On the way to Augustus’ house, he drives horrifically because of his prosthetic leg. Hazel explains that she should have been nervous about going home with a boy, but she is too concerned about his driving to worry about anything else. Augustus explains that he failed his driving test four times, but eventually got his license. Hazel states the license was a “cancer perk”, that he technically should have failed the last test.
Augustus’ struggle with driving shows one of the many ways he is different than his peers. The mention of “cancer perks” is a place where Hazel and Augustus identify with one another, but also shows the way in which those with cancer are treated differently than their healthy peers.
Before arriving at Augustus’ house, Hazel tells Augustus they make hand controls for people who don't have legs to drive with. Augustus says “someday”, which makes Hazel wonder how he feels about the future. She states that there are a number of ways to gauge a cancer survivor’s thoughts about the future. She asks him about school, explaining that parents pull children out of school if they think the child is going to die. Augustus explains that he is a sophomore, but has fallen behind a year. When he asks Hazel the same question, she considers lying, but tells him that her parents pulled her from school three years ago, but she is in community college now.
Augustus’ confidence in the future indicates to Hazel that he is not immediately concerned about death, but this "gauge" is proven to be inaccurate later in the book showing the way that life and death are unpredictable. Her thought about lying show the way in which unrelated things become indicators of one’s health, and she does not want her health to get between her an Augustus.
Hazel goes on to tell Augustus about her diagnosis and treatment. She was diagnosed at thirteen, just after she had her first menstruation. She was told it was incurable, but she went through surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. After all of this, her lungs filled with water, which she explains felt like drowning for months on end. She contracted pneumonia, and ended up in the hospital, but recovered from pneumonia. Finally, she was put on a treatment called Phalanxifor, which was ineffective in 70% of people, but worked for her. She shares it is unclear how much time the treatment bought her, but she paints the rosiest picture possible for Augustus.
It's symbolic that Hazel’s cancer was diagnosed just after her first menstruation. Illness and coming of age are closely related in the novel. The water in Hazel’s lungs is used in the literal sense in this passage, but in the novel comes to represent her suffering. Augustus’ last name is Waters, drawing a connection between their relationship and cancer. The success of Hazel's treatment shows the way in which life and death are unpredictable, and this is not lost on Hazel. Yet she is careful to make herself look as healthy as possible for Augustus.
They arrive at Augustus’ house. Upon entering, Hazel notices that the house is laden with encouraging sayings embroidered into pillows and hung in frames on the wall. Augustus explains that his parents call them encouragements and that his parents keep them everywhere around the house.
Augustus’ parents deal with his cancer by focusing on positivity. This positivity has overtaken their entire house, their entire lives, as a way to cope with the difficulties of cancer. Yet they seem more for his parents than for Augustus.
Augustus’ mom and dad are in the kitchen making enchiladas. Augustus introduces Hazel as Hazel Grace, but she quickly corrects him it is just Hazel. She notices that they call him Gus, and likes the idea of a person having two names. They ask about the support group, and Augustus drolly says it was “incredible.” His parents then ask Hazel what she thought, and trying hard to give them the answer they want says, “most of the people are really nice.” His dad agrees, saying, “in the darkest days, The Lord puts the best people into your life.” Augustus quickly says that he needs some thread and a throw pillow because what his father said should be an “encouragement”. Augustus quickly puts his arms arm around his father’s neck and tells him he is just kidding, and that he really likes the sayings, but can’t show it because he is a teenager.
The use of different names in this section introduces the idea of identity that is inherent in coming of age novels. Both Augustus and Hazel are working to define their identities in the larger world beyond their families. As teenagers, they are critical of the support group. Hazel tries to be nice, showing the way in which she cares about the feeling of his family, and the difference in the way she interacts with adults. Augustus’ fathers’ comment about the Lord suggests that they have turned to religion to cope with Augustus’ cancer, which is common in the novel. Augustus, however, pushes back against his father’s faith, which shows the way in which he is challenging his parents as he develops his own beliefs.
