Sunday, March 2, 2014
A Bright Message: This Star Won't Go Out
Esther Earl first came into my life shortly after her's ended. On August 27, 2010, John Green posted a video sharing the news that Esther, a teenager with an incredible capacity for compassion and love, had passed away after a long road with thyroid cancer. I was relatively new to Nerdfighteria at this point - I'd only seen a handful of the Vlogbrother's videos before, but links to this one were everywhere. And so over the years, I've learned more about this incredible girl and wish I had sooner. This Star Won't Go Out is a celebration of an extraordinary yet completely ordinary young woman's life.
The majority of the book does focus on the years after Esther's diagnosis, but a life 'before' is established. From the very beginning, she was bright, precocious, inquisitive, and caring. And while she remained these things after cancer came into the picture, she was also a teenage girl with dreams and desires and mood swings and she wasn't without her flaws. Sure she had a good attitude a lot of the time, but she also shared in her diary and blog entries when was grumpy and mad and upset and in pain. She had a complicated relationship with her body, with God, with her family, and with her friends. The internet became a place where she didn't have to be A Girl with Cancer, but simply a Harry Potter fanatic. But eventually she did open up to those people about the true nature of her health and it only made her full life that much richer.
As someone who works with teenagers, I can attest that this book does a great job showing who they really are. That they are capable of doing and feeling so much more than they are often given credit for. I also appreciated the inclusions from her parents, doctors, and various other adults in her life who recognized that Esther was extraordinary for a lot of reasons. I went into this book with prior context which I think helped my reading to an extent, but basics are given for those less familiar with Esther's story. I will admit that since I was not a friend of Esther nor did I know of her before, I occasionally felt uncomfortable reading, like I was intruding on a conversation too late to ever really be a part of it.
All in all, this book is big love letter to an amazing person who was the kind of teenager I wish I had been. She had empathy and enthusiasm, embraced Internet culture and found true friendship and acceptance in an arena I had been too afraid to explore until my 20s. She wasn't a saint, though. She was, through it all, herself, and that was more than enough to change a lot of lives. And I say this is a love letter not in a romantic way, but in that platonic, familial, every-day kind of love that so few people celebrate as often as they should, but Esther was wise enough to realize at 16 we could all do more on that front.
DFTBA, Esther. Your book is an amazing testament to your life and the people you touched. I only wish I'd have "known" you sooner.
This Star Won't Go Out - Foundation set up in Esther's memory
John Green's Video Euology
Esther's YouTube Channel