relationships, and Augustus mentions that he had a girlfriend fairly recently. When Hazel asks more about this, he says, “Caroline is no longer suffering from personhood.” In other words, she is dead.
For several days, Hazel receives no reply to her e-mail to Van Houten. She goes to her college classes, and she visits Isaac in the hospital after he has surgery to remove his one remaining eye. He seems more upset about his break-up with his girlfriend than his newfound blindness.
The day after Isaac’s surgery, Hazel receives a reply from Van Houten. In it, he thanks her for her kind words about his novel but says that he cannot answer her questions lest she publish them on the Internet. He invites her to come to Amsterdam in person if she really wants to know. She shouts in frustration, and her mother rushes in to find out what is wrong.
When Hazel’s mother hears about the invitation to Amsterdam, she seems sad. She would do almost anything for her dying daughter, but Hazel’s medical bills have taken up all of the family savings. There is no way they can afford to send Hazel on a trip to the Netherlands.
The next time Hazel speaks to Augustus, he...
(The entire section is 606 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
Hazel’s mom talks to the doctor and to the Genie Foundation, and soon it is decided that Hazel can go on the trip as long as her mother goes along. By the end of the afternoon, the decision is made—but for some reason Hazel feels out of sorts.
Alone in her room that afternoon, Hazel asks herself why she tensed up when Augustus touched her. She calls Kaitlyn, who is excited that Hazel has such a hot romantic interest. Unfortunately, she has no advice to offer. She is more interested in the idea of sex with a one-legged boy. “Do you think you’d have to be on top?” she asks.
After getting off the phone, Hazel begins wondering about Augustus’s former girlfriend, Caroline. She visits Caroline’s Facebook page and realizes that the two of them look very similar. The page contains many postings about cancer and death. It is a grim thing to read, and Hazel is especially bothered by a comment saying that everyone who knew Caroline was “wounded” by her illness and death.
During dinner, Hazel snaps at her parents repeatedly, and her mom complains that she is being “teenagery.” Hazel points out that her parents keep making her hang out with teenagers. She tells them that she does not want to be social anymore:
I’m like a grenade…and at some point I’m going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay?
For Hazel, the idea of hurting people is intolerable. She does not want to be like Caroline and leave everyone around her "wounded." She says that she will spend time with her parents, who are “too invested” to avoid the pain of her loss, but that she does not want to form close connections with anyone else, not when she knows she will just die and leave them to suffer afterward.
After saying all this, Hazel retreats to her room and texts Augustus to say she does not want a romantic relationship with him because she cannot stand the idea of hurting him when she dies. He says he understands, but it seems clear that he hopes she will change her mind.
A while later, Hazel’s parents come to her room and say that she is “not a grenade,” at least not within their family. “The joy you bring to us is so much greater than the sadness we feel about your illness,” her dad says. When Hazel accepts this, her parents say that she does not have to make friends or go to Support Group if she...
(The entire section is 459 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
Hazel’s parents rush her to the hospital. During the ride, she tries to tell herself that the pain will go away eventually—but it is too much to bear. Privately she thinks it would be better to die than to continue feeling this way.
When Hazel next awakes, she is in the ICU, and she can hear a group of people nearby crying about someone’s death. She calls a nurse, who rushes to get her parents from the waiting room. A few minutes later, Hazel’s mom explains that fluid has been building up in Hazel's lungs. That has made it difficult for her body to get oxygen. It caused Hazel's recent aches and pains as well as her terrible headache.
The good news is that Hazel’s cancer has not gotten any worse. She will need to have fluid drained from her lungs periodically, and she has to sleep hooked up to a machine at night from now on. But she is not dying just yet. To sum up the situation, Hazel’s mom says, “It’s just a thing, Hazel…It’s a thing we can live with.”
Soon Hazel’s parents are sent out of the room. Alison, the nurse, feeds Hazel ice chips and amuses her with a content-free summary of the last few days’ news: “A celebrity did drugs. Politicians disagreed...A team won, but another team lost.” This is her way of saying that Hazel missed nothing important.
During their conversation, Alison mentions that Augustus has been in the waiting room almost constantly for the last few days. Only family members can visit patients in the ICU, so he has not been allowed to see Hazel. Hazel is relieved that Augustus cannot see her looking so terrible.
In all, Hazel spends “six undays” in the ICU. She spends most of her time staring at the ceiling and feeling bored. Her return home gets put off so many times she begins to wonder if she is “some existentialist experiment in permanently delayed gratification.”
When she is finally released, Hazel exhausts herself just dressing and taking a shower. Afterward she briefly sees Augustus, who gives her another letter from Peter Van Houten. Later, when she is alone, she reads the letter carefully. Augustus has obviously asked the author for advice on Hazel’s decision not to have a romantic relationship with him. She is relieved to see that Van Houten takes her side:
You mustn’t impose your will upon…a decision arrived at thoughtfully. She wishes to spare you pain, and you should...
(The entire section is 455 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
A few days after Hazel gets out of the hospital, she attends a Cancer Team meeting, a gathering of doctors, social workers, and family members who all discuss her treatment. The doctors say that Hazel’s medication is still working and that her lung tumors are not increasing in size “yet.” Everyone agrees on a plan to “stay the course,” which sounds to Hazel like they are going to “do nothing.”
