The narrator ‘I’ has cancer and spends a lot of time at home. I have a limited time to live. Mum suggested that I attend a weekly support group to treat depression. The group met every Wednesday in the basement of a church. Patrick was the leader who liked to talk about Christ. I’m Hazel, aged 16, and I have both thyroid and lung cancer. Isaac was a skinny guy who had eye cancer. I could communicate with Isaac, through sighing most of the time. I made friends with Augustus Waters. Suddenly, I wanted out from the support group. However, mum was resistant and wanted me to continue. I needed the help of an oxygen tank to live. Suddenly, a guy was looking at me. He was a hot and good-looking dude. Isaac was about to go for a surgery that would make him blind. Augustus was 17 and had osteosarcoma and was Isaac’s friend. He feared oblivion. I didn’t have proper friends apart from my parents. I encouraged Augustus to ignore his fear of oblivion and comforted him that Earth will die when the Sun dies out anyway. Peter Van Houten, author of ‘An Imperial Affliction’ was a good ‘friend’. Patrick often prayed for the group. Augustus started speaking to me now after the session. He believed that they were all in the heart of Jesus. Now, he started praising me for my beauty. I was started to get attracted to him and his mannerism. Augustus invited me to his place to watch V for Vandetta. Isaac had a girlfriend, named Monica. Augustus started smoking without lighting up the cigarette.
Augustus didn’t drive well at all. Your chances of survival largely depend on whether your parents still put you in school despite the illness. I wasn’t schooling for 3 years already while he still attended school at North Central. I had stage 4 cancer and my lungs were all infected. However, I was given a drug called Plalanxifor and I started to get better. In the past 18 months, the tumors shrank but I still had to rely on drizzled oxygen and daily Phalanxifor. His parents started preparing dinner for me. Augustus liked reading motivational quotes and encouragements. I do not eat meat. I explored the basement in his house and found a lot of basketball memorabilia. Augustus used to be at basketball before his legs got amputated. Deep inside me, I liked Augustus. I wasn’t very positive or enthusiastic about life, unlike him. My favorite book was an Imperial Affliction. Augustus wanted to read it as well. In exchange, I would read The Price of Dawn. Without Pain, How Could We Know Joy? Now, I felt like kissing him. He wanted to see me tomorrow for a second date.
Don’t tell me you’re one of those people who becomes their disease. I know so many people like that. It’s disheartening. Like, cancer is in the growth business, right? The taking-people-over business. But surely you haven’t let it succeed prematurely. – Augustus to me
My mum could tell I liked Augustus. It was my 33 half birthday and it called for a huge celebration. I was planning to meet Kaitlyn for a movie. Now, I also bought sequels for the Price of Dawn. My mum was always reading medical stuff and handling paperwork. I went shopping with Kaitlyn after a brief conversation. Kaitlyn was a good friend, but somehow after I missed school, we kind of drifted. I started reading Midnight Dawns before mum would pick me up. I liked the main character who always lived his life like an adventure. For those who knew my pre-existing condition, talking to them would never feel like normal. I liked being alone and indulge in my own fictional world.
I re-read AIA again. The book is about Anna and her one-eyed mom. Anna has a rare blood cancer and started a charity ‘The Anna Foundation for People with Cancer Who Want to Cure Cholera’. Her mom falls in love with the Dutch Tulip Man. The Tulip Man claims to have cures for cancer and can help Anna. However, Anna doesn’t trust him very much. The author left the story hanging in mid-air without an ending. I called him to share about my readings and vice versa. Now, I was planning to watch a movie with my mum. Augustus was surprised by the lack of ending of AIA. Isaac was sobbing tremendously. Isaac was in a midst of a psychotic episode. The both of them were playing the Price of Dawn and Isaac was acting like a lunatic. It could have been relationship trouble between him and Monica. You will not die in vain. Monica couldn’t handle that Isaac would lose his eyesight. Isaac was deeply upset with this. Isaac started slamming the pillow and chair in the room. I still haven’t heard from the author of AIA on what the ending would turn out to be. Isaac slammed the trophies with Augustus’ permission.
