Remembering the Girl Who Inspired 'The Fault in Our Stars'

By Kerrie Mitchell

As the movie adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars hits theaters tomorrow, a local news station took a moment to remember an essential figure in the universe of Stars author John Green: Esther Earl. Fans of the book know her as the 16-year-old Massachusetts girl who died of cancer in 2010, and who served as an inspiration for Green’s novel about desperately ill teenagers (he even dedicated the book to her). In a 
 Tumblr post  from 2012 commemorating what would have been her 18th birthday, Green wrote of Earl: “She was young, blessed with a genuinely sophomoric sense of humor, silly, empathetic, madly in love with her friends and family, and a very gifted writer.” 

Green has always been careful to note that the novel’s love story — and especially its heroine, Hazel — is not based on Earl or her life. But the memory of her spirit obviously looms large for him. Last year, during a set visit to the Fault set, he told Yahoo Movies that he credited Earl with helping to shape the story of Stars, a book he’d been struggling with for more than a decade. “ I wanted to try to write about people as I knew them — as full, rich, complicated, funny, people, [but I] couldn’t ever do it,” he said. “Then, through my friendship [with Esther], I came to see people – young people – living with cancer differently, and I was able to write the book.”


Earlier this year, Green  wrote the introduction for the bookThis Star Won’t Go Out , a collection of Earl’s emails and journal entries. The book landed on the New York Timesyoung adult best-seller list (which TFIOS still tops) and brought another round of fame to the girl gone too soon. Though Earl never got to read The Fault in Our Stars, on Tumblr, Green speculated that she may have found it “a bit far-fetched,” but hoped she would’ve enjoyed it anyway. “I am astonished that the book has found such a broad audience,” he wrote, “but the person I most want to read it never will.”


With reporting by Breanne L. Heldman

Photo credit: Penguin