Hazel asks for a lung transplant, but she is told that she is not a good candidate. She understands what this means: human organs are too valuable to be wasted on a girl who has little chance of survival. This idea makes Hazel’s dad cry, which makes Hazel want to kick herself for speaking up. She reflects that she is “the alpha and the omega of [her] parents’ suffering.”
Reflecting on this fact, Hazel remembers a moment right before her Cancer Miracle, when she was on the brink of death. As she lost consciousness one day, she and everyone else thought she might never wake up. She overheard her mom say to her dad, “I won’t be a mom anymore.” Hazel has not told anyone that she heard this, but it hurt her badly. It made her think that her mother might never be okay again.
Near the end of the Cancer Team meeting, Hazel asks if she can take the trip to Amsterdam. One of the doctors laughs out loud and says it is a ridiculous idea. The other takes the opposite stance, advising Hazel to live while she can. Unfortunately, Hazel’s mother sides with the more cautious doctor.
That night, Hazel calls Augustus to announce that she cannot make the trip. He does not seem angry, and he jokes that he only wanted to lose his virginity anyway. Hazel asks if he is really a virgin, and he says that teenage amputees do not typically get a lot of sex.
The following day, Hazel sits in her backyard crying, mostly because it depresses her to be sick and unable to live the way she wants to. For some reason, the sight of her childhood swing set seems particularly depressing to her. She says this to Augustus on the phone, and he comes over. “I see your point…That is one sad goddamned swing set,” he says.
The swing set is not actually that big of a problem in Hazel’s life, but it is the one problem she and Augustus can actually solve. They write a silly advertisement offering to give it away free online, and soon they find a man with three children who takes it for his kids....
(The entire section is 545 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
Just before the trip to Amsterdam, Hazel attends her Support Group in the Episcopal Church basement she refers to ironically as “the Literal Heart of Jesus.” Before the meeting starts, she chats with a girl named Lida, a cancer survivor who always says she feels “strong” when anyone asks. Hazel cannot help being jealous of Lida, who is comparatively healthy and who lost nothing to cancer except her appendix, an organ her body does not need. When Lida comments that she admires Hazel’s bravery, Hazel snaps that that she would trade it for Lida’s health any day.
During the meeting, the Support Group leader, Patrick, prays for the former attendees who have died. There are so many names that he cannot memorize them; he has to read them off a list. A twelve-year-old named Michael, a former regular attendee, has died since Hazel’s last visit. She listens glumly as Patrick mentions this name at the end of the list.
As usual, Isaac is in attendance at Support Group. After the meeting, Hazel jokes with him that she is “really hot” now that he is blind. They chat briefly about her ICU experience and about her upcoming trip to Amsterdam. Isaac is up-to-date on both of these things because, as he says, Augustus talks about her all the time.
After the meeting, Hazel goes with Isaac to his house, and they play a video game designed for blind people. It works entirely on voice recognition, describing the scene and responding to their commands. Just after they start, Isaac's little brother comes in and, imitating Isaac's voice, jokingly tells the computer to kill him. Isaac saves the character just in time, and the kid runs out laughing.
As he and Hazel play the game, Isaac complains that Augustus always insists on saving people in video games, even if it is a bad strategic choice that makes him lose. Hazel is not surprised. She has noticed that Augustus is serious about heroism.
After a while, Isaac asks if Hazel likes Augustus. She admits that she does but adds that she does not want a relationship. Isaac asks if Hazel is trying to avoid being dumped when her illness gets worse. After considering for a moment, Hazel says that what Isaac’s girlfriend did was awful, but that he hurt her too. Isaac protests that it is not his fault he has cancer, and Hazel replies, “I’m not saying it was your fault…I’m saying it wasn’t nice.”
(The entire section is 420 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
The day of the trip to Amsterdam finally arrives. As Hazel says good-bye to her dad, he tells her that he is “proud.” This comment perplexes her somewhat because she has not really done anything to inspire that feeling. He is tearful during the departure, and she wonders if he is thinking that he might never see her again. It occurs to her that he probably thinks something of that sort every time he leaves for work in the morning.
Hazel’s mom is so excited that she insists on leaving very early. When they show up at Augustus’s house, they overhear him sobbing and shouting at his mother that his life is his own. Hazel wants to continue listening, but her mom insists on returning to the car. From there, Hazel texts Augustus to announce that they are ready to go. Soon he comes outside, looking as cheerful as ever.
Next they head to the airport. At the security checkpoint, Hazel walks through the X-ray machine without her oxygen tank. It is the first time she has taken a step without the tank in years, and she feels oddly free—but afterward she is so dizzy and faint that she feels like she might die.
At the departure gate, everyone stares at Hazel and her oxygen tank. Augustus says he wants to buy himself a hamburger, and he disappears for a full hour, returning only when it is time to board. When they are on the plane, he apologizes and admits that he gets angry when crowds stare like that. He avoided the area because he did not want to put up with the experience.