All salvation is temporary. I bought them a minute. Maybe that’s the minute that buys them an hour, which is the hour that buys them a year. No one’s gonna buy them forever, Hazel Grace, but my life bought them a minute. And that’s not nothing. – Augustus
Right, of course. But you keep the promise anyway. That’s what love is. Love is keeping the promise anyway. Don’t you believe in true love? – Isaac
That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt. – Augustus
I met Kaitlyn and her boyfriend for coffee. I also attended classes at MCC 3 mornings in a week. Worry is a side effect of the dying and I started to worry. Augustus thanked me for the book and analyzed it deeply. Maybe the book was meant to end halfway and abruptly. The author was a recluse. He started writing to the author and received a reply from his assistant. Is there a point to living? Is there meaning in suffering? The author replied that he could not be continuing on this book. I started writing to the author too. Caroline Mathers was Augustus’ ex-girl friend. However, Caroline passed away. Okay will be our always. Isaac was free from cancer after the surgery. However, he was blind. Isaac wanted to leave the hospital. He still was thinking about Monica. Isaac’s mum was in the room by his side now. I bought Isaac some flowers. The author finally replied me. However, he refused to answer my questions on the book’s ending but welcomed me to visit him at his place. I immediately had the urge to head to Amsterdam to visit the author. However, I had to find a way to raise the funds since my parents were broke. I already used my wish from the Genie foundation to head to Disney. Augustus called me when I was at home. He brought a bouquet of bright orange tulips to me and suggested heading for a picnic. My dad and Augustus related well on topics like basketball. I was still worrying about the upcoming PET scan. He brought me to a park and then a museum. Everything Augustus brought was orange and it meant to represent Holland. Augustus reprimanded me on my short term thinking for my wish. He wanted me to preserve the integrity of the Wish as an idea instead. He hadn’t used his wish yet. He wanted to visit Amsterdam as well. The genies were ready to grant them their wishes.
But I believe in true love, you know? I don’t believe that everybody gets to keep their eyes or not get sick or whatever, but everybody should have true love, and it should last at least as long as your life does. – Isaac
My mum was surprised about the Amsterdam trip. The doctor advised my mum to follow us on the trip as well. I told Kaitlyn about my encounter with Augustus. Kaitlyn had just broken up with Derek, her boyfriend. Caroline Mathers died from brain cancer. I realized how similar I was to Caroline. Pain is a blunt and nonspecific diagnostic instrument. I didn’t want to hurt mum anymore. I started reading Caroline Mather’s little notes. Augustus touched me.
I felt a sensation of sharp pain inside of my brain now. I screamed in pain. I was now admitted into the ICU. Alison was my nurse. Now, the hospital again drained the fluid from my lung. There was no tumor growth spotted. Augustus was waiting at the hospital for me. I eventually returned home after 6 days. Sleep fights cancer. I finally met Augustus since my episode in the hospital. The Amsterdam trip had to be postponed because of my illness. ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves.’ I desperately wanted to travel despite the new setback.
I missed you, too. I just don’t want you to see…all this. I just want, like…it doesn’t matter. You don’t always get what you want. – Hazel
Dr Maria admitted that the drug has side effects but she will continue administering it to me. It was a Cancer Team Meeting. The problem was that taking the drug caused fluid accumulation. I hated the cancer team meetings as it was depressing. The fluid draining became more frequent. My parents banned my travel until I was better. Augustus has the ability to make me laugh and delight me. I looked at the swing set my dad gave me when I was young. Augustus visited me to view the swing set. We placed an ad for the sale of the swing set. ‘Desperately lonely swing set needs loving home’. ‘No matter how hard you kick, no matter how high you get, you can’t go all the way around.’ I sold it to a guy named Daniel Alvarez. The author was expecting me in a week’s time. My parents eventually allowed me to travel.
I headed to the Support Group. Michael had passed away. Isaac and his mum showed us for the support group as well. ‘Living our best life today’. I visited Isaac’s house. We started playing a game where Isaac gave the instructions and I directed him. I didn’t want to get together with Augustus because I will hurt him eventually.
Mum and I shared a suitcase. We were now busily packing before our departure. Dad cried when he was sending us off. Augustus came to the door when we picked him up. They were on their way to Amsterdam. Augustus went to get a burger and didn’t return. Soon, he came back. Augustus has the habit of placing cigarettes in his mouth without smoking it. I kissed Augustus on his cheek. We ended up watching 300 together. He was now re-reading AIA. Augustus loved me and he confessed.
It’s a metaphor. He puts the killing thing in his mouth but doesn’t give it the power to kill him. – Hazel
I happen to know the answer to that question. There are seven billion living people, and about ninety-eight billion dead people…There are about fourteen dead people for every living person. – Augustus
I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you. – Augustus
We reached the Netherlands. Amsterdam was a city of both sin and freedom. Augustus wore a black suit and I wore a beautiful sundress. Amsterdam looked nothing like the US. Now, we took the tram and travelled to Oranjee, a restaurant. There were 2 bottles of champagne waiting for us. We were over-looking the river. The champagne tasted great in my mouth. The asparagus was awesome. The food was simply too good. It was like a perfect date night. It was actually Augustus’ death suit. Cremeux was served for dessert. The author paid for their wonderful meal together. I thought about the possible endings to AIA again. Now, we were watching the canal from the park. Caroline liked to play alone in the playground in the past. She was always moody but he liked it. After chemo, Augustus started to marvel at the world and the excitement it brings.
