Title: Five Feet Apart
Author: Rachael Lippincott
Contributors: Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis
Format: Kindle eBook
Page Count: 288
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Original Publication Date: 2018
Genre(s): Young adult, Contemporary, Romance
70% of the time, Stella is your typical teenager—going to school, hanging out with friends, and making YouTube videos. The other 30%, though, is spent in hospitals, due to her lungs. Stella has Cystic Fibrosis, and her main goal in life is to get a new pair of lungs. And, of course, make her parents happy.
Will has seen the world, but from the window of hospital rooms. He, too, has CF, but has a much smaller chance of getting new lungs and a much higher chance of dying. After numerous experimental trial test runs and failures, Will would much rather just travel the world—outside of hospitals—and die on a beach somewhere.
Though they don’t fall in love at first sight, the two develop a relationship over the course of their stay at the same hospital. The only problem? Any physical contact could kill them both. The rule? Six feet apart at all times.
Okie doke, folks, let’s get right into this. First of all, the fact that this film was in production before the novel was even released is just whack, but I understand the eagerness to push push push the film: it’s a YA, sick-lit moneymaker hot on the heels of John Green’s live-forever-in-infamy The Fault in Our Stars. And they were right: people have been clamoring to get their hands on the book. I myself was on waiting lists for the physical book, eBook, and audiobook version for both my physical library and the digital library. I finally just broke down and paid the $11.99 (!!!!!!!!!!) for the eBook on Kindle.
I devoured this book within a day. Five Feet Apart is told in alternating chapters narrated by Stella and Will. The story follows the pair as they share the same hospital for the first time, just a few rooms down from one another. (Side note: if CFers can’t get within 6 feet of each other, why put them all in the same hospital wing???) There aren’t too many other characters of importance in the novel. In fact, there’s a pretty small cast of characters. The only other main-ish character is Poe, another CFer who happens to be queer and a POC and absolutely amazing.
Though Stella and Will have different ideas about life and death and their disease, I can sympathize with and understand both of their mindsets. I felt the characters were very real, especially Will. Will seemed like the stereotypical cocky, teenage boy, which we all hate at first, which is so real. Don’t get me wrong, I love TFIOS, and all those other novels with the oh-so-perfect boys who are dreamboats from their first scene, but that’s absolutely unrealistic. Not that I expect a work of fiction to seem ‘realistic,’ necessarily, but come on… Every teenage boy I’ve ever met acts exactly like Will does at first. They just need someone to break down their walls. Cue Stella, whom I really liked and connected with. It was nice reading from both of their perspectives.
I really didn’t think I was going to read or enjoy this novel, but I seem to have accomplished both. The writing isn’t spectacular by any means, and the story isn’t not cliché, but it’s a heartwarming (and heartbreaking) story that not only was a fun, fast read, but also brings awareness to CF and reminds us of the reality of disease and death.
Also, I’ll admit, I totally shed some tears. …okay, more than ‘some.’
Before I go, I wanted to address some things that may be holding you back from reading this novel. A lot of the popular 1-star reviews on Goodreads are a little misleading, and if they are worrying you, please read the following.
***Note: Number 3 contains a spoiler so please skip it if you don’t want an aspect of the story spoiled for you!***
1 ) The book does not romanticize CF or sickness.
I hate that, any time a book is written about a mental or physical disease, people say that the book “romanticizes” said disease. I’ll admit, some do. But this one doesn’t. It’s not cute or fun to have CF, and the book doesn’t allude to it. The book does show the bad sides of the disease—maybe not in full, explicit detail, but they do mention it and you get the gist: it’s not a fun time. And besides, every disease affects each individual in different ways. You can’t always expect everything to be the same with everyone.
2 ) There is no insta-love.
Stella hates Will when they first meet. It is not love at first sight. It takes some time for Stella and Will to connect. And when they do, yeah, they fall fast and hard. Were you ever a teenager? Don’t you remember how fast you “fell in love” with people? Okay, now magnify that by 10 because you’re dying of CF and you’ve never had a real relationship and you want some kind of something before you die as a teenager. Get it now? It’s not insta-love. It’s called being a teenager. A sick teenager, at that.
***This next one contains a spoiler, so please skip it if you haven’t read the book yet.***
3 ) The only gay and POC character dying is not a statement about anything.
I swear, people will turn nothing into a political or social debate… There is a small cast of characters in this novel. The fact that one of them happens to be a POC and queer and ends up dying doesn’t mean anything. Someone had to die. The author chose the best friend. That’s it. And why is it so bad that this friend’s death causes Stella to reevaluate her life??? If your best friend died, whether he was gay or not, wouldn’t you be affected, too? I just really don’t understand peoples’ problem with this.
4 ) Yes, the characters are reckless and no, that doesn’t mean the book is trivializing CF.
The characters know what they’re risking. They know that 1 less foot of space between them could be life or death. The have been living with their disease their whole lives. But they are teenagers. I feel like people complain when teenagers in YA act too much like adults, and then also complain when they act too much like kids. Well, news flash, they are the in-between, and they can act like both. They aren’t idiots, but yes, they are reckless, and they know it. I don’t think they’re trivializing CF by taking horrible risks, I think they are sick and desperate for affection and craving something they will never be able to have. If you think they’re just dumb, horny teenagers willing to die for sex, you really didn’t read the book.
Anyway, if you’re looking for a fast read that’ll engage you and make you cry, I do suggest reading this one. I know I’m super excited to go see the movie!