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 thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.
Hazel has never before met a boy who would say such a thing. She accepts his invitation to the movie.