Yes, I believe in an afterlife. Yes, absolutely. Not like a heaven where you ride unicorns, play harps, and live in a mansion made of clouds. But yes. I believe in Something with a capital S…Always have…I don’t believe we return to haunt or comfort the living or anything, but I think something becomes of us. – Augustus
…but I believe humans have souls, and I believe in the conservation of souls. The oblivion fear is something else, fear that I won’t be able to give anything in exchange for my life. 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. – Augustus
Oh, I wouldn’t mind, Hazel Grace. It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you. – Augustus to Hazel
I started to get nervous. Today was the day when we would meet the author. My mum wasn’t joining us and was heading to Rijkmuseum and Vondelpark. Peter wanted them out at once as he hated Americans. It was his assistant who promised that Peter would meet them. Peter was very mean towards them and commented that Augustus had developmental delay. He never read many of my letters. Peter was a douche. Peter had a drinking problem. It was his assistant who used his money to treat me and Augustus. There are only two emotions, love and fear. Zeno was famous for his tortoise paradox. I was satisfied with his answers and I wanted to know the truth. The hamster gets adopted by Christine. The Dutch Tulip Man wasn’t a con man but was God. I kept insisting I wanted closure for the characters. I smashed the scotch from his hand and it smashed across the ground. Augustus quickly pulled me out from the room. I started crying and Augustus promised me he will write an epilogue. Now, his assistant wanted us to visit the Anne Frank’s House. She drove us to the house. Peter has become a monster and was an embarrassment to his family. Apparently, the world is not a wish-granting factory. Now, we watched a video of how the Nazis invaded Frank’s house. It took me a great effort, but I finally reached the top of the house. 103,000 Dutch people died in the Holocaust. I prayed for the war survivors. Anne almost made it, but she didn’t. I kissed Augustus in the house. Otto Frank was surprised by the depth of Anne Frank’s thought. Most parents don’t really know their children. Now, we were back at the hotel. We kissed again in the elevator. We were now in Augustus’ room. I removed his shirt. I allowed my arm to feel his stump, the thick scarred skin. Augustus was too tired and he fell asleep.
You are a side effect of an evolutionary process that cares little for individual lives. You are a failed experiment in mutation. – Peter van Houten
It was our last day in Amsterdam. Now, we tried the Dutch coffee. Amsterdam was a beautiful city which supported cycling. Augustus wanted to head back to the hotel. Augustus felt that I was more than human. We were in my room now. His PET scan results were bad and he suffered a relapse. He was sorry he didn’t inform me earlier. I hated the injustice of this all. ‘The world is not a wish-granting factory.’ Augustus. Now, Augustus was condemned to not leading a life of meaning.
I lit up like a Christmas tree, Hazel Grace. The lining of my chest, my left hip, my liver, everywhere. – Augustus
I don’t think you’re dying. I think you’ve just got a touch of cancer. And it is my privilege and my responsibility to ride all the way up with you. – Hazel
We were on the flight home now. We had champagne into our glasses. Augustus’ chest started to hurt. My dad knew about the cancer relapse in Gus. My dad read AIA in his free time and was disappointed in the lack of an ending. Even the Universe wanted to be noticed. The next day, I visited Augustus at his house. He was receiving new treatment to try to find a cure. Monica completely dumped Isaac and failed to contact him again. I was the healthiest as compared to Augustus and Isaac. I bought a dozen eggs under his instruction. We drove to Monica’s house. They started throwing eggs at her car. Monica’s mum realized it and hid in her home.
I visited Augustus in hospital after a chest infection. His heart was working too hard and he had to be confined to a wheelchair now. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. Two weeks later, we met at the park to drink champagne again.
Augustus had late-stage cancer now. He puked out his breakfast. He recited me what he thought of the ending of AIA. Nostalgia is a side effect of the dying. He had to be tube-fed. We kissed again in his bed. Now, we played Counterinsurgence 2: The Price of Dawn.
The next day, I visited his house again. He pissed on the bed. Now, he was getting increasingly tired. He always thought he was special. I always felt he was in his own way.
I don’t care if the New York Times writes an obituary for me. I just want you to write one. 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. – Hazel
I just want to be enough for you, but I never can be. This can never be enough for you. Now this is all you get. You get me, and your family, and this world. This is your life. I’m sorry if it sucks… – Hazel
Augustus called me at 2:35am. He was stuck at the gas station and wanted me over immediately. He didn’t want me to call 911. His G-tube was malfunctioning. Now, he was covered in his own vomit. Augustus visited the gas station to buy a pack of cigarettes. He was humiliating. Now, he was pitiful and miserable and desperate. Cancer just wants to be alive.
A few days later, he was moved back home. However, he was under increased dosages of medication. He eventually woke up and wanted to go outside. It was a cloudy day.
