Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott

I didn’t expect to really enjoy this book – I read that it was actually a novelization of the movie (of the same name) and I wasn’t really sold that it would be worthwhile. I also thought it was trying to cash in on the tragic love story genre that The Fault in our Stars kick started in the YA genre. All of my assumptions were luckily wrong, as this was one of the best YA contemporary books I’ve read in a while.

Can you love someone you can never touch?

Stella Grant likes to be in control—even though her totally out of control lungs have sent her in and out of the hospital most of her life. At this point, what Stella needs to control most is keeping herself away from anyone or anything that might pass along an infection and jeopardize the possibility of a lung transplant. Six feet apart. No exceptions.

The only thing Will Newman wants to be in control of is getting out of this hospital. He couldn’t care less about his treatments, or a fancy new clinical drug trial. Soon, he’ll turn eighteen and then he’ll be able to unplug all these machines and actually go see the world, not just its hospitals.

Will’s exactly what Stella needs to stay away from. If he so much as breathes on Stella she could lose her spot on the transplant list. Either one of them could die. The only way to stay alive is to stay apart. But suddenly six feet doesn’t feel like safety. It feels like punishment.

What if they could steal back just a little bit of the space their broken lungs have stolen from them? Would five feet apart really be so dangerous if it stops their hearts from breaking too?

This was a heart-wrenching and emotional story, told through alternating points of view: those of Stella and Will (two teens with cystic fibrosis). Though the story only spans a short period, it’s an emotionally tumultuous time in both teens’ lives: they’re both in the hospital for complications with their disease. Much to the author’s credit, the book not only takes the time to explain what cystic fibrosis is, but it also goes out of its way to explain what life is like with cystic fibrosis. Stella and Will’s CF is never thrown to the wayside for the sake of the story – often some of their brightest moments happen during their treatments. It also never felt like cystic fibrosis was used in an emotionally manipulative way (it wasn’t just used as a way to create a tragic love story). That’s how this book stands out from all of the emotional porn / tragic love story books that came out since The Fault in our Stars – the focus isn’t on the cystic fibrosis, but rather on the characters who happen to have it.

Stella began as a very uptight, serious person. She follows her medical schedule to a T – never straying or skipping a treatment (she even developed an app to help herself and others follow their charts). Enter Will – a teen with CF in the hospital for an experimental drug trial to treat his lethal bacterial infection. With his bacterial infection he is ineligible for lung transplants – which has severely limited his life expectancy. As such, Will is deeply disillusioned with the treatments his mother keeps putting him through and he’s just counting down until he’s 18 and can opt out of treatments and live out the rest of his life peacefully. Stella and Will are polar opposites, but from the beginning their chemistry is off the charts. They immediately start influencing each other – with Stella convincing Will to take his treatments more seriously and Will convincing Stella to loosen up and live a little.

My only issue with this book was the degree to which Stella changed by the end. While I appreciate character growth – she changed to a degree that it became hard to believe/ it really didn’t match her character. It was unbelievable that she would go from a stringent rule follower to someone who would give up a new, healthy pair of lungs when they land in her lap. I just can’t believe that she would become so indifferent to her own life expectancy after taking her treatments so seriously (and after learning that her motivation to take her treatment so seriously was that she didn’t want to cause her parents further heartache).

While this book definitely had it’s similarities (genre-wise) to The Fault in our Stars, it stands well on its own merit. It’s emotional, it’s well-researched, and it takes the time to explains the facets of cystic fibrosis. It didn’t feel emotionally manipulative as many in its genre are – which was a big breath of fresh air. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who’s thinking about watching the movie or is looking for a great book after The Fault in our Stars. 4/5

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16 Comments

  1. I’ve been so curious about this, both the book and the movie! With your 4 star rating I might have to give it a try!

  2. That cover is gorgeous! The premise sounds interesting but as someone who would, I think, identify with Stella when it comes to following the rules etc I would probably be really uncomfortable with that kind of big character change in that way as well, especially if she’s endangering herself. Great review and really informative.

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