Tuesday, April 1, 2014

This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl with Lori and Wayne Earl



  • Release Date: January 28th 2014
  • Genre: YA Nonfiction / Memoir
  • Pages: 428
  • Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
Synopsis: In full color and illustrated with art and photographs, this is a collection of the journals, fiction, letters, and sketches of the late Esther Grace Earl, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 16. Essays by family and friends help to tell Esther’s story along with an introduction by award-winning author John Green who dedicated his #1 bestselling novel The Fault in Our Stars to her.



This book debuted around the time I finished The Fault in Our Stars (I know... super late to the party) but I had no intention of  reading it. Then  I saw it on the shelf at the library and decided why not ? I had seen some of the Esther's videos on YouTube, visited her family's foundation website when she first passed, and I thought I knew most of  Esther Earl's story. 

Well, that turned out to be completely wrong.


 Esther Earl was an amazing girl, who was surrounded by an equally amazing and loving family and I'm so glad they were able to put this story together.


The book is pretty thick, but it's a relatively quick read. Esther Earl, who will be known by millions for being the girl John Green devoted TFiOS to, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age thirteen. This memoir is a mash up of Esther's diary entries (which she allowed her parents to read and potentially publish as she was an aspiring writer), letters she wrote to her parents for presents, YouTube video transcripts, updates from the family blog and personal essays  from Esther's family and friends.


The story these pieces tell is one of strength, but is also completely heartbreaking. Towards the end, Esther knows she won't have a long life and I can't imagine being so ready and prepared to deal with your own mortality. There is a diary entry where she talks about going with her family to pick her cemetery spot and I just got chills.


For obvious reasons, this book is an excellent companion to The Fault in Our Stars. Esther was a fan of John Green and they developed a friendship with him. Her experiences fostered some of the details in TFiOS, but Esther is in no way Hazel, despite sharing a middle name and similar diagnosis. One of the biggest differences between the TFIOS characters and Esther is her faith. Her father is a former pastor and Esther's strong belief seems to be what really powers her through. Esther is also one of five children and she deals with some guilt over monopolizing their parent's time and money. At one point her entire family was living off $300 a month.

From Boston Globe

A large chunk of this book has to do with Esther's involvement in Nerdfighteria, the fandom based around John and Hank Green's YouTube videos. Esther was in a prolific core of online friends known as Catitude. The internet gave her a place to choose whether or not she wanted to be identified by her disease. Her relationships with Catitude only grew and for her Make A Wish they were all flown out to Boston with John Green. While sitting in a hotel eating pizza isn't nearly as glamorous as flying to Amsterdam, it was a wish come true for Esther. John Green's forward in the book details this weekend and I really like his honesty. Green says he is still just really mad about Esther's death and by the time you finish this book you'll completely agree.

In a bigger picture scale, this book is evident of the power, importance, relevance of the kind of communities built around fandoms like The Harry Potter Alliance, The Vlog Brothers, Starkid and other YouTuber's. Esther involvement in these communities and other fandoms (she was a Whovian too!) is what allows her story to be told. Despite recent reports of abuse in the YouTube community, I think Esther's story proves the internet can be a place where people who feel isolated can make connections and teens who don't think they have a voice can find one. Many members of Catitude and HPA were present at her funeral and their essays detailing their online/IRL relationships are some of the best.


I will say, the only part of this book I  skimmed  was the very end where they put in some of the bits and pieces of draft fiction Esther had written. I thought that was a nice touch, but it felt jarring after reading her Dad give her eulogy.  


This Star Won't Go Out is a wonderful and creative memoir and an absolute must read for anyone who has read The Fault In Our Stars.






I love that the cover photo is a Dailybooth Selfie ! (Dailybooth...anyone remember Dailybooth ?)

Learn more and donate to The This Star Won't Go Out Foundation website, This foundation was created by Esther's family (Esther means star in Persian) and assists families in paying for cancer treatments. 




4 comments :

  1. This book has been on my to-read list since before it came out. great review!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, I thought I knew her story as well. Sounds like there's much more to it. What an amazing person.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I read and LOVED TFioS. I just don't think I can read this. I am a mom of three and there is just no way I can read this and not SOB the whole time. I cried through TFioS and that wasn't about real people! You are braver than I am!

    ReplyDelete

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