Hazel has been diagnosed with cancer and has a sullen outlook on life. She meets Augustus, whose love and friendship brings her across the world and around again — in more than one way.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In this article from Psychology Today, the author examines the attitudes and mindsets of cancer survivors.
Introduce this text to students before they begin reading The Fault in Our Stars, in order to provide them with context for the tone of the novel. It also provides insight into characters experiencing cancer and some of the associated feelings and thoughts. In Weintraub’s text, Jasan mentions the depression that may be associated with cancer. As students read, ask them to consider how the characters in Green’s novel would answer some of the questions raised in the article: is there something about cancer itself that is transformative and growth-inspiring? Do we literally need to face death to go beyond the often petty limits of our workaday lives? Is suffering necessary to make us grow?
In Emily Dickinson’s poem “There’s a certain Slant of light,” a speaker describes the effects of a slant of light on a winter day.
Introduce this poem after students have read chapter seven, in order for them to discuss the literary allusion between the novel and the poem. The title of Hazel’s favorite novel (An Imperial Affliction) comes from Dickinson’s poem. The poem discusses an oppressive winter. How might this be a metaphor for Hazel’s life? Ask students to draw connections between the speaker in the poem and Hazel. How do they both touch on despair and depression? How might the “imperial affliction” that speaker refers to in Dickinson’s poem apply to Hazel?
In “Excerpt from The Tragedy of Julius Caesar: Act I, Scene II,” Cassius discusses Julius Caesar’s shortcomings with Brutus, hoping to convince him that Caesar is a poor leader.
Introduce this text after students have read chapter 12, in order to explore the source of the title’s allusion. In this chapter, Augustus and Hazel go to visit Peter Van Houten who has become bitter due to the losses he has experienced. His assistant thinks he has chosen to be terrible, that this is an action he has chosen. In Shakespeare’s play, Cassius tells Brutus that they owe their unfortunate status not to fate but to their own failure to take action. This is the opposite of Hazel and Augustus’ beliefs that their status is purely due to the cancer they have been fated with, and not any choices they have made. Have students discuss the symbol of the mirror discussed between Brutus and Cassius, and the idea of Caesar as a giant and they as slaves. How does Augustus serve as Hazel’s mirror? Where does the fault lie according to Cassius? Where does the fault like according to Augustus and Hazel?
In these excerpts from Shakespeare's famed drama Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed lovers lament the family names that made them mortal enemies.
Have students read this excerpt after they have read chapter 20 of the novel, in order to explore the idea of star-crossed lovers and infinity. Romeo and Juliet, as well as Hazel and Augustus, are referred to as ‘star-crossed lovers,’ which alludes to an element of fate. There is also the idea of the spirit beyond physical existence. Ask students to consider the prominent aspects of Romeo and Juliet’s relationship, such as their commitment and sacrifice, alongside their youthfulness, and to compare this to some of the main aspects of Augustus and Hazel’s relationship. How do these relationships change the characters’ lives? What aspects of love are illimitable?
In this avant-garde short story, a man reflects on his life and his relationship with his family.
Introduce this text after students have read chapter 22, to address topics of mortality and love as the ultimate enemy of time and purpose. In this chapter, Augustus has died and Hazel thinks back to the phrase: “without pain, we couldn’t know joy.” Foer’s piece uses form to communicate how quickly time can pass and how jumbled and complicated relationships and life can be. A lot happens in this chapter, from a funeral to a visit from Van Houten. Both texts ultimately conclude that love is worth the pain and struggle that it entails. Ask students to discuss the phrase “without pain, we couldn’t know joy.” How does Foer’s piece address this concept? What does each author project as the worth of love?
Published in 1916, this poem is one of the most frequently cited and most misunderstood of Frost’s poems.
Introduce this poem to students after they have completed the novel. The speaker in the poem tries to explain the choice they made and realizes there’s no way to really tell if it was the right choice. Hazel and Augustus have a choice in how to deal with their diagnoses. The speaker in the first part of the poem justifies their choice. Augustus says he chooses to hold the thing that could kill him between his lips. The novel ends with Augustus and Hazel being happy in their choices to have essentially “loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Have students analyze the poem for its message on embracing uncertainty. How does the ending of the novel, where Augustus confronts Peter Van Houten about his choices, support Frost’s message? How is the cigarette symbolic of Augustus’ decision to live life?