Before the plane takes off, Augustus gets out one of his cigarettes, and a stewardess tells him that he cannot smoke. Together, he and Hazel explain that he holds an unlit cigarette as a metaphor. The stewardess thinks that over and then says, “Well, that metaphor is prohibited on today’s flight.” Augustus puts his cigarette away.
Not long afterward, he admits that he has never been on a plane before. His sweet excitement charms Hazel. She kisses him on the cheek, an act which thrills him and embarrasses her mother. Hazel insists that the kiss was just friendly.
During the flight, Hazel and Augustus cannot sleep, so they watch movies and chat. When the conversation turns briefly to death, Augustus says that he has researched the number of dead people in the world: 98 billion, or about 14 dead people for everyone who is alive now. He says that every dead person could be remembered if people just...
(The entire section is 470 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
When they arrive in Amsterdam, Hazel, Augustus, and Hazel’s mom take a taxi to the Hotel Filosoof. It is a charming old building with rooms named after philosophers. After they check in, Hazel is too tired to go anywhere. She urges her mom to go out to see a nearby park, and then she lies down to take a nap. When Hazel awakes many hours later, her mom is still in the room. She admits that she did not go anywhere. All she has seen of Amsterdam so far is the guidebook.
Peter Van Houten has left a message for Hazel and Augustus offering to buy them dinner at a fancy restaurant. Hazel dresses up in a pretty sundress, and Augustus puts on an expensive suit. They go to a restaurant called Oranjee, where they start the meal with champagne. They both decide they like it, and the waiter tells them they are “tasting the stars.” Augustus and Hazel spend the meal exclaiming over the gourmet food, which is like nothing they have ever tasted before.
During dessert, Augustus admits that he believes in some kind of afterlife. Hazel is surprised that someone so smart would believe in such a thing, and she asks why he is afraid of oblivion if he does not think death is the real end. He says:
If you don’t live a life in service of a greater good, you’ve gotta at least die a death in service of a greater good, you know? And I fear that I won’t get either a life or a death that means anything.
This statement stings Hazel, who is currently in the process of dying for no good reason whatsoever. She points this out angrily, and Augustus apologizes. He admits that he was thinking only of himself when he spoke.
Hazel and Augustus soon get over this argument, and they leave the restaurant and sit on a nearby bench. They discuss what might happen tomorrow when they meet Peter Van Houten, and what they will learn about the events that follow his story. During the conversation, Augustus seems to be in pain. When Hazel asks about this, he says it is nothing.
After a while, Hazel asks about Augustus’s former girlfriend, Caroline. Augustus explains that Caroline died of brain cancer. The kind of tumor she had is sometimes called the Asshole Tumor because it makes people act mean. When Augustus met Caroline, this meanness was just a sort of witty bitchiness that he rather liked. The two of them bonded by criticizing everyone else, and he felt special being the...
(The entire section is 536 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
The following morning, Hazel and Augustus make their way eagerly to Peter Van Houten’s house. Their knock is answered by a potbellied man in pajamas who immediately slams the door in their faces. The man—Peter Van Houten—holds a loud argument with his assistant, Lidewij, who has apparently set up the meeting without her boss’s knowledge. Van Houten commands her to tell Hazel and Augustus that he “was making a rhetorical offer to meet, not an actual one.”
Lidewij soon opens the door and ushers Hazel and Augustus inside, apologizing for her boss’s behavior. Van Houten sits down across from them and, although it is still morning, begins drinking straight Scotch. He is pigheaded and rude, insulting Augustus’s intelligence and seeming offended by Hazel’s choice to dress like Anna, the main character of An Imperial Affliction.
As the conversation continues, Van Houten ignores the questions that Hazel and Augustus ask him. He rambles about Greek philosophers, and he plays them a rap song in Swedish. To Hazel, the song sounds “completely normal…except in Swedish,” but Van Houten delivers a crazy lecture about the unsurpassed ability of Swedish hip-hop artists to convey emotion. When Hazel and Augustus seem unconvinced, Van Houten calls them stupid.
Hazel and Augustus are stunned by Van Houten’s manic, pretentious, and rather cruel monologue. “Is this some kind of performance?” Augustus asks. Lidewij, clearly mortified, admits that Van Houten is just being himself, if a bit more erratic than usual.
Eventually Hazel gets impatient with the author’s attitude. She presses him for the answers to her questions about An Imperial Affliction, and he gives her just one answer, an explanation of the fate of the main character’s hamster. But when Hazel asks what happens to Anna’s mother, Van Houten blows up. He says his characters are figments of the imagination. As such, they have no lives outside his novel.
At this point, Lidewij gets angry and tells Van Houten to give the kids a break. When he refuses to be anything but cruel to them, she quits her job. He demands that she pour him another drink, but she refuses.
Hazel, equally angry, refuses to stop pressing Van Houten for answers. She demands to know what happened to Anna’s mother in the story. She repeats this question over and over, probably because she is so worried about what will...
(The entire section is 768 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
At a café the following day, Augustus and Hazel tell Hazel’s mom all about the meeting with Van Houten. They play up the humorous side of the whole thing. Hazel reflects:
You have a choice in this world…about how to tell sad stories, and we made the funny choice.
