This is John Green at his best and oh is that good. The characters are beautifully drawn and heartbreakingly realistic, Hazel Lancaster doesn't represent anything and her suffering and that of her peers isn't meant to make any kind of point. It's just what it is, suffering. Equally so Hazel is simply Hazel, a girl who watches really trashy TV and loves long novels and poetry.
In being just an ordinary teenage girl she really fancies a boy and here is where we come across Augustus Waters, the boy who clenches death itself between his teeth just to prove it doesn't own him.
Through these two characters we are shown every agonizing moment of living with cancer and the fight not only to carry on living but to stop it from consuming your mind and your personality. The book seems to pose the question, if your entire personality has become nothing but the need to fight and survive cancer and there is no longer room for joy or even love, then in what way is that living?.
A large part of this struggle takes place within family circles, the parallel desperation and monotony of having a child with cancer is skilfully and subtly made evident by Green.
Ultimately Green strives to portray his characters not as those fighting cancer are often shown, forced into playing the role of brave and wise soldiers stoically enduring untold suffering. He shows them as they truly are, just people, beautiful wonderful people but people none the less. They have no choice but to keep fighting because they are given no other option and because to admit defeat means death.
It is not their struggle that defines them but who they are in spite of it, managing to live and to love and even have fun and laugh. They use every moment given to them in the most beautiful way possible and that is what makes them exceptional.
P.S. I didn't get a signed copy and I couldn't care less.