Countless readers have already fallen in love with Hazel Grace Lancaster — the spunky, cancer-stricken heroine at the center of John Green's beloved YA novel, "The Fault In Our Stars" — but it's high time that fans learn to love Esther Earl.
In 2010, at 16 years old, Earl's four-year battle with thyroid cancer came to an end, but not before she'd made an indelible mark on author Green. A witty and razor sharp nerdfighter who worshipped Harry Potter and aspired to be an author herself, Earl developed a close relationship with YouTube phenom Green after a chance encounter at LeakyCon '09. Green, a former children's hospital chaplain, dedicated his 2012 novel to Earl, and those closest to the late teen say that much of Hazel's voice is undeniably Esther.
"The wicked sense of humor that [the characters] have ... That was so Esther," her father, Wayne Earl, told MTV News, recounting Hazel's first exchange with Gus as a cigarette dangled from his lips. "All I could think of was how much Esther would have loved these characters. In real life, she would have hung out with them."
On Tuesday (January 28), Penguin Group will release a collection of Esther's hand-written journals, personal family photographs and accounts from Esther's parents and close friends, penned during the last two years of Esther's life. The first pages of "This Star Won't Go Out" feature an introduction by Green.
" 'The Fault in Our Stars' is a novel, but if you want to know the real story behind the person who inspired so much of my novel, you have to read 'This Star Won't Go Out," Green told MTV News. "It's beautiful and heartbreaking and full of the love and wit that made Esther such a wonderful person to be around."
The book was born from a promise Wayne made to his daughter before her death: that he would write her story. "It was my way of trying to hold on to her," he said. And after sending a copy of his biography to Green as a gift, the book made its way to Penguin where it evolved into Esther's story, in her own words.
"She has something to say," said Esther's mother, Lori. "So many people grow and learn through her words. She changed us and we want other people to have that opportunity to be inspired to do more and be more and live fully."
When it comes to the film adaptation of "Fault," starring Shailene Woodley as Hazel and Ansel Elgort as Gus, the Earls have been just like any other fans — observing with eager anticipation through social media and the web. But for them, the project's impact stretches well beyond that of the average moviegoer.
"I think it's gonna go a long way to opening up the conversation in culture about death and dying," said Wayne. "I think it's going to help me come to grips with my own process of grieving — no closure, but a sense of healing. It's going to be so amazing to see such a genuine portrayal on screen."
The Earls predict they will "sob" and "laugh" in the theater — and that's OK.
"Esther was all about the juxtaposition of joy and sorrow," said Wayne. "I think they'll be portrayed well in the movie."