Summary: Chapter 13
The next morning Hazel and Augustus describe their meeting with Van Houten to Hazel’s mother. Afterward Hazel’s mom goes for a walk, while Augustus somewhat ominously suggests Hazel return to the hotel with him. On the way Hazel mulls over Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which says that certain physiological needs must be met before a person can worry about other needs like love, self-esteem, and creating art. Back at the hotel, Hazel can tell something is wrong, and Augustus confesses that he is sick. Before the trip his hip was hurting, and in his last PET scan his body was lit up like a Christmas tree. Hazel hugs him and calls him “Gus.” Augustus says he will fight the cancer and be around a long time to annoy her. As Hazel cries he kisses her, noting that he had an apparent hamartia all along.
They lie in bed together and talk about treatments, and Augustus laments that he doesn't even get a battle. Hazel says the cancer is his battle and his war, but Augustus replies that the tumors are made of him the way his heart and brain are. It's a civil war with an inevitable outcome. He says before they left he viewed the Rijksmuseum online and that, for all the heroic martyrs, there was not a single painting celebrating someone dying of illness. Augustus concludes that there is no glory or meaning in dying of illness. Hazel thinks of how Augustus, whose body is dying but who still needs meaning, disproves Maslow’s Hierarchy.
Summary: Chapter 14
On the flight home Hazel and Augustus look out at the clouds. Augustus used to dream of living on a cloud until a science teacher of his explained how harsh the environment is. He says the teacher specialized in murdering dreams. Before passing out from a mixture of champagne provided by the stewardess and pain medication, Augustus notes that it seemed like Van Houten was personally mad at them. The flight lands and soon Hazel is back home watching television with her father. He reveals that he found out about Gus's recurrence of cancer from Gus's mother before the trip. He also read An Imperial Affliction, which he found a little confusing and slightly defeatist. When Hazel says the book was honest, he contends that defeatism and honesty are different things. He isn't sure what he believes, but he remembers a math class that led him to believe the universe is biased toward consciousness and wants to be noticed.
The following day Hazel and Isaac meet at Augustus’s house. The three catch up while Augustus receives a cocktail of chemo drugs through a PICC line. Eventually the conversation turns to Isaac’s ex-girlfriend Monica. She hasn't contacted Isaac at all since he had his eye removed. Augustus is furious, and shortly after they're driving to Monica's house, where they spot her car in the driveway. Augustus, who has a carton of eggs, gets out of the car with Isaac, and the two egg Monica's car. Hazel snaps a picture of Augustus just as the door beyond him is opening to reveal Monica's mother. It's the last picture she ever takes of him.
Summary: Chapter 15
Hazel and her parents eat dinner with Augustus and his parents at Augustus’s house. Throughout the meal Hazel and Augustus reminisce about their magical experience at Oranjee, where they say the food tasted as if god had prepared it.
One week later Augustus is admitted to the ER with chest pains. Hazel, dressed once again like Anna, goes to visit him. His mother only wants family in the room for now, however, so Hazel stays in the waiting room in order to be close. While she waits, Hazel looks at pictures on her phone and thinks how it seems like forever ago that she met Augustus. The significance of Van Houten’s words about some infinities being bigger than other infinities dawns upon her. Two weeks later Hazel takes Augustus back to the Funky Bones park in a wheelchair. They drink a bottle of champagne given to Augustus by one of his doctors. They watch the children play. Augustus says during their last picnic he imagined himself as one of the playing kids. Now he imagines himself as the bones.
The news that Augustus's cancer has returned reverses his and Hazel's roles in their relationship, and it causes Hazel to reevaluate her opinion on getting close to others. Until now, Hazel has been the “grenade,” meaning the one who would hurt everyone around her when she died. Her fear of hurting others has led her to wonder if it's best to maintain her distance from people in order to spare them pain when she finally succumbs to her cancer. It's the reason she initially hesitated to be anything more than friends with Augustus. Augustus's news, however, suddenly makes him the grenade in their relationship, since his death is almost certain to come before hers, and Hazel is forced to view him the way her loved ones view her. With the change in their roles, she immediately realizes that she can't keep from hurting people when she dies, and that perhaps she shouldn't want to. She recognizes that, even though it will be painful when Augustus dies, she wouldn't want to love him any less. This epiphany suggests that Hazel shouldn't want those around her to love her any less, and she shouldn't keep people at a distance to avoid hurting them later.
The period following Augustus’s confession further emphasizes the distinction between “Augustus” and “Gus” in Hazel's eyes. From the time Augustus breaks the news to Hazel until just afterward as they talk about the idea of battling cancer, Hazel refers to Augustus by the full version of his name. This version of Augustus represents the dramatically heroic side of Augustus's character. He talks about the fact that there are no paintings glorifying death by illness in the Rijksmuseum, and Hazel holds up this “Augustus Waters,” even adding in his last name, to contradict Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. But later, beginning with their flight home, Hazel switches to referring to him exclusively as Gus. The change in his name suggests a change in the way Hazel is thinking of him. The version of Augustus who Hazel calls “Gus” isn't the grandiose persona, but the relatively ordinary teenage boy who actually admits to feeling fear and struggles with his cancer. It is the version of Augustus with all the walls broken down.
Augustus handles talking to others about his cancer's return in a few different ways. Initially he hides it from Hazel. He doesn't fully explain why, but he hints that it's because he didn't want her to look at him differently, particularly during their trip. After he tells her, however, the conflict he feels over how to act in front of her becomes clear. Hazel describes him breaking down and sobbing just after he tells her, but almost immediately he composes himself and tells Hazel he'll fight the cancer. He even says he'll be around for a long time. Rather than let Hazel see how overwhelmed he feels, he again shows his bent toward heroism. From that point forward, at least through the rest of the section, Augustus generally uses humor to defuse the tension caused by the knowledge that he's dying. He tells Hazel, and then later Isaac, that he's “on a rollercoaster that only goes up,” and he seems to refuse to let his fear and sadness show in front of Isaac. The approach acts as a way for him to take some of the strain out of his situation, allowing him to avoid uncomfortable feelings and making it a little easier for him to interact. Even so, as the section ends, he brings up the subject of his death in a more serious way with Hazel. Watching the children play at the Funky Bones park, he tells her last time they were there he identified with the children, but now he identifies with the bones.
Hazel's thoughts about Maslow's Hierarchy suggest that people's needs don't fit in a neat pyramid as Maslow hypothesized. First, it's worth noting that Hazel's argument against the hierarchy—that according to it she shouldn't be able to concern herself with love and art because her health isn't secure—is debatable. She isn't in immediate danger of dying of her cancer, or dying of exposure or starvation for example, so one could argue that her most basic physiological needs are met. Regardless, she holds up Augustus as proof that the hierarchy is wrong because it's evident that thoughts of purpose and meaning are perhaps even more important to him because his death is imminent. As Hazel puts it, his “existential curiosity” was far greater than that of his “well-fed, well-loved, healthy brethren.” The implication is that questions of purpose and meaning about life aren't secondary needs. Instead they're basic needs that coexist alongside our fundamental physiological needs, like those for food and shelter.