My siblings and I once had an argument that anything in the world could be connected back to food. My sister went to extreme lengths to prove that this was correct: curtains=window=windows in dining rooms=eating in dining rooms=food.
However John Green proposes another answer: death.
One of the best ideas in TFiOS is that everything is a side effect of dying.
Not yourself dying, of course, but dying in general. What makes the characters in TFiOS so unique is that they must face what most of us take the advantage of ignoring: the last thing we ever do on this earth is die.
The protagonists of this novel, Hazel and Augustus, are cancer patients, and therefore are staring at death in the face. And this is what makes them so interesting when compared to other YA characters.
Granted, they still act like teenagers, but their decisions and personalities spring from the awareness of inevitable death. What’s most interesting is that their responses are polar opposites.
Hazel knows she’s going to die, so she wants to hurt as few people as possible when she leaves. She detaches herself from society (her best friends are her parents, after all) and spends time reading books. She doesn’t want to get into a relationship with Augustus because she doesn’t want to hurt him, despite the obvious attraction.
Hazel’s so worried about this because when she almost died, she heard her mother say, “I’m not going to be a mom anymore.” I think this is why she’s so obsessed with finding out the ending to An Imperial Affliction: she wants to know what will happen to her mother after she is gone. She wants to know that afterwards, her mother will be okay, move on, and have a happy life.
Augustus, on the other hand, is desperate to reach out to as many people as possible before he dies. He is obsessed with making his mark on the world, so that he can be inspiration for someone else.
He is sincerely amazed by everything he experiences. I really like that part when they are on the plane and he says, “NOTHING HAS LOOKED LIKE THAT EVER IN ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY”. He wants to be something just as incredible, so he says and does things that are thought provoking, possibly hoping that something will stick with someone else.
It makes me I wonder where on the spectrum I would be.
And that is also a side effect of dying.
“Depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying. (Cancer is also a side effect of dying. Almost everything is, really.)” -John Green, TFiOS