Wednesday, January 21, 2015

REVIEW: This Star Won't Go Out

I first heard about Esther Earl, like so many of us did, from John Green.  Inspired by the anger he felt at Esther's young death, he finished The Fault in Our Stars and dedicated it to her.  I was eager to read her book, a collection of her words and thoughts leading up through her funeral.

But let me tell you a little about Esther if she's new to you.  Esther was only 16 in 2010 when she passed away from cancer.  She left behind a YouTube channel filled with her quirky yet mature personality and a family that missed her immensely.  So they took Esther's diary, letters, and sketches and combined them into This Star Won't Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl.  

You have to prepare yourself when you read a book like this; you know it won't be a fast, cheery read.  You want to savor each detail, knowing that they represent a lifetime lost too soon.  What was even more interesting (even emotional) for me was that I listened to it on audiobook and Esther's parents read part of the book.  It takes a book to a whole new level when a person so involved in a life partakes in the reading.  So let's jump into the review:

  • Standalone book
  • Memoir/Nonfiction

What I Loved:
  • The reader of this book was amazing!  I've watched Esther's YouTube videos and I think the reader captured her personality perfectly.  And hearing Esther's parents read parts of the story added such depth to the emotion of the story.  
  • Speaking of Esther's parents reading on the audiobook, the actual recording from the funeral was used; readers hear Esther's father speaking at the funeral with the audience vocal reactions.  A breathtaking moment of listening to the story.
  • Esther is raw, honest, and herself.  She doesn't make her story "pretty."  She is completely upfront with how she's feeling about her life, death, and everything in between.
  • I left this book feeling inspired to appreciate every moment I have, but I also felt like it was okay to be sad, annoyed, and even angry.  This is a book that makes you feel.
What I Didn't Live:
  • Like I mentioned earlier, this isn't a book that you breeze through.  You have to take it in stride, knowing you'll be laughing and sighing within pages of each other.
  • And in addition to not breezing through the book, you have to understand as a reader that you know from the get-go what you're going to get with this book.  Esther didn't take a surprise trip, make a jaw-dropping discovery, write something profound, etc.  In other words, Esther was a normal girl and you will read about how her life was normal despite her having a cancer diagnosis.  You will read the journals of a girl leading up to her death.  And you must be prepared for that.  
Three heels for me--a solid, emotional read that gives you exactly what you expect!

I hope you read Esther's words to keep her star from going out, to remember that sometimes our lives are taken just way too early.

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