The Fault in our Stars – Book Quotes
Neither novels nor their readers benefit from attempts to divine whether any facts hide inside a story. Such efforts attack the very idea that made-up stories can matter, which is sort of the foundational assumption of our species. – Author’s note
We all sat in a circle right in the middle of the cross, where the two boards would have met, where the heart of Jesus would have been.
I noticed this because Patrick, the Support Group Leader and only person over eighteen in the room, talked about the heart of Jesus every freaking meeting, all about how we, as young cancer survivors, were sitting right in Christ’s very sacred heart and whatever. (p4)
“I fear oblivion,” he said without a moment’s pause. “I fear it like the proverbial blind man who’s afraid of the dark.” (p12)
“There will come a time,” I said, “when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever die anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten all of this”—I gestured encompassingly—“will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does. (p13)
“They don’t kill you unless you light them…And I’ve never lit one. 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.” (Gus on cigarettes, p20)
But it’s not a cancer book, because cancer books suck. Like, in cancer books, the cancer person starts a charity that raises money to fight cancer, right? And this commitment to charity remains the cancer person of the essential goodness of humanity and make shim/her feel loved and encouraged because s/he will leave a cancer-curing legacy. But in AIA, Anna decides that being a person with cancer who starts a cancer charity is a bit narcissistic, so she starts a charity called The Anna Foundation for People with Cancer Who Want to Cure Cholera. (p48)
Pain demands to be felt. (p58)
Gus on the point of his video game death: “All salvation is temporary…I bought [the kids] 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.” (p59)
Hazel on Isaac’s ex-girlfriend: “Well, to be fair… I mean, she probably can’t handle it. Neither an you, but she doesn’t have to handle it. And you do.” (p60)
“Sometimes people don’t’ understand the promises they’re making when they make them,” I said.
Isaac shot me a look. “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?” (p60)
Worry is yet another side effect of dying. (p65)
Gus: “There is this unwritten contract between author and reader and I think not ending the book kind of violates that contract.” (p67)
Van Houten’s email: “This comment, however, leads me to wonder: What do you mean by meant? Given the final futility of our struggle, is the fleeting jolt of meaning that art gives us valuable? Or is the only value on passing the time as comfortably as possible? What should a story seek to emulate, Augustus? A ringing alarm? A call to arms? A morphine drip? Of course, like all interrogation of the universe, this line of inquiry inevitably reduces us to asking what it means to be human and whether—to borrow a phrase from the angst-encumbered sixteen-year-olds you no doubt revile—there is a point to it all.” (p68)
Gus: “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.” (p75)
Van Houten: I fear your faith has been misplaced—but then, faith usually is. I cannot answer your questions. (p77)
Kissing someone so that you can get a fee trip is perilously close to full-on hooking, and I have to confess that while I did not fancy myself a particularly good person, I never thought my first real sexual action would be prostitutional. (Hazel wondering about Gus’ expectations for their trip to Amsterdam, p93)
So of course I tensed up when he touched me. To be with him was to hurt him—inevitably. And that’s what I’d felt as he reached for me: I’d felt as thought I were committing an act of violence against him, because I was. (p101)
“You are not a grenade, not to us. Thinking about you dying makes us sad, Hazel, but you are not a grenade. You are amazing. You cant know, sweetie, because you’ve never had a baby become a brilliant young reader with a side interest in horrible television shows, but the joy you bring us is so much greater than the sadness we feel about your illness.” (Hazel’s dad, p103)
It is the nature of stars to cross, and never was Shakespeare more wrong that when he had Cassius note, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves.” Easy enough to say when you’re a Roman nobleman (or Shakespeare!), but there is no shortage of fault to be found amid our stars. (Van Houten’s letter, p111)
You do not immortalize the lost by writing about them. Language buries, but does not resurrect. (Van Houten’s letter, p112)
They might be glad to have me around, but I was the alpha and the omega of my parents’ suffering. (p116)
“You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are.” (p123)
I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once. (p125)
“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.” (Gus, p153)
Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.” (Cab driver, p157)
I’d never been anything but terminal; all my treatment had been in pursuit of extending my life, not curing my cancer. Phalanxifor had introduced a measure of ambiguity to my cancer story, but I was different from Augustus: My final chapter was written upon diagnosis. Gus, like most cancer survivors, lived with uncertainty. (p166)
Hazel: “I think forever is an incorrect concept.” (p167)
Gus on if he believes in an afterlife: “Yes…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…. Sure, I fear earthly oblivion. But, I mean, not to sound like my parents, 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.” (p167-168)
Hazel: “It’s really mean of you to say that the only lives that matter are the ones that are lived for something of die for something. That’s a really mean thing to say to me.” (p168)
