“Five Feet Apart” is a poignant tale of two teenagers, Stella Grant and Will Newman, who both suffer from cystic fibrosis (CF), a life-threatening disorder that affects the lungs and digestive system.
At the core, it’s a love story, but it’s equally about the challenges and boundaries set by their medical conditions and the pursuit of a full life despite them.
Context About the Authors and their Collaboration: Rachael Lippincott teamed up with seasoned writers Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis to craft this narrative.
While Lippincott may be newer to the YA literature scene, Daughtry and Iaconis have a background in screenwriting, which might explain the cinematic feel of the book.
Their combined talents deliver a story that’s both touching and visually compelling.
Initial Impression of the Book: From the outset, “Five Feet Apart” promises to be more than just a teenage romance.
It offers a deep dive into the world of cystic fibrosis patients, a perspective not often explored in mainstream literature.
The blend of love, drama, and the constant shadow of mortality makes it a gripping read from the get-go.
Summary of Content
Introduction to the Main Characters, Stella Grant and Will Newman: Stella Grant is meticulous and structured, often seen managing her medications and treatments via an app she’s developed.
She’s a fighter, having battled CF her whole life. Contrastingly, Will Newman is introduced as a rebel with a careless attitude towards his treatment regime.
Diagnosed with a severe form of CF, he appears resigned to his fate, a sharp contrast to Stella’s approach.
Overview of Cystic Fibrosis and its Impact on the Characters’ Lives: Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs, digestive system, and other areas of the body.
It’s a life-limiting illness, and those with CF often face numerous hospital stays, treatments, and medications.
For Stella and Will, the disease dictates their everyday life, dictating everything from their routines to their relationships.
Exploration of the Main Plot: CF patients must stay six feet apart to prevent cross-infection.
Yet, as Stella and Will grow closer, they challenge this rule, daring to reclaim a foot, hence the title “Five Feet Apart.”
This act is symbolic, representing not just their budding romance but also their shared defiance against the boundaries and limitations that CF imposes on them.
Writing Style and Narrative
Choice of First-Person Narrative: “Five Feet Apart” is presented in the first-person, alternating between Stella and Will’s perspectives.
This style gives readers intimate access to their deepest thoughts, fears, and desires.
Being privy to both sides of their developing relationship alongside their personal struggles with CF adds layers of depth to the narrative.
Their contrasting personalities and outlooks towards life and their disease provide an enriched understanding, enabling readers to truly empathize with each character.
Contribution to Readers’ Emotional Engagement: The vivid and authentic representation of both protagonists’ inner thoughts and feelings crafts an emotional connection between readers and characters.
As we navigate Stella’s disciplined nature and her deep-rooted fears or Will’s recklessness stemming from a lurking sense of hopelessness, it’s hard not to become emotionally entangled.
It’s this raw emotional tethering that keeps readers invested in their journey.
Pacing, Dialogue Quality, and Inner Monologues: The pacing is adeptly managed, balancing moments of intense emotion with lighter, humorous exchanges, ensuring the narrative doesn’t become overwhelmingly somber.
The dialogues are natural, capturing the authentic voice of teenagers, filled with sarcasm, wit, and deep reflection.
Additionally, the inner monologues, especially during moments of introspection or conflict, add depth, revealing vulnerabilities and the internal battles both characters wage against their circumstances.
Themes and Symbolism
Love amidst adversity: Central to “Five Feet Apart” is the theme of love blossoming in the unlikeliest and most challenging of circumstances.
Stella and Will’s relationship underscores that love is not confined by physical spaces or boundaries. Their affection grows, not in spite of their adversities but perhaps because of them.
Their shared experiences, although unique in their challenges, offer a foundation upon which their love builds.
Exploration of Life, Death, and the In-Between: With the shadow of mortality constantly looming, the characters in the novel grapple with profound questions about life and death.
What does it mean to truly live when one’s life is constantly threatened by illness?
The book suggests that the spaces in between, those moments of connection, defiance, and raw emotion, hold the essence of life.
Significance of Distances and Boundaries: The six-foot rule isn’t just a medical guideline; it symbolizes the physical and emotional barriers we often place between ourselves and others.
By daring to reclaim one foot, Stella and Will challenge these boundaries, emphasizing the human need for closeness and connection, even when faced with risks.
Insights on the Human Condition, Vulnerability, and Resilience: Beyond the romantic plotline, “Five Feet Apart” offers a meditation on the human condition.
