Growing Up… in Indianapolis with her mother and father. Hazel was diagnosed with Stage 4 thyroid cancer and has considered herself a ticking time bomb ever since.
Living… a life that leaves as small of a footprint as possible. Hazel knows that anything she does is insignificant in the grand scheme of the universe, so all she wants is to minimize the damage that her death will cause. Unlike many others faced with a terminal illness, Hazel wishes to tread lightly upon the earth rather than leave behind a legacy. Although she’s not scared of dying, she worries that her parents will be lost after she’s gone. Their existence revolves around her illness, and Hazel hates to think about what their daily lives will be reduced to when she is gone.
Profession… student. Hazel finished high school early and has already begun pursuing a college education, taking classes at community college to fill the countless hours of free time she has.
Interests… reading her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten. Hazel is obsessed with the book because it portrays her own experience with cancer more accurately than anything she’s ever encountered. The novel ends mid-sentence, which Hazel understands is representative of the way death really works: It is unexpected, and doesn’t leave you time to tie up loose ends. Despite the metaphorical beauty of the ending, however, Hazel is determined to know what happens to the protagonist Anna’s family after the novel ends.
Relationship Status… single. At least until the charming, confident, metaphor-loving Augustus Waters comes along. After being forced to go to Cancer Support Group in the (not so) “Literal Heart of Jesus,” Hazel meets Gus, who is in remission. Although she is reluctant to be charmed by him, knowing how little time she likely has left, Hazel eventually relents, saying she “fell in love with him the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
Challenge… finding out what happens to the characters in her beloved book after it ends. When she was 13, Hazel was pressured (by the seemingly impending threat of death) into using her Make-A-Wish on a trip to Disneyland. Now, she has no means of visiting the reclusive Van Houten at his home in Amsterdam but wants desperately to be able to talk to him about his masterpiece.
Personality… cynical, witty, and thoughtful. Even though she’s only 16, Hazel is wise beyond her years. She spends a lot of time thinking about death, only to conclude that oblivion is inevitable. Unlike Gus, who wants to live his life grandiosely and be remembered by the masses, Hazel prefers to limit her connections with others so as to minimize the impact of the pain her death will inevitably cause. Despite pulling back from life, Hazel is caring, thoughtful, and brave.
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