The character of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old battling cancer in the new film ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ based on the book of the same title, is played by Shailene Woodley.
But Woodley’s character channels someone else, someone real; a young woman named Esther Earl from Beverly, Massachusetts, who lost her battle to thyroid cancer in August of 2010. Earl was 16 when she died.
John Green, who wrote the book, had met Earl at a Harry Potter conference back in 2009. Earl supported Green’s decision to write “The Fault In Our Stars;” the two remained friends until Earl passed away.
Green paid tribute to her on his website and also by being a major donor to the charity Earl’s parents started in her memory called “This Star Won’t Go Out.”
Earl, it seems, gave a real face to cancer while she was alive. She experienced her fears and her pain very publicly, sharing them with the world on social media.
Earl had a very big Internet presence on multiple platforms including Twitter and Tumblr. However, her friends, family, and fans got to know her best through her funny and empathetic videos. “I’m not always amazing,” she said. “I’m not always strong and you guys should know that.”
In fact, Earl’s videos remain live on YouTube, though she passed away nearly four years ago.
She’s incredibly candid, and talks about how lonely it was at the end. On August 9th, she put up a video where she admitted she had lost touch with most of her friends.
“I just sit on my bed,” she says, “and sometimes my couch. And I am mostly just hanging out with my family.”
Here, she reacts to learning about Esther day, which John Green dedicated to her on August 3rd of 2010. She died just 3 weeks later.
Her parents published a book called “This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life & Words of Esther Grace Earl,” a collection of Esther’s drawings and notes along with family stories. John Green wrote the introduction.
One letter in the book was written when she was 14 to her 17-year-old self. She had instructed her parents to read it if she died before she was able to open it.
“If you haven’t done something amazing, don’t forget to try,” 14-year-old Esther tells her future self. “The worst that can happen is you fail, and then you can just try again until you succeed.”
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