This Star Won't Go Out: the Life & Words of Esther Grace Earl
by Esther Earl with Lori and Wayne Earl
Introduction by John Green
It's strange to me to review a book that isn't a book so much as a collection of other writings bound together into a book. This is a look at Esther, a young girl who happened to have cancer that proved to be terminal, through her diary entries, blog posts from her parents after major events, internet chats, letters from her, letters about her, drawings she made, photos of her, the eulogy her father gave at her funeral, and even some of her creative writing pieces. Together, they gave me incredible insight into her mind and her life that you don't get in something written to be read by others, like a biography or memoir. You get personal, intimate access to her thoughts, even though she's long gone. And they're raw, beautiful, sad, and honest thoughts. It reminded me a whole lot of reading The Diary of Anne Frank, honestly. Both girls could have been professional writers, but neither wrote diaries intending for them to be read by hundreds of thousands of people. But I'm very glad they both exist.
I am lucky enough to not know what it's like to be dying of cancer. In some small way, I now know a tiny bit of how it must feel but, more importantly, how much of a difference this particular girl made on everyone she touched. I knew Esther only briefly through Nerdfighteria. I was on a few chats she was on through the HPA and Nerdfighter livestreams, but never spoke with her directly. My first time really "meeting" her happened on page 281 of her book, when the Harry Potter Alliance won the Chase Community grant and, as co-organizer of an HPA chapter, I got to be in the front row along with just a handful of people at Infinitus when we Skyped with Esther and celebrated winning the money for charity. She was too ill at that time to make the trip from Boston to Orlando, but she was dynamic on the screen and we could all feel her love in the room with us. I frequently wear my green This Star Won't Go Out bracelet in her memory, but mainly to remind myself to not take the people around me for granted and let them know how much I love them whenever I can.
I am a cryer; all my friends and family know this. Still, I didn't think I would cry as much as I did during reading this. I cried a lot when Esther died a few years ago; I certainly knew how this book was going to end. But the emotion in her writing was so honest and revealing. And the accounts and tributes of her family and friends in this book were equally compelling. I felt as though I were right there with them, living through it. And though Esther's entries were mostly ones looking forward to things and not a lot of recapping what had happend (lots of "I'm going to this place!" and less "here's a full account of what happened when I went to this place") I could still piece together how much her friends and family meant to her... and how much she became a part of the Harry Potter and Nerdfighter communities. I loved seeing her first mentions of Wizard Rock concerts and of discovering Nerdfighteria. I could really relate to a lot of what she described feeling. I couldn't relate to the religious side of things at all, but it was still beautiful and interesting to read her thoughts of faith and God's glory and strength. Again, it felt like a privledge to get to be inside her head, reading her uncensored thoughts. If I could thank her for allowing me this insight I would, but I will settle for thanking her family for publishing this book in such a loving and lasting tribute to their daughter and what she meant to the community and this world. I was touched and inspired reading about her and how she touched everyone who got to know her.
In a way, Esther reminds me a little of Becky, a young member of my local BookCrossing group who was killed in a car accident a few years ago. Both girls left this world far too soon, both gave their love fully and freely, both are remembered today through campains of love and hugs. And while I knew Becky for only a short time and never met Esther in person, I don't think I'll ever forget what either of them have taught me.
This Star Won't Go Out Foundation: http://tswgo.org/
Becky's Hugs: http://www.beckyshugs.com/