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Five Feet Apart

by Rachael Lippincott with Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Laconis

April 3, 2019.Beth.2 Likes.0 Comments
It’s hard to write a romance story where the love is hopeless, but I think Lippincott did it well.

This review contains spoilers

Stella Grant has Cystic Fibrosis, and is currently missing out on her class trip to Cabo because of it. But there’s nothing she’ll do to risk infection and the possibility of a lung transplant. She likes to be in control and she knows the rules, six feet apart from any other CF patient at all times. So when she meets Will Newman, a fellow patient who is completely out of control, she does the only thing she can; organise his med cart and help him with his treatments. Will is treading water until he turns eighteen and can discharge himself from hospital and go see the world before he has to leave it. But meeting Stella begins to change all that for him. With all that CF has stolen from them, they steal something back; 1 foot of distance, and begin to fall in love.

I don’t usually like comparing books to other books because I think it influences how you go into reading it. A lot of the time a book is totally different to the one it’s being compared to, but just having that expectation can make it less enjoyable. In saying that, I got some serious The Fault in Our Stars/Me Before You vibes from this book. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all saying it was bad. I actually really enjoyed it. Is it just me though, or do all books about teenage terminal illness feel exactly the same? Spunky heroine, bad boy love interest, older and wiser than their age, being brave for their parents, constant musings about death, a desire to love despite the odds but ultimately being prevented from doing so… there seems to be a formula. At least this one didn’t have anyone quoting from classic literature.

Things I enjoyed: I really liked the characters. Stella was great, friendly and interesting but also flawed in a way that was realistic. Her control freak nature and rule following was never annoying or out of character, and it actually succeeded in making her a well-rounded person. Will was great too. He started off as a bit of a pain, but then settled into himself, showing that he was actually a lovely, caring person. I really liked his journey from not caring about living or dying to really caring. It felt natural as he didn’t instantly change his mind. The way he loved Stella also felt really natural, especially for his age and situation. Barb was one of my favourite characters. She was so loving and nurturing and just really well written. She felt very genuine as a person and added a warmth to the story that was missing in the kids parents.

Another thing I enjoyed was how the hospital was written. As someone who has worked in a hospital, the scenes where it was empty, even at night, was completely unrealistic. But other than that, there was such a lovely, homey warmth to it. In a way it was also one of the characters as it was there throughout the whole story, witnessing Will and Stella living and falling in love. Stella knew it like an old friend, and while in the beginning Will hated it, as his attitude changed so did the hospital.

The writing was fun and easy. It was a little melodramatic at times but nothing cringey or eye-roll-worthy. I really liked Stella’s youtube videos and thought they were very realistic. I also appreciated the timing of the book. A lot happened but it didn’t feel rushed or crammed in. Will and Stella arriving at hospital, getting to know each other and falling in love wasn’t instant or hand wav-ey at all.

Things I didn’t enjoy: I wasn’t a huge fan of the character Poe as he felt like an afterthought that was only included because Stella needed a friend to bounce ideas off. He had a lot of potential, but I don’t think he ever really came into his own, and so his death didn’t have as big an impact on me as it could have. I also found the parents a little frustrating. I know people show love differently, but I feel like they should have been there for their kids more. Hospital days are long and boring, but it still seemed weird that they only visited once a week, or whenever Stella or Will allowed them too.

After a bit, the amount the characters talked about death and dying felt tedious. I know that for Stella and Will it was THE thing in their lives, but it felt like every thought and conversation revolved around it. It would have been nice for them to talk about other things as well, like interests and experiences and who they were as people. I might be wrong about this, I don’t know all that much about terminal illness and I’ve never known anyone who was terminally ill. But I do think at some point if death is constantly hanging over you, it might be nice to take a break from it and think about something else for a while.

They also raised a lot of questions and interesting issues that I didn’t feel were addressed as deeply as they could have been. One in particular was when Stella and Poe were discussing being in love, and Poe asks her how it’s fair to ask someone else to take on a financial and caring responsibility for them. It was kind of just brushed off as you need to be open to someone loving you, but particularly as someone with a disability, I would have been interested in a deeper response.

It’s hard to write a romance story where the love is hopeless, but I think Lippincott did it well. I was invested in the relationship, hoping that it would work out, and the final goodbye was actually heartbreaking. Even though the reader knew the two characters couldn’t be together, there was still hope that it could happen on each page which kept you pushing forward. And the final chapter left the possibilities wide open.

I enjoyed this book. It felt very familiar to books about terminal illness and didn’t really have anything new to add, but was well written with great characters. I didn’t like how much it focussed on death, but I did appreciate how it dealt with a difficult topic. It felt realistic and natural throughout, and the reader was left feeling hopeful about the future possibilities. 4/5 stars

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