The characters exemplify vulnerability facing mortality, seeking connection, and wrestling with isolation.
Yet, it’s their resilience, their ability to find joy, love, and meaning amidst suffering, that illuminates the indomitable spirit of humanity.
Character Development and Analysis
Stella and Will’s Character Arcs: Stella starts as a character deeply rooted in control and routine, perhaps as a coping mechanism to manage the uncertainty of her illness.
As the story unfolds, through her interactions with Will and her personal introspections, she begins to question if strict adherence to rules is the only path to truly living.
Her growth lies in her ability to embrace spontaneity and accept the unpredictable nature of life and love.
Will, on the other hand, begins with a sense of resignation towards his condition, using humor and detachment as shields against vulnerability.
However, Stella’s presence in his life sparks a transformation.
As he confronts his feelings for her and the stark reality of their shared condition, he finds a new purpose and a deeper understanding of what it means to be alive.
Comparison and Contrast Between Stella’s Rule-Following Nature and Will’s Rebellious Streak: Their contrasting personalities set the stage for both conflict and growth.
Stella’s meticulous nature is juxtaposed against Will’s cavalier attitude, bringing to light the age-old debate of safety versus freedom.
Their interactions highlight the balancing act of protecting oneself and experiencing the full range of human emotions and experiences.
As they influence each other, these contrasts become less stark, symbolizing the middle ground they find in their relationship.
Examination of Secondary Characters and their Impact on the Main Storyline: Secondary characters, such as Poe, Stella’s gay best friend who also has CF, play crucial roles in amplifying the story’s themes.
Poe’s own struggles, relationships, and eventual fate serve as poignant reminders of the stakes for these young patients.
These characters not only offer diverse perspectives on living with CF but also provide moments of levity, support, and depth, enriching the overall narrative.
Personal Reflection and Emotional Impact
How the Story Resonated on a Personal Level: “Five Feet Apart” is not just a tale of two teenagers in love. It’s a reflection on the human spirit, on our innate desire for connection, and the lengths we go to find meaning in our lives.
Many readers might find parallels in their own lives, moments where they had to weigh risks against experiences, or when they had to redefine what “living fully” truly means.
Emotions Evoked while Reading: The narrative weaves a tapestry of emotions.
From the heartwarming moments of budding romance to the heart-wrenching realizations of life’s fragility, it takes readers on an emotional roller coaster.
Moments of joy, bursts of laughter, pangs of sorrow, and the undercurrent of hope all combine to make “Five Feet Apart” a deeply moving experience.
Relatability of the Characters and Situations: Even if one hasn’t faced the exact challenges as Stella and Will, the emotions they grapple with love, fear, hope, and despair are universal.
Their journey, while unique in its context, echoes the broader human experience of seeking connection, understanding, and purpose amidst adversities.
Relation to Other Young Adult Romance Novels or Novels that Deal with Terminal Illness: “Five Feet Apart” can be likened to other heartrending novels such as John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” or Jay Asher’s “Thirteen Reasons Why.”
All these works tackle deep, emotional struggles and the fleeting nature of youth against the backdrop of significant adversities.
However, “Five Feet Apart” stands distinct in its portrayal of cystic fibrosis, offering readers a unique insight into the challenges CF patients face daily, layered upon the universal complexities of young love.
Influences or Similarities with Other Works: While the structure and narrative of “Five Feet Apart” may evoke memories of other YA novels, it also brings freshness through its detailed and sensitive portrayal of cystic fibrosis.
The challenges of this condition, the relentless routines, the hope of new treatments, and the looming shadow of mortality are depicted with an authenticity that’s rare.
It sets itself apart by bridging the gap between fiction and reality, allowing readers to gain knowledge while being deeply engrossed in the story.
Criticisms and Limitations
Perceived Shortcomings or Potential Areas of Improvement: Like any work of fiction, “Five Feet Apart” isn’t without its critics.
Some might argue that the portrayal of CF, while enlightening, occasionally veers toward the melodramatic.
Furthermore, the instant romance trope, a staple in many YA novels, could be seen as somewhat predictable here.
The characters’ quick gravitation toward one another might feel rushed or underdeveloped for some readers.
Discussion of any Controversial or Sensitive Topics Handled in the Book: The novel’s central premise; Stella and Will’s decision to reclaim a foot of space, shrinking the six-foot rule to five raises ethical concerns.
