“I’m tired of living without really living.”
Synopsis: 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?
Age Group & Genre(s): Coming of Age, Realistic Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Point of View: Alternating First Person
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 2018
Cystic fibrosis (CF) ” … is the most common fatal genetic disease affecting Canadian children and young adults. At present, there is no cure […] CF causes various effects on the body, but mainly affects the digestive system and lungs. The degree of CF severity differs from person to person, however, the persistence and ongoing infection in the lungs, with destruction of lungs and loss of lung function, will eventually lead to death in the majority of people with CF (source)”.
Claire Wineland, a popular YouTuber and inspirational speaker, is how I discovered the life of someone who lives with CF. Her videos always make my day, even during the rough times — which is insane. Her smile and upbeat personality captivates anyone who has the chance to get to know her.
In the late summer of 2018, Claire was able to finally have a lung transplant; this can extend a CFer’s life for some time. Unfortunately, there were complications and she passed. I’ve never felt so much sadness for someone I had never met before. Even though she had so many hardships, she LIVED to make people laugh and enjoy this great thing called L I F E.
Afterwards, I discovered a book surrounding characters who live with CF — Five Feet Apart. In the acknowledgements, contributors Mikki and Tobias dedicated this beautiful story to Claire for her courage and perseverance. As she always reminded us: “Keep fighting, keep smiling, keep calm” (Lippencott, p. 280).
If you would like to see Claire’s beautiful story, you can find her channel here; I believe a number of the videos were taken down by her family, but they’ve left us compilations and the best ones to remember her by. Her Thank You video before she went for surgery is here — it’s very emotional, but I think it’s important.
CONTENT & TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains death/dying, guilt, hospitalization, loss of a loved one, loss of a child, medical stuff, and terminal illness.
Fairly accurate representation of those who live with cystic fibrosis. One of the main comments I’ve seen in reviews from CFer’s and non-CFer’s regarding this novel is the fairly accurate representation of CF. Stella, Will and Poe’s cases are much more severe and some of the health outcomes are improbable, but it still shows the day to day life of someone with CF. It also highlights how lonely it can be, for those with CF can’t be near others with the same illness. Imagine just wanting to talk to and go to group sessions with someone who ACTUALLY knows what you’re going through, but you can’t.
Simple yet elegant language, making the story easy to follow but still captivating. The novel alternates each chapter between Stella and Will’s point of view, and Lippincott did a brilliant job at making the chapters capture the voice and personality of these two main characters through her writing. The language use flows well, making this an incredibly easy and quick read. Lippincott is also attentive to the dialogue and the internal monologues, balancing them well throughout the story and providing a wealth of entertainment.
Characters are not only lovable, but rounded and completely unique. Will, Stella, and Poe are the main CF characters in the novel, with a number of other characters appearing throughout the story. Lippincott’s ability to make each of these characters distinct from one another through brings the story to a whole new level. It’s not just the fact that they all have distinct personalities — each character is going through some kind of struggle that is explored (either a little or a lot) throughout the plot, making all these stories much more fascinating.
This story is not only about cystic fibrosis patients, but everyone who’s affected. Obviously, the main focus is those with CF — Stella’s need to take care of “everyone” beyond herself, Poe’s familial struggles, and Will’s search for the determination and desire to continue treatments when hope is lost. However, Lippincott brings attention to all the other individuals who are affected when a close friend or relative is diagnosed with a terminal illness. The nurses, as they strive to work hard yet not become emotionally attached (but they do) — the parents, for it’s never easy to see your child struggle, let alone outliving them — the friends, as they strive to include their friend but also provide support — the partners, trying to cope with the fact that one day the love of their life will pass on. For a book shorter than 300 pages, there’s an intense amount of heavy yet important content for readers to digest.
The characters’ connections are a beautiful part of the story, but the pacing was a tad off and the insta-love was a bummer. The story takes place over a number of weeks, one to two months tops. In the spam of this time period, there are SO MANY major incidents that occur and revelations between the characters that it felt unrealistic and extremely rushed. I know a number of tragedies occur and sometimes they all happen within a short period, but it felt forced and impractical. I would hace also liked this gradual nature with learning about the characters, but it sometimes felt “dumped”. This book could’ve easily been over 300 pages. In addition, Stella and Will’s connection is absolutely beautiful — but it was SO fast. I can see the two caring for one another quickly, especially since they’re going through similar experiences; however, the “like to love” connection should have been slower and more gradual.
Some terms and information regarding cystic fibrosis are throughout the novel but with little explanation. There’s a number of devices that patients have to use with CF. The author does a semi-decent job of discussing what these devices do, but I still had to do my own research to find out more information. One suggestion I would make to the author is to have placed a definitions list at the back of the novel for those who are curious. And for those who are visual readers, I found the physical descriptions not enough for my visual reading experience.
Five Feet Apart is an absolutely breathtaking novel, a story bringing awareness to everyone regarding those who live with a terminal illness yet find a way to live life to the fullest. The character development and the beautiful writing style makes Lippincott’s novel nearly impossible to put down, wanting to discover more about Will and Stella’s journey through CF and learning to find more to life. Though Five Feet Apart is a incredibly difficult read due to the sheer emotions emphasized through Lippincott’s writing, it’s completely worth the tears and heartache to have your mind opened to the concept of CF.
Thank you, Claire, for showing me how to live my life rather than live in fear. And thank you to the author and contributors for creating a work depicting CF and bringing awareness, with the hopes that a cure will be found in the near future.