exposition isn't the happiest of Disney-fied beginnings. In fact, a
great deal of the exposition has to do with the very depressing topic of
"What it's like to be a teenager with a terminal illness?" So, as we
get introduced to Hazel, our beloved heroine, we get to see the ins and
outs of a day with cancer, which includes not going to school, being
hovered over obsessively by one's parents, watching lots of reality
television, and going to Support Group in the basement of a church.
Things start to pick up when Hazel meets Augustus, a rather attractive boy in her Support Group. Pretty soon, they're swooning over the same books and having phone calls into the wee hours of the night. With his arrival, Hazel starts seeing the possibility of a life more exciting than her cancer-ridden one… and Augustus agrees. Augustus starts corresponding with Hazel's favorite writer (something she's never been able to do) and lo and behold, they get an invitation to go to Amsterdam and learn more about the ending of Hazel's favorite book.
The climax of the book might as well be called "When in Amsterdam…" because everything dramatic goes down in the European city. First of all, things do not go well with Peter Van Houten, and there's an explosive scene at his house in which Augustus yells at him. Secondly, Augustus and Hazel finally give into those raging hormones. And thirdly (as if there could be any more!), Augustus breaks the news to Hazel that he recently had a PET scan and his cancer has returned aggressively. So now it's him who's dying?
The falling action in the story happens in accordance with Augustus' failing health. Poor Hazel has to deal with the heartbreak of watching her first love get weaker and weaker. All she wants to do is be there for him, and watching him die takes up her whole life. When Augustus dies, it's unimaginably hard.
In the end, Hazel is full-on mourning Augustus's loss. But she reaches some closure when she talks to Peter Van Houten at the funeral and learns that he had a daughter who died of cancer, which is why he wrote An Imperial Affliction. She also discovers a eulogy that Augustus wrote for her before he died—one last word from her first love.