Augustus’ parents ask Hazel if she will be staying for dinner. Hazel agrees, but tells them she doesn't eat meat. Augustus’ parents tell her they will “vegetarianism” an enchilada for Hazel. Augustus asks Hazel whether animals are just too cute to eat. Hazel responds by saying she wants to minimize the number of deaths she is responsible for.
Hazel’s desire to minimize death and suffering speaks to an inconsistency in her philosophy. Externally, she presents a nihilistic view of life, but at times she is very conscious not to hurt others. This idea of not causing harm becomes an important part of Hazel’s character as the novel continues.
Before dinner Augustus shows Hazel the basement. A shelf runs the whole circumference of the basement, packed with basketball trophies. Augustus explains that he used to play basketball. He used to be pretty good, obsessed with mastering the midrange jump shot, but one day while in the gym shooting hoops from the foul line, he couldn't figure out why he was tossing a “spherical object through a toroidal object.” He explains that the activity suddenly felt stupid. He then explains that the day of his existential dilemma around basketball was his last day with both legs, the day he was diagnosed with cancer.
Like Hazel, Augustus’ cancer arrives as he begins to experience his coming of age. His deep thought about basketball also shows us that Augustus is a deep thinker, which Hazel comes to admire about him.
As Hazel listens to Augustus talk, she explains that she is really into him. She asks whether he has siblings, and he tells her he has two older sisters who are married with their own children. Then Augustus asks Hazel what her story is. She begins telling him about her diagnosis, but he stops her short saying, “don't tell me you are one of those people who become their disease.” She worries, for a moment, that she is one of those people. When Augustus prods her to tell him about herself, she says she likes reading. She tells him about her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction. She explains its importance in her life; that it fills her with a “weird evangelical zeal.”
Augustus’ concern that Hazel defines herself by her cancer speaks to the way in which a cancer diagnosis can begin to shape an individual’s identity. Hazel’s cancer does impact the way that she exists in the world and relates to others, so she begins to worry that she has become her disease. Although this may be true at this point in the novel, this moment begins to show the change she experiences through the novel. The talk of An Imperial Affliction filling her with “evangelical zeal” suggests that Hazel turns to the novel’s philosophy instead of religion to cope with her cancer.
Augustus says he is going to read An Imperial Affliction. He grabs a book from his bookshelf titled The Price of Dawn and hands it to Hazel. Augustus tells Hazel it is based on his favorite video game. As he hands her the book, he grabs her hand. Augustus notes that her hand is cold, which Hazel blames on her lack of oxygen. They hold hands all the way to the stairs.
Although Hazel and Augustus first connected through their shared experience with cancer, they quickly connect through other things like humor, pop culture, and literature. Their holding hands shows that they are quickly becoming attracted and comfortable with one another.
They watch V for Vendetta, which Hazel doesn't really like because it is a “boy movie”, but agrees is great to make Augustus happy. Augustus’ mother takes a seat beside her before she leaves and grabs a pillow with the saying, “without pain, how could we know joy?” She tells Hazel she loves the saying. Internally, Hazel believes it is an old argument for thinking about suffering that could easily be dismantled, but she replies to Augustus’ mother by saying it is a lovely thought.
Hazel’s interaction with Augustus’ mother indicates that she cares about family and sympathizes with their suffering. Her philosophical leanings move her to feel the encouragement is trite, but she agrees that it is lovely to avoid hurting Augustus’ mother.
Hazel drives Augustus car home. As they drive, she wonders what his prosthetic leg looks like. She doesn't want to care about it, but cant help wondering. She notes that illness repulses, and she suspects Augustus feels the same way about her oxygen tank. When they arrive at Hazel’s house, she puts the car in park. Augustus turns the radio down and Hazel can only think about kissing him. He says it was a pleasure to make her acquaintance, and asks if he can see her again tomorrow. Hazel tells him to be patient and she will call him after she finishes the book he gave her.
Hazel’s interest in Augustus leg show the way in which even though they both have cancer, they are still different than one another and their differences are still uncomfortable. Hazel’s thoughts about kissing Augustus show her strong attraction to him and his desire to see her again show his attraction for her, but Hazel keeps the upper hand in the interaction by telling Augustus to be patient.