After they finish the story, Hazel’s mom says she is going for a walk. She tells Augustus sternly that he needs to talk to Hazel. Augustus looks unhappy, and Hazel gets scared. Something about the way her mom suggested a talk, and about Augustus’s reaction, makes her think that he may not have recovered from cancer as completely as she has always believed.
As she and Augustus walk silently back to their hotel, Hazel thinks about a man named Abraham Maslow, who created a diagram called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. According to Maslow, a person must have food, safety, and other necessities before becoming capable of fulfilling higher-order needs such as strong relationships and personal growth. In Hazel’s opinion, this theory is “utter horseshit.” It implies that kids like Hazel and Augustus, who are too sick to be safe and secure, are “less human," unable to grow the way healthy people can.
Back at the hotel, Augustus explains that around the time of Hazel’s most recent hospitalization, he started feeling an odd pain. He went to the doctor and got a PET scan. “I lit up like a Christmas tree,” he says, explaining that he has cancer all over his body. Hazel understands that this means he is dying—and that he will probably be gone before her.
After revealing this, Augustus apologizes for hiding the truth. He says that he did not want to hurt her. Hazel finds it impossible to feel angry. She thinks:
Only now that I loved a grenade did I understand the foolishness of trying to save others from my own impending fragmentation: I couldn’t unlove Augustus Waters. And I didn’t want to.
Hazel tries to reassure Augustus, but he does not really want to hear hollow comforts. He says he was hoping to go to a big museum today, but that neither he nor Hazel is up to it. He explains that he looked at the paintings online before leaving home and that he saw many portraits of warriors and kings and martyrs—but no pictures of cancer sufferers or plague victims or the like. “There is no glory in illness,” Augustus says....
(The entire section is 495 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
On the way home, Hazel and Augustus order champagne on the plane, using their cancer to gain special treatment. This is fun, but soon Augustus begins to be bothered by pain. He takes a pill that makes him want to sleep. As he drifts off, he comments that Van Houten’s anger at them seemed “personal.”
At home, Hazel describes Amsterdam to her dad, and he tells her he read An Imperial Affliction while she was away. He says that he may not be a good judge of literature, but he found the book “defeatist.” Hazel replies that this makes it “honest,” but her dad disagrees. He says that it is hard to decide what to believe about life and death and God, but in his opinion, hopelessness is not the only intelligent response. He suggests that it is arrogant for a mere human being to assume that it is possible to be certain about the meaning of life and death:
I believe the universe wants to be noticed…And who am I, living in the middle of history, to tell the universe that it—or my observance of it—is temporary?
That afternoon, Hazel and Isaac visit Augustus, entertaining him with gallows humor. For example, Isaac says his eyes are great, except for the fact that they got cut out. During this conversation, he mentions offhand that his ex-girlfriend has not once called or e-mailed him since their break-up. This makes Augustus angry, and he insists that they go out immediately and take revenge. Hazel helps the other two to her car, reflecting that it is the first time in years that she has been the most able-bodied person in a group.
At Augustus’s direction, Hazel buys a carton of eggs and drives to the home of Isaac’s ex-girlfriend. There Isaac throws eggs at the girl’s car while Augustus stands beside him giving instructions. Isaac misses the first several throws but eventually makes a few hits.
Hazel does not help egg the car, but she does take a picture so that Isaac can see his own handiwork someday, after "robot eyes" get invented. Hazel describes the picture in detail, commenting that Augustus looks happy, with a lopsided grin and an unlit cigarette his mouth.
After the boys finish the egging, Augustus triumphantly helps Isaac back to the car. Hazel speeds off, only to find that she has reached a dead end and has to turn around. Their getaway ends up being rather slow and sloppy, but none of them really cares....
(The entire section is 447 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
One night, Hazel and her family eat dinner with Augustus and his family. Hazel’s parents exclaim about how good the food is, but Augustus says that it does not taste like the food at Oranjee in Amsterdam. He and Hazel launch into a poetic series of reminiscences about the food at Oranjee, which made them feel like “God himself cooked heaven into a series of five dishes….” This lavish description goes on for quite a while. At the end of it, all the parents agree that Augustus and Hazel are “weird.”
About a week later, Augustus’s condition worsens, and he is admitted to the hospital. When Hazel goes to visit, she compares her own hospital, a children’s hospital, to Augustus’s, which treats people of all ages. The children’s hospital is sort of annoying with all its bright decorations, but the hospital for adults looks barren and sad.
After Hazel arrives, she talks to Augustus’s mom for a few minutes and learns that Augustus is doing poorly. Hazel asks to see him, but his mom says gently that she only wants the family to visit him now.
Hazel understands that Augustus’s family wants privacy, but she is worried that she might be losing her last chance to see the boy she loves. She spends a long time just hanging out in the waiting room, staring at the ugly furniture and hoping that she will get to say good-bye. She is wearing the outfit she wore in Amsterdam on the day she and Augustus lost their virginity together. She wishes she could give Augustus a chance to see her like this again.
While she sits in the waiting room, Hazel scrolls through the pictures on her phone. She starts with the picture of Augustus and Isaac on the day of the egging, and she backtracks to the first picture she ever took of him, at their picnic on the day he invited her to go to Amsterdam. Hazel thinks of the short interval of time between these pictures as a “brief but still infinite forever.”