This was the Last Good Day convention. I had to prepare a eulogy before heading down. I chided my parents as they tried to prevent me from heading to the convention. I drove to the church. Augustus was now ghoulishly thin.
Augustus Waters was a self-aggrandizing bastard. But we forgive him. We forgive him not because he had a heart as figuratively good as his literal one sucked, or because he knew more about how to hold a cigarette than any nonsmoker in history, or because he got eighteen years when he got eighteen years when he should have gotten more. Augustus talked so much he’d interrupt you at his own funeral. And he was pretentious: Sweet Jesus Christ, that kid never took a piss without pondering the abundant metaphorical resonances of human waste production. And he was vain: I do not believe I have ever met a more physically attractive person who was more acutely aware of his own physical attractiveness. But I will say this: When the scientists of the future show up at my house with robot eyes and they tell me to try them on, I will tell the scientists to screw off, because I do not want to see a world without him. And then, having made my rhetorical point, I will put my robot eyes on, because I mean, with robot eyes you can probably see through girls’ shirts and stuff. Augustus, my friend, Godspeed. – Isaac
I can’t talk about our love story, so I will talk about math. I am not a mathematician, but I know this: There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s 0.1 and 0.12 and 0.112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful. – Hazel
8 days after the pre-funeral, he passed away. Still, I was shattered. It was unbearable. His FB wall page were filled with condolences. I started reading them. I was angry as many of them did not know Augustus well and did not make an effort to keep in touch. You get all these friends just when you don’t need friends anymore. My parents held on to me for hours on end.
It was the funeral procession now. I walked up to his body. His eyes were closed. I placed a pack of cigarettes into the coffin. Peter was there and he graced the funeral. Without pain, we couldn’t know joy. Funerals, I had decided, are for the living. Someone started playing his favorite song. Initially, I didn’t want to continue attending the session because it felt like an ordinary funeral. However, my parents wanted me to show respects. Peter hitched a ride from our car. Peter van Houten continued drinking his whiskey. I thought the world only consists of two types of people: Peter van Houtens and my parents. I felt that I had already seen all pure and good in the world.
Omnis cellula e cellula: All cells come from cells. Every cell is born of a previous cell, which was born of a previous cell. Life comes from life. Life begets life begets life begets life begets life. – Peter van Houten
I visited Isaac’s house to play games with him. Isaac now talks to a computer with voice. I still couldn’t get over the death. Isaac mentioned something about the sequel to the book. I was hoping Augustus wrote it. I wanted to head over to his house. I was shocked when Peter was in my car. Peter wanted to apologize. Peter mentioned that I reminded him of Anna. ‘Pain is like fabric: The stronger it is, the more it is worth.’ Peter also lost a family member. He had a daughter who died from leukemia, like Anna. The book was all about her. He left. Augustus’ parents allowed me to search his computer. There was no trace of any sequel. I decided to leave after that.
But what we want is to be noticed by the universe, to have the universe give a shit what happens to us – not the collective idea of sentient life but each of us, as individuals. – John Green
Gus’ dad found a black notebook near the hospital bed. Unfortunately it was empty with the first few pages torn off. I headed to the support group next day. I started searching the place for the missing pages but couldn’t find anything. Isaac started chatting about love. I headed home and refused to eat dinner despite my mum trying to persuade me to. My mum was taking social work and was taking exams. She was keen on helping others in her line of work. My mum would be the new and better Patrick. My parents vowed to stay together no matter what. My dad wouldn’t be Peter van Houten.
Kaitlyn was on the phone. She suggested that Augustus might have mailed the missing pages to van Houten instead. I contacted his assistant for help. It was Bastille Day today. We headed to the park for a picnic. Later that day, I visited the cemetery to see Gus again. Peter’s assistant replied via email and there were 4 emails. Gus was obviously sick when he wrote the 4 letters. He wrote a eulogy for her. A lot of people want to be remembered at their death.
It occurred to me that voracious ambition of humans is never sated by dreams coming true, because there is always the thought that everything might be done better and again. – Hazel
The marks human leave are too often scars. You build a hideous minimall or start a coup or try to become a rock star and you think, “They’ll remember me now,” but (a) they don’t remember you, and (b) all you leave behind are more scars. Your coup becomes a dictatorship. Your minimall becomes a lesion. – Augustus
Hazel is different: She walks lightly, old man. She walks lightly upon the Earth. Hazel knows the truth: We’re as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we’re not likely to do either. People will say it’s sad that she leaves a lesser scar, that fewer remember her, that she was loved deeply but not widely. But it’s not sad, Van Houten. It’s triumphant. It’s heroic. Isn’t that the real heroism? Like the doctors say: First, do no harm. – Augustus
You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you. – Augustus