Maybe some people need to believe in a proper and omnipotent God to pray, but I don’t. (Hazel, p201)
Otto Frank recording: “And my conclusion is,…since I had been in very good terms with Anne, that most parents don’t know really their children.” (p203)
You have a choice n this world, I believe, about how to tell sad stories, and we made the funny choice. (p209)
“What am I at war with? My cancer. And what is cancer? My cancer is me. The tumors are made of me. They’re made of me as surely as my brain and my heart are made of me. It is a civil war, Hazel Grace, with a predetermined winner.” (p216)
“If you were to go [to the Rijksmuseum]…you would see a lot of paintings of dead people. You’d see Jesus on the cross, and you’d see a dude getting stabbed in the neck, and you’d see people dying at sea and in battle and a parade of martyrs. But Not. One. Single. Cancer. Kid. Nobody biting it from the plague or smallpox of yellow fever or whatever, because there is no glory in illness. There is no meaning to it. There is no honor in dying of.” (p217)
“I believe the universe wants to be noticed. I think the universe is improbably biased toward consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed.” (Gus, p223)
“It’s kids’ stuff, but I always thought my obituary would be in all the newspapers, that I’d have a story worth telling. I always had this secret suspicion that I was special.” (Gus, p240)
“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, p240)
“I just want to be enough for you, but I never can be. This can never be enough for you. But this is all you get. You get me, and your family, and this world. This is your life. I’m sorry if it sucks. But you’re not going to be the first man on Mars, and you’re not going to be an NBA star, and you’re not going to hunt Nazis. I mean, look at yourself, Gus.” (Hazel, p240)
“Even cancer isn’t a bad guy, really. Cancer just wants to be alive.” (p245)
“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.” (Hazel, p259)
I was already starting to get pissed off at the minister when he said, “In heaven, Augustus will finally be healed and whole,” implying that he had been less whole than other people due to his leglessnness, and I kind of could not repress my sigh of disgust. (p271)
“A day after I got my eye cut out, Gus showed up at the hospital. I was blind and heartbroken and dint’ want to do anything and Gust burst into my room and shouted, ‘I have wonderful news!’ And I was like, ‘I don’t really want to hear wonderful news right now,’ and Gus said, ‘This is wonderful news you want to hear,’ and I asked him, ‘Fine, what is it?’ and he said, ‘You are going to live a good and long life filled with great and terrible moments that you cannot even imagine yet!’” (Isaac, p272)
I kept thinking there were two kinds of adults: There were Peter Van Houtens—miserable creatures who scoured the earth in search of something to hurt. And then there were people like my parents, who walked around zombically, doing whatever they had to do to keep walking around. (p277)
I thought of my dad telling me that the universe wants to be noticed. But what we want is to be noticed by the universe, to have the universe give a s*** what happens to us—not the collective idea of sentient life but each of us, as individuals. (p281)
“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.”(Van Houten, p285)
I felt that I owed a debt to the universe that only my attention could repay, and also that I owed a debt to everybody who didn’t get to be a person anymore and everyone who hadn’t gotten to be a person yet. (p294)
It occurred to me that the 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. (p304)
The little kids figuring out how to be alive, how to navigate a world that was not built for them by navigating a playground that was. (p306)
Gus’s letter to Van Houten / Hazel’s Eulogy: I’m a good person but a s***ty writer. You’re a s***ty person but a good writer. We’d make a good team. I don’t want to ask you any favors, but if you have time—and from what I saw, you have plenty—I was wondering if you could write a eulogy for Hazel. …
Almost everyone is obsessed with leaving a mark upon the world. Bequeathing a legacy. Outlasting death. We all want to be remembered. I do, too. That’s what bothers me most, is being another unremembered casualty in the ancient and inglorious war against disease.
I want to leave a mark.
But Van Houten: The marks humans leave are too often scars. You build a hideous minimall or start a coup or try to become a rock and roll 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.
…We are like a bunch of dogs squirting on fire hydrants. We poison the groundwater with our toxic piss, marking everything MINE in a ridiculous attempt to survive our deaths. I can’t stop pissing on fire hydrants. I know it’s silly and useless—especially useless in my current state—but I am an animal like any other.
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 remembered 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.
The real heroes anyway aren’t the people doing things; the real heroes are the people NOTICING things, paying attention. The guy who invented the smallpox vaccine didn’t actually invent anything. He just noticed that people with cowpox didn’t get smallpox.
… [While she was unconscious in the hospital,] I held her hand…and for about one second I was a good enough person to hope she died so she would never know that I was going, too. But then I wanted more time so we could fall in love. I got my wish, I suppose. I left my scar.
…A nurse said… “She’s still taking on water.” A desert blessing, an ocean curse.
…She is so beautiful. You don’t get tired of looking at her. You never worry if she is smarter than you: You know she is. She is funny without ever being mean. I love her. I am so lucky to love her, Van Houten. You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers. (p310-316)