Esther Day is celebrated by self-declared Nerdfighters~all over the world on August 3. It’s a day dedicated to platonic and familial love, in honor of Esther Earl’s birthday. Her young life was cut short by cancer in 2010, but while she was alive, she was a vlogger and activist. She befriended author John Green and inspired his New York Times best-selling novel The Fault in Our Stars. Her own New York Times bestseller, This Star Won’t Go Out, was published posthumously. She would have been twenty-five years old this year.
To honor this day, and this remarkable young woman’s life, we have a variety of books, both fiction and nonfiction, featuring platonic and familial love with cancer as a common thread.
The 8th Island Trilogy by Alexis Marie Chute
This fantastical YA trilogy follows Ella, a fourteen-year-old girl with cancer, her strong-willed mother, Tessa, and her grandfather, Archie. When Archie uses a portal-jumping device called a Trillastrion, he unwittingly takes Tessa and Ella with him to Jar-Wya. On this magical war-torn island, they undergo many trials, including the search for a cure for Ella. Ella’s wit and resourcefulness prove to be their greatest assets time and time again.
Bedside Manners by Heather Frimmer
In this heart-wrenching story of the relationship between mother and daughter, Joyce and her daughter Marnie must cope with Joyce’s breast cancer diagnosis. On top of the pain they feel over the diagnosis, they must also contend with their shifting roles. Joyce is uncomfortable with her shift in role from caregiver to patient. Marnie must learn to put aside her identity as a doctor and focus on being a supportive daughter.
This Star Won’t Go Out by Esther Earl
This is Esther’s own book. Compiled and co-written by her parents, it includes some of her journal entries, photographs, letters, sketches, and works of fiction. Additionally, it contains essays written by family members that help to flesh out her story. Her narrative and insights give those of us who cannot begin to fathom what she is going through a glimpse into what it is like to be a teenage girl who knows she’s dying.
The Cast by Amy Blumenfeld
When Becca was in ninth grade, her friends made her a Saturday Night Live-style video to cheer her up while she was in recovery from cancer. Now, for the twenty-fifth reunion of Becca Night Live, they have reunited. Little do they know, Becca has been diagnosed with cancer again. That weekend, nothing goes according to plan. Through humor, honesty, and forgiveness, their friendships become the life raft Becca—and her supporting cast—needs once again.
Bound* by Elizabeth Anne Wood
This heart-breaking, surprising, and sometimes hilarious memoir follows Judy, Elizabeth’s mother, through her cancer treatment and beyond. The twist? Judy was a dominatrix. Using BDSM as a framework to navigate the end of her mother’s life, Elizabeth illustrates the relationship and unconditional love between mother and daughter during one of life’s most heightened moments: death.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
This novel was inspired by Green’s dear friend Esther. It follows Hazel Grace, a teenage girl with cancer. A twist of fate brings Augustus Waters into her Cancer Kid Support Group, and thus begins her first foray into romantic love. Beyond her romance with Gus, her familial relationship and their friendships with other teens give Hazel a life full of all kinds of love and adventure, despite the terminal diagnosis looming above her head.
~Nerdfighters are members of an online community called Nerdfighteria. It surrounds the YouTube channel VlogBrothers, run by brothers John and Hank Green, both New York Times bestselling authors.
*not out yet, but available for preorder now