Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott
Updated: Feb 29
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
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Stella was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis when she was six years old. Saint Grace's hospital has become a second home for her through the years as she continues to battle the terminal disease. In order to feel in control of her life, she makes to do lists to follow and has a meticulously organized med cart. She's also developed an app to alert people with strict medication regiments when to take their medication. Her carefully ordered world is about to turn inside out as a new CFer arrives at Saint Grace's.
Will is cynical, sarcastic and tired of battling CF. He's contracted B. cepacia, an antibiotic resistant bacteria that has taken him off the lung transplant list. He's toured the world from the seat of a hospital bed as his mother has dragged him from place to place to undergo new treatments. Nothing has been able to rid his body of the B. cepacia and he wants to just live his life to the fullest before he dies. The strict regimen of medication he must take to breath is annoying and he can't be bothered to finish his treatments. Until he meets Stella and learns what it means to want to live.
I will admit I had never heard of this book before the movie announcement. Do not approach this book thinking it is going to be another Fault in our Stars. Stella and Will are vastly different characters than what you experience in Fault. While they are teenagers, Rachel Lippincott was able to show how coming to terms with a disease like CF makes them mature in ways other teenagers have not. Grappling with how their family will handle death and the amount of responsibility an individual can feel when they can't control the disease was heartbreaking. It brings to light the amount of weight someone can feel when they are simply trying to stay alive.
People with Cystic Fibrosis cannot touch one another. The safe distance to stay apart is six feet as long as no one coughs or sneezes. The germs one person with CF carries can kill the other. Someone with B. cepacia is especially dangerous because there is no treatment for it. Once you contract B. cepacia you are off the transplant list and your already short life expectancy is reduced. The relationship between Stella and Will is without touch, it has to be for their own safety. I enjoyed the ways the two characters developed a relationship without relying on touch to facilitate it.
While this can certainly be a hard book to read due to the emotional weight, it is beautifully written and I highly recommend it. I hope to see more novels by Rachel Lippincott in the future.
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