“How long will I live my life afraid of what-ifs?”Rachael Lippincott, “Five Feet Apart”
The book “Five Feet Apart” by Rachael Lippincott is one of hope, love, and despair. It encapsulates what it’s like to have a terminal disease with a drive to live. In times when we must remain six feet apart to stay safe and keep others safe, this book becomes relevant as we struggle with loneliness and feelings of wanting more.
Stella is a 17-year-old girl with cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that mostly affects the lungs. It causes breathing and digestive problems which put patients in and out of the hospital. Although having CF shortens the patient’s life span and is in most cases terminal, Stella sticks to her strict routines and regimes because she wants to live more than anything else. But she doesn’t just want to live for herself — she has other people worth living for.
Will is the same age as Stella and has the same genetic disorder. However, Will also has B. cepacia, which is incredibly dangerous for other CFers. The infection means that Will isn’t eligible for a lung transplant, which is critical since both Stella and Will have significantly weak lungs.
The rules require being six feet apart, as well as masked and gloved up no matter what. If Stella catches what Will has, she can kiss her new lungs goodbye. But that would never happen since Will is a rebel who doesn’t do his treatments and Stella is obsessed with living for as long as she can, right?
As their romance blossoms and Stella starts taking risks, she decides to steal back one foot. Does one foot really make a difference?
This novel toys with the idea of life and death and uncovers the hardship that CF brings. From treatments to rules and understanding the odds of survival, Lippincott brings insight into what it means to be alive and to live. As priorities change and characters experience grief, have run-ins with death, and feel an overwhelming sense of survival, Stella and Will’s story ends up taking a sudden turn that will bring readers to tears.
“Five Feet Apart” is a wake-up call to live. I would recommend reading the book before watching the movie. The movie missed a lot of the internal struggle that’s necessary to understand the responsibilities of life and the greater part of living and loving before it’s time to go.