I never got to meet Esther Earl, but I feel like I just spent the past few days with her. Esther was an enthusiastic and loving girl who passed away from thyroid cancer at the age of 16. Before she died, she inspired people everywhere to make the world more awesome. One of these people was the author John Green, who wrote The Fault in Our Stars in her memory.
Esther dreamed of becoming a published author, and at the beginning of 2014 she finally got her wish posthumously. After being diagnosed with cancer, this strong girl decided to write extensively about her feelings. Her parents compiled Esther’s journal entries, letters, blog posts, and drawings into a book called This Star Won’t Go Out. It’s a very special book, and I’m going to try and explain why it was so touching.
Firstly, I really commend Penguin for going all out with this book. It’s not just a good read, but a beautiful object. The pages are thick and brightly colored, with star patterns and several color photographs adorning them. It may seem odd to have a book printed on colored paper, but it felt like reading a teenager’s scrapbook, which isn’t too far from what this book is. I think it’s great that the publisher made sure Esther’s book was as vibrant and beautiful as she was, no matter the cost. While many people are admirers of Esther thanks to John Green, a book about a dying young girl is a hard sell, and such production costs were probably a risk.
As far as the content goes, in many ways it is typical of a teenager’s diary. Esther writes about wanting to kiss boys and feeling disconnected from her sister and the difficulty of making friends. She’s often silly and at times hard to understand because she’s writing in internet slang or about inside jokes. But I thought it was great to read something so genuine and from a “normal” person. Esther knew that her parents would probably read her writings if she died, but other than that she wrote only for herself. It was refreshing to read something so pure and untouched. I really felt as though I was listening to Esther speak to me.
But Esther was also not completely normal, and that is what makes her book so inspiring. Esther was very open and honest about her feelings, often talking about feeling isolated and depressed and confused. She knew that there was a good chance she would die soon, and she was scared of not making a difference in the world before she left. But being bedridden and tired all the time made it hard for her do things, which is why communicating with people on the internet became such a big part of her life near the end. Her internet friends contributed letters to the book, and it was inspiring to see how deeply Esther touched people even if she couldn’t leave her house.
I think the greatest books are the ones that teach us something about ourselves and the world, and inspire us to change, even just a little. This Star Won’t Go Out did that for me. If Esther, who often felt like she was not doing enough with her life, could inspire so many people while very sick, why can’t I? If Esther could be so open with her feelings even when she knew they might make her family sad, why can’t I write about my feelings, too? Esther has inspired me to be a better, more honest person every day, even if I doubt my capabilities.
“I do hope that when the day comes, whether in 1, 10, or 100 years, I don’t want you to think of me and feel sad.” – Esther Earl
The only reason I can’t give this book a perfect 5 stars is because I think it could have been edited better, which admittedly isn’t Esther’s fault. But the arrangement of the entries was confusing at times, since they skipped forward and backward in time. I also disliked that the book ended with excerpts from Esther’s fictional writings. These were half-finished tidbits that didn’t really say much about Esther, except for illustrating her love for writing. I would have preferred the book to end with a focus on her, instead of her fictional characters.
Ultimately, this book is heartbreaking, but that is to be expected. It is unfair to become attached to such a wonderful young lady all while knowing that she doesn’t exist anymore. But really, because of this book, Esther will always exist. This Star Won’t Go Out isn’t just a tribute to Esther, it is Esther: her words, her personality, her dreams all come to life in these pages. And as long as people keep reading them, her spirit will stay alive.