It brings forward questions about the morality of jeopardizing one’s health for emotional connection.
While this act symbolizes their defiance against CF’s restrictions, it might be perceived as a romanticizing of non-compliance, especially given the genuine risks for CF patients in the real world.
Impact on Popular Culture
Adaptation into Other Media: The story’s powerful narrative and emotive undertones made it ripe for adaptation.
“Five Feet Apart” was transformed into a feature film not long after its publication, helping to catapult the story to a broader audience.
The film adaptation allowed for a more visual exploration of Stella and Will’s world, including the stark hospital settings, the tangible distances they had to maintain, and the nuanced facial expressions often lost in written narratives.
Influence on Conversations about Cystic Fibrosis: Before “Five Feet Apart,” cystic fibrosis was relatively underrepresented in mainstream media, especially in YA literature and film.
The book and its subsequent movie adaptation played pivotal roles in sparking more widespread discussions about the disease.
While not every detail might resonate with actual CF patients, the narrative undeniably raised awareness and piqued curiosity, leading many readers and viewers to educate themselves further about the condition.
Merchandise, Fan Clubs, and Fandom: As with many popular YA novels turned into films, “Five Feet Apart” witnessed the sprouting of dedicated fan clubs, merchandise, and widespread fandom.
From quotes emblazoned on T-shirts to fan-made art and fanfiction, the cultural imprint of the story has been significant.
This speaks not just to the allure of the romantic narrative, but also to the deeper themes of resilience, connection, and defiance in the face of adversity.
Reflection on the Reading Experience: “Five Feet Apart” offers readers more than a gripping love story; it opens a window into the lives of those battling cystic fibrosis and underscores universal human emotions.
The journey with Stella and Will is a testament to human strength, the complexities of love, and the inherent need for connection, making it an emotionally rich and enlightening read.
Recommendation to Potential Readers: For those seeking a novel that seamlessly intertwines romance, drama, and real-life challenges, “Five Feet Apart” comes highly recommended.
While it will undoubtedly tug at the heartstrings of YA readers, its themes are ageless, making it suitable for a broader audience.
Even for those typically indifferent to YA romance, the novel provides valuable insights into living with a chronic illness and serves as a poignant reminder of the fragility and beauty of life.
Our Rating for “Five Feet Apart”
Overall Score: 8.5 out of 10
Plot and Storyline (9/10): The plot of “Five Feet Apart” skillfully intertwines the complexities of young love with the harrowing reality of life with cystic fibrosis.
The storyline, while occasionally venturing into predictable territories characteristic of YA romance, predominantly maintains a balance of emotion, conflict, and drama that keeps readers engaged till the very end.
Character Development (8/10): Stella and Will’s character arcs are well-detailed, offering depth and growth throughout the narrative.
Their evolution, both individually and in their relationship, is one of the book’s strong suits.
Secondary characters, though impactful, could have been fleshed out a bit more to offer a fuller, more rounded narrative.
Writing Style (8.5/10): The alternating first-person perspective provides an intimate look into the protagonists’ worlds, making for a deeply immersive reading experience.
The dialogue feels authentic, and the pacing is generally well-managed, though there are moments where it might feel a tad rushed or slowed.
Emotional Impact (9/10): This is where “Five Feet Apart” truly shines.
It’s a roller-coaster of feelings, from euphoria to heartbreak, hope to despair.
Readers will find themselves deeply invested in Stella and Will’s journey, with many moments resonating long after the book is closed.
Educational Value (8/10): For many, this novel serves as an introduction to cystic fibrosis.
It sheds light on the day-to-day challenges, treatments, and emotional toll associated with the condition.
However, while it raises awareness, it’s crucial for readers to understand that the portrayal is a fictionalized version, and additional resources should be consulted for a comprehensive understanding of CF.
Themes and Symbolism (8.5/10): The novel navigates several profound themes, from the fragility of life to the complexities of human connection.
The symbolism, particularly the significance of distances, is beautifully interwoven, adding layers of depth to the narrative.
“Five Feet Apart” is a poignant, evocative novel that transcends the typical YA romance category.
While it has its moments of predictability, the raw emotion, deep themes, and authentic portrayal of cystic fibrosis make it a must-read.
It’s not just a story of love but of resilience, defiance, and the universal human yearning for connection and meaning.