Augustus does not die yet, and he gets to go home, but now he is confined to a wheelchair. A couple of weeks later, Hazel takes him to the sculpture garden where they had their first picnic. They drink a bottle of expensive champagne, which Augustus got from one of his doctors because he is “the kind of person who inspires doctors to give their best bottles of champagne to children.” As they sit and watch the kids play on a sculpture of a...
(The entire section is 455 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary
As Augustus gets sicker, Hazel falls into the habit of spending most days at his house. She always shows up around noon, after he has eaten breakfast and vomited most of it up. He comes to the door in his wheelchair, looking frail and sick. She privately misses the bright, healthy boy she met a few months ago.
Hazel typically eats lunch with Augustus’s parents while Augustus just watches. He claims to be feeling “grand,” but he also admits that he is too tired to write the sequel of An Imperial Affliction he promised to write after their disappointing meeting with Van Houten. Hazel asks Augustus to tell it to her instead, and he makes a few predictions about what will happen to the characters in the story. However, he has not yet figured out the answer to Hazel’s big question about the main character’s mom.
Augustus’s parents seem to be trying to enjoy and remember every moment they have left with their son. They watch him all the time. Sometimes Hazel and Augustus go outside to sit in the backyard alone, but his parents still watch them through the windows.
In the afternoon, Augustus’s parents insert food and medicine directly into his stomach through a tube called a G-tube. Everyone sits around watching old home videos for a while, and eventually Augustus asks to take a nap. Hazel goes down to his room with him, and they make out a little. However, they mostly just sleep, both of them tangled in tubes.
After their nap, Hazel and Augustus usually play his favorite video game, Counterinsurgence 2: The Price of Dawn. Hazel is awful at the game, but this is a good thing from Augustus’s perspective. It makes it possible for him to “die beautifully” by leaping in front of bullets to save her.
Augustus continues to struggle with the idea that he is going to die without having made any good effect on the world. Hazel considers pretending to choke so that he can give her the Heimlich maneuver and perhaps feel that his life has made its mark. Ultimately she does not try this; she worries that he will figure her out and feel even worse. Cancer patients lose a lot of dignity during their treatment, and Hazel is reluctant to harm Augustus’s dignity further.
In the evening, Hazel goes home for dinner with her parents, but every morning, she gets up and visits Augustus again.
(The entire section is 414 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary
One day, a little more than a month after the trip to Amsterdam, Hazel arrives at Augustus’s house as usual. He is still asleep, so Hazel goes downstairs and knocks on his door. He does not answer, so she cautiously enters.
Inside the bedroom, Hazel finds Augustus still in bed, mumbling incoherently. He has peed all over himself. She tries not to look closer, and she calls for his parents. She waits upstairs while they take care of the mess.
When everything is ready, Hazel returns to the basement and finds Augustus fuzzily awake, ready for “the excruciating day.” They both sit on the mattress, which his parents have stripped of sheets, and they play Counterinsurgence together. His brain is so sluggish from his cancer drugs that he is playing as badly as Hazel. The two of them cannot keep the game going for more than a minute or two without letting their characters die. Augustus does not even manage to die heroically; he simply makes stupid mistakes the way Hazel always does.
For a long time, Hazel does not speak. She hopes privately that Augustus is so incoherent that he will fail to remember this morning's incident. Unfortunately, he is not so lucky. He mumbles that he is “mortified.” As Hazel tries to comfort him, she calls him by his family nickname, Gus. He observes sadly that she called him Augustus when he was healthy.
Later that day, Augustus says that he always assumed he would die important, the kind of person who would inspire a long obituary article in the newspaper. Hazel tells him that he is special as he is, but he is not satisfied.
Hazel understands that Augustus wants to make a mark on the world, but she cannot really understand why. She says that she does not care if there is no New York Times obituary about her; all she wants is an obituary by Augustus. She also suggests that he is being unkind:
You say you’re not special because the world doesn’t know about you, but that’s an insult to me. I know about you.
Augustus does not apologize. Instead he tells her that he will not live long enough to write her obituary. She gets frustrated and rants that he is never going to do the heroic things he wants to do. All he gets is his family and his girlfriend and his seventeen years of life. She is trying to get him to appreciate what he has, but in the process, she accidentally calls...
(The entire section is 471 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary
In the middle of the night, Hazel awakes to her cell phone ringing. She recognizes the ring as Augustus’s, and her first thought is that his mother is calling to say he has died. Fear makes it almost impossible for Hazel to move, but eventually she answers.
Hazel is filled with relief when she hears Augustus’s voice. He explains that he is at the gas station, and that he did something wrong with his G-tube and cannot figure out how to fix it. Hazel says she will call an ambulance, but he begs her to come and help him instead. He does not want to go to the hospital, nor does he want to admit to his parents that he sneaked out of the house in the middle of the night. He begins to cry, and he sounds so pathetic that Hazel is scared. She promises to come right away.
Hazel does not bother to change out of her pajamas. She just puts on a pair of sneakers and leaves a note behind for her parents in case they wake up while she is gone. The short drive to the gas station feels longer because she is so worried. She drives extra fast, half-hoping that she will get pulled over. If a police officer asks why she was speeding, she will have no choice but to go against Augustus’s wishes and tell someone that he is in trouble.
