The novel is based on John Green's early life. Growing up, Green always loved writing, but when it came to his middle school experience, he described life as a middle schooler as "pretty bleak". When describing himself as a student, Green describes himself as "unbearable" to parents and teachers, while always working hard to fit in amongst his peers. Green's situation did not improve after his transition to high school, so he asked his parents if he could attend Indian Springs School, a boarding school outside of Birmingham, Alabama. His parents agreed and he spent the remainder of his time in high school at Indian Springs School forming valuable relationships with teachers, relationships that Green says still exist today. It was Green's experience at boarding school that inspired him to write this novel. Many of the characters and events that take place in the novel are based on what Green experienced at the school, including the death of a central character in the novel.