This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl

This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl Reviewer is sympathetic to the writer but finds book is lacking any insight

Rating: 2 stars out of 5

I was intrigued to read this book after learning that the author was personally known by John Green, and was someone who partially inspired the character ‘Hazel’ in his best-selling novel The Fault in Our Stars. He also dedicated his story to her. Like Hazel, Esther Earl had childhood cancer and tragically succumbed to the disease at the age of only 16.

While it’s horrible to lose a child and I am saddened she had to experience suffering so young, I felt this book objectively fell flat. Though I must admit that John Green’s introduction was tear jerking, Earl’s writing offered little and frankly not much was said about her as a person other than she was considerate of those around her.

The samples chosen of her writing were scattered and often pointless, including inside jokes that made it hard to follow. Instead of essays or stories written by the young author, the book primarily consisted of Earl’s letters to her parents, diary entries, Skype chats with friends, and medical updates from the family of her illness.

She reflected occasionally on the struggles of cancer, but ultimately we got very little true insight into her journey. In many ways she was simply an ordinary child, which is a prominent aspect of the character Hazel, and it was refreshing not to see a sugar coated version of the realities of growing up under these circumstances. That being said, far more emphasis was placed on her casual exchanges with friends than a deeper understanding of her thoughts towards her illness.

My favorite moments were when she would confide in her diary during the times felt angry or confused about her religion or the cancer. If she had offered more insight into this element of her journey, I felt the book as a whole could have provided readers a unique look into a child’s struggles with navigating adolescence and grappling with such a powerful and destructive illness.

Without her tragic back-story and a connection to John Green I doubt this book would get the praise it’s receiving. Her friends and family clearly cherished her, but beyond the inherently sad loss of life there were few lessons to be learned.

This book reminds me of Marina Keegan’s “The Opposite of Loneliness” because both are posthumously published collections of writing from a life lost too soon. I found Keegan’s essays to be both powerful and unpretentious and would suggest it over Earl’s book. Admittedly, Keegan was a 22-year-old recent Yale graduate so it’s hard to hold Earl to the same standards, but Keegan’s essays were more universal and offer insight into life in your 20’s.  Earl’s on the other hand serves as a terrific memento for family or friends that knew her well, but fails to engage a larger audience.

I am of course tragically sorry for the loss of Esther Earl, but I would skip on the book– there are stronger narratives that remind you of the fragility of life.

The This Star Won’t Go Out Foundation is a charity created in Esther’s name. To learn more, and to support families struggling with the financial hardships related to childhood cancer, visit