When Hazel arrives at the gas station, she finds Augustus in his car. He is covered in vomit, and he is pressing his hands to the part of his stomach where his G-tube sticks out. She tries to help him, but the hole is clearly infected, and Hazel knows that he needs a doctor. While she hesitates, trying to decide what to do, he throws up on himself again. He is so weak that he cannot even turn his head.
Augustus explains that he wanted to buy a new pack of cigarettes because his old pack got lost or thrown away. People promised to get him a new one but never did. “I wanted…to do it myself,” he said. “Do one little thing myself.”
Hazel knows that he has to go to the hospital. She apologizes quietly and then dials 9-1-1. While they wait for the ambulance, she says she loves him. He melts down and bangs on his steering wheel, shouting that he feels horrible and disgusting and wants to die.
While watching Augustus melt down, Hazel reflects that when people talk about cancer patients, they always talk about strength and perseverance. Real people, she has learned, die much more humbly than that. Right now, Augustus is just “a pitiful boy who desperately...
(The entire section is 546 words.)
Chapter 19 Summary
Augustus spends a few days in the hospital, and afterward he seems to have resigned himself to a total loss of independence and a pitiful death. His parents set up a hospital bed in the living room, and he spends most of his time in it, weakly thanking everyone for their help. Once when he and Hazel have a few rare minutes alone, he points to a spot on the floor and asks what she sees. She is confused because there is nothing there, but it turns out he is making a pale joke: “It’s my last shred of dignity."
The following day, when Hazel arrives at Augustus’s house, she finds it full of his extended family: his two older sisters, their husbands, and his three rambunctious nephews. These little boys are constantly wrestling, running, and announcing to visitors that Augustus is going to die. Hazel takes this in stride, although she feels a twinge of jealousy when she witnesses how carelessly the little boys overwork their lungs.
In the living room, Hazel is annoyed by a scene she calls “the Attack of the Well-Meaning Sisters.” The two young women talk baby talk to Augustus in a way that makes Hazel cringe. Rather than engage him in conversation, they make meaningless comments about how good-looking he is. After a while, Augustus asks to go outside, and the family works together to put him in a wheelchair and push him onto the back porch.
Outside, nobody seems to know what to say. Augustus’s parents ask if he needs any medicine. One of the sisters says vaguely how beautiful his eyes are. The other says piously that she hopes her own children will grow up to be “thoughtful” and “intelligent” like Augustus.
Hazel, nauseated by the cheesiness of this last statement, jokes that Augustus is actually pretty stupid. At this, Augustus perks up and says that he is probably only considered smart because beautiful people like him are expected to be stupid. As he and Hazel banter back and forth, Augustus claims that his beauty blinded Isaac and robbed Hazel of breath so severely that she now has to live life attached to an oxygen tank.
At the end of this conversation, Augustus’s dad tells them to knock it off. He does not seem annoyed, however, because he puts his arm around Hazel and says, “I thank God for you every day, kid."
As the chapter ends, Hazel says that she remembers this as a good day with Augustus—but it was not the Last Good Day.
(The entire section is 429 words.)
Chapter 20 Summary
When people tell stories about cancer deaths, they often include a phenomenon Hazel calls the Last Good Day. According to Hazel, this is a day when the patient’s decline is not quite as steep, and the pain is not quite as bad. She comments that cancer victims and their loved ones cannot know when a good day is the Last Good Day. That part only becomes clear after the patient’s death.
One day Hazel decides to stay home instead of visiting Augustus. She is not feeling well, and she knows that she needs to avoid wearing herself out. She lazes around with her family, watching TV, until Augustus calls. In a voice full of bravado, he asks her to meet him at “the Literal Heart of Jesus” that evening. Before he says good-bye, he asks her to bring along a eulogy, which is a short speech meant to be read aloud at a funeral.
When Hazel hangs up and tells her parents where she is going, they protest that they are not seeing much of her lately. Hazel shrugs off these protests and says that Augustus’s need is greater. When her parents do not back down, she snaps that she will spend more time with them if they “get a terminal disease.” She also tells her mother to “get a life.”
This last comment infuriates Hazel’s dad, who grabs her by the arm and demands that she apologize. During this struggle, the oxygen tube twists its way out of Hazel’s nose, and she gets breathless and faint. Her dad seems to feel guilty as he helps her put the tube back in, but he still insists that she apologize. She does so haughtily and goes to her room.
Hazel spends the next couple of hours writing a eulogy for Augustus and ignoring her parents’ repeated knocks on the door. When she finally emerges, her dad tells her that she cannot go out. She shouts at him that her boyfriend just asked her to write his eulogy, and that she is pretty sure she will be spending a lot more time at home starting very soon. At this, her parents clam up, and she walks out.
At “the Literal Heart of Jesus,” Hazel finds Augustus sitting in the middle of the room in his wheelchair. Isaac is already there, standing at a podium. Augustus explains that he has decided to hold a “prefuneral” so that he can hear what his friends will say about him when he is dead.
Isaac’s eulogy begins with a series of insults. He calls Augustus “a self-aggrandizing bastard” who would “interrupt you at his own funeral.”...
(The entire section is 568 words.)
Chapter 21 Summary
Eight days later, Hazel gets another nighttime phone call, this time from Augustus’s mom. Once again, Hazel steels herself for news of his death. This time she gets what she expects.
When Hazel hears that Augustus is gone, she feels like she is falling apart. She lets her parents comfort her for a while, and she calls Isaac, who seems furious. Afterward, Hazel realizes that she does not know anyone else to call. It makes her sadder than ever to think about how few people love Augustus.
Losing Augustus is horrible. At the end of his life, all Hazel had with him were memories of their short time together, but it was nice to think about them together. Now that she has nobody to share those memories with, she feels like she has lost the pleasure of remembering.
Shortly after Hazel was first diagnosed with cancer, she had an attack of pain that made her feel her “chest was on fire.” When the ER nurse asked her to rate her pain on a scale of one to ten, ten being unbearable, Hazel called it a nine. Afterward, the nurse called Hazel strong for saying nine instead of ten.
Reflecting on that experience, Hazel says that the nurse was wrong. She was not rating her pain lower as an act of strength, but because she was “saving” her ten rating for a bigger, rarer pain. Now, having lost Augustus, Hazel finally knows what a ten is like. Her grief hits her so hard she cannot bear it, but there is nothing else to do.
In the next few hours, Hazel calls Augustus’s phone and listens to his voice mail. She also visits his Web page and reads the messages and condolences people are posting. It amazes her to see dozens upon dozens of cliché-filled messages from people Augustus never mentioned, people who certainly never bothered to visit him in the final days. For a while she amuses herself imagining what Augustus himself would say in response to the ridiculous content of some of the notes they leave.
Annoyed by these messages, Hazel eventually makes a thoughtful reply about mortality. Nobody responds, and her comment gets lost in a sea of Hallmark-style wishes that others leave. She tells herself that people are writing about genuine feelings, but it infuriates her that they were not there for Augustus when he needed them.
That evening, Hazel’s parents ask what they can do to help her. She does not know, so they just hold her while she cries.
(The entire section is 427 words.)
Chapter 22 Summary
A few days later, Hazel attends Augustus’s funeral. Again she marvels to see so many people she never even knew were a part of his life. She speaks briefly with his parents, who hug her and tell her that Augustus’s love for her was real, not just a frivolous teen thing. Hazel wonders why they are bothering to tell her what she already knows. As the conversation ends, she reflects that speaking to them feels “like stabbing and being stabbed.”
There is an open coffin, and Hazel takes off her oxygen tube so she can say good-bye to Augustus without its help. “I love you present tense,” she whispers to him. She tells him that it will be okay, but she cannot bring herself to believe herself. Before going back to her seat, she slips a pack of cigarettes into the coffin with him.
During the funeral service, the minister repeats all the familiar clichés about the cancer patient who fights nobly against disease. His words have little to do with Augustus, and they upset Hazel instead of comforting her. When the minister implies that Augustus was somehow less whole than normal people, she sighs in annoyance. Someone behind her mutters that this eulogy is “horse crap.” She turns around in her seat and, to her complete shock, sees Peter Van Houten, the author of An Imperial Affliction.
As the service continues, both Isaac and Hazel deliver short eulogies. They have both written different speeches than the ones they read to Augustus on his Last Good Day. Isaac tells a story about the day after his eye was removed, when he was feeling like nothing would ever be okay again. Augustus showed up at the hospital and made the following announcement:
You are going to live a good and long life filled with great and terrible things that you cannot even imagine yet!
For her part, Hazel fills her eulogy with the silly encouraging phrases that Augustus’s parents hang all over the walls of their house. In her mind, her words are “bullshit,” but she also knows that they are likely to comfort the mourners.
After the graveside service, Van Houten asks to ride back to the funeral parlor in Hazel’s family’s car. During this short trip, he explains that Augustus wrote him a letter demanding answers to Hazel’s questions about the mother in An Imperial Affliction. He spouts some nonsense in Latin, which he translates as, “Life...
(The entire section is 558 words.)
Chapter 23 Summary
A few days later, Hazel visits Isaac at his house. They play a video game for blind people, but neither of them is particularly interested in winning. They mostly try to make the voice recognition software understand silly commands about licking and humping objects in the game. The computer repeatedly responds by saying, “I do not understand.” Eventually, Isaac tells the computer that he hates not having Augustus Waters in his life anymore. When the computer starts to say that it does not understand, Isaac says, “Me neither.”
After that, Isaac and Hazel give up trying to play. They just sit on the couch, and Isaac asks what Augustus’s death was like. Hazel explains what she heard from the family, and Isaac comments that she sounds angry. She admits that she is.
During this conversation, Isaac asks if Hazel ever read “that thing” that Augustus was writing for her. Hazel never knew he was writing anything, and she demands to know what it was. Isaac does not know exactly, but he says that Augustus mentioned it a month ago.
Hazel rushes out to look for any writing Augustus might have left behind for her. She gets into the car, and when she turns the key, Swedish hip-hop blares at her. She turns around and finds Peter Van Houten in the backseat. He tells her that everything she said to him after the funeral was true. She reflects privately that she would be more impressed by this admission if he were not obviously drunk.
Hazel tries to kick Van Houten out of the car, but he insists on staying long enough to apologize. He says repeatedly that she reminds him of Anna. At first Hazel assumes that he means the main character of his book, but slowly it dawns on her that he had an actual daughter who died of cancer. She asks about this, and he explains that his daughter died at the age of eight. For him, An Imperial Affliction was a chance to imagine what his child’s life would have been like if she had survived to be a teenager.
At the end of this conversation, Hazel tells Van Houten that he should go home and write. She says that he is lucky to be so talented and that most people do not get that privilege. He claims to agree, and he seems serious—but Hazel gets the impression that he will continue wasting his life by drinking and wallowing in grief.
After Van Houten leaves, Hazel goes to Augustus’s house. She sits with his parents for a while and then...
(The entire section is 489 words.)
Chapter 24 Summary
A few days later, Hazel gets a message from Augustus’s dad saying that he found an old Moleskine notebook near Augustus’s hospital bed. It had no writing in it, but there were some pages ripped out. This news gives Hazel renewed hope that Augustus left her a note somewhere. On the day of the next Support Group meeting, she arrives early at “the Literal Heart of Jesus” to search the room in case Augustus hid a note for her there.
Hazel finds nothing. Her only reward for her frantic search is the breathlessness she always gets from walking around. As the meeting starts, she settles into a chair and concentrates so hard on catching her breath that she does not really pay attention to what Patrick is saying.
After a while, Patrick interrupts Hazel’s thoughts to ask her to talk about Augustus. Instead of answering, she says she wants to die. Instead of acting shocked as she expects, he replies that he has felt that way himself. He asks her why she bothers to stay alive, and she does not have an answer.
As the meeting continues around her, Hazel tries to answer Patrick’s question in her head. She used to think she stuck around for her parents, but now she thinks it is more than that. Maybe she owes it to the universe to keep living and paying attention. Maybe she owes it to Augustus and everyone else who has died. To Hazel, this seems too cheesy to say aloud, but the idea gives her comfort.
At the end of the meeting, Patrick reads a list of the dead. Augustus’s name is at the end.
Afterward, at home, Hazel picks a fight with her parents. She refuses to eat dinner, but her mom insists. Hazel says that there is no point in trying to keep up her health because she is dying anyway, “and you won’t be a mother anymore.”
As soon as Hazel says this, everyone falls silent. Her mom cries and apologizes for saying those words once, years ago, when Hazel seemed to be dying. Her mom says that she did not really mean it and that she will always love Hazel, even through death.
Hazel finally admits her fear that her parents will have no reason left to live after she is gone. She is terrified that they will just fall apart like Peter Van Houten, and she hates the idea of causing them that kind of pain.
After a brief hesitation, Hazel’s mom admits that she has been working toward a master’s degree in social work. Her hope is that someday she can become...
(The entire section is 640 words.)
Chapter 25 Summary
One morning, Kaitlyn calls and bemoans the fact that Hazel has such bad luck in life. This is not really what Hazel wants to hear, but she tries to answer Kaitlyn’s questions about what it was like to be in love.
During this conversation, Hazel mentions the mysterious letter Augustus was supposedly writing for her. Kaitlyn points out that Augustus may have written and mailed a letter to someone else. This comment gives Hazel a flash of insight: Augustus probably wrote to Van Houten. She thanks Kaitlyn and hangs up.
Not wanting to contact Van Houten directly, Hazel e-mails Lidewij. She explains that Augustus may have sent a letter to Van Houten just a few days before his death. She asks Lidewij to find the letter and pass it on if there is anything in it meant for Hazel.
Hours later, Hazel gets a reply from Lidewij, who says she is sorry to hear that Augustus has died. She promises that she will visit Van Houten first thing in the morning to find out about the letter. She mentions that she is bringing her boyfriend as a sort of bodyguard, just in case.
All day, Hazel wonders about Augustus’s letter. She thinks he may have used his terminal diagnosis to try to manipulate Van Houten into writing an epilogue to An Imperial Affliction. From Augustus’s perspective, this might have seemed like a way to give his death more meaning—a chance for his passing to benefit someone he loved.
Hazel also imagines what it would be like to be Lidewij today. It would be kind of fun to bike with one’s boyfriend through the streets of Amsterdam to help a dying teenage girl who wants to read her dead boyfriend’s last words. Hazel regrets that she will not live a life like Lidewij’s, full of adventures. “I missed the future,” Hazel says. She wishes she could grow old—but she also realizes her life has been twice as long as Van Houten’s daughter’s.
Hazel is in the midst of these reflections when her mother pops in and announces that it is Bastille Day, a French holiday. Hazel's mother has just planed a picnic with Hazel’s father in the park. Hazel smiles at this and agrees to go.
As Hazel and her family eat sandwiches at a park, Hazel enjoys the sun and watches kids. She tries to memorize her parents' faces and actions. It is important to her to notice everything while she has the chance.
After the picnic, back at home, Hazel receives a reply...
(The